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Arts Blast: Callaway sings Streisand with Phoenix Symphony this weekend

The Barbra Streisand Songbook, sung tonight and Sunday by Platinum Award-winning singer-songwriter Ann Hampton Callaway, is part of the Phoenix Symphony's busy concert weekend. This morning's rehearsal and an interview with Callaway set the tone for a rich, jazzy celebration of Streisand.

The Phoenix Symphony rehearses the 'Barbra Streisand Songbook' with guest artist Ann Hampton Callaway, February 2014
The Phoenix Symphony rehearses the 'Barbra Streisand Songbook' with guest artist Ann Hampton Callaway, February 2014
Jennifer Haaland
Phoenix Symphony rehearses Streisand Songbook with Ann Hampton Callaway
Jennifer Haaland

"We'll nestle a little jazz rhythm section with my own pianist right up front," said Callaway this morning at Symphony Hall as the orchestra rehearsed 'Don't Rain on My Parade' in the background.

In the best of tautologies, when Callaway sings Streisand, Callaway sings Callaway. That is, part of the lush jazz vocalist's claim to fame are songs she herself has written that Barbra Streisand has recorded.

"The show is a real labor of love," said Callaway, who originally began the project with the Boston Pops. "I'm especially inspired by Barbra's earlier records, and beyond what I sang in that first concert, I wanted to paint a broader portrait, a cross section of the unique and fabulous Streisand songbook."

Callaway will perform 'I've Dreamed of You' this weekend, one of those fabulous Streisand numbers that Callaway wrote. "She [Streisand] fell in love with a Norwegian melody called 'Heart Strings' that had no lyrics, and she asked me to write a song that incorporated the tune," Callaway recalled about the cut that has since been included on four of Streisand's Columbia Records albums. The first time Streisand sang it, it was at her own wedding reception when she dedicated 'I've Dreamed of You' to groom James Brolin.

Though Callaway's warm-thunder vocal quality is often compared to Streisand's, she made clear that she has no intentions of impersonating or trying to duplicate Bab's sound. She further explained how much she admires Streisand's ability to enter the music that she performs.

"Streisand inhabits a song. You watch her experience the story the words tell," according to Callaway. As Callaway settled onto a center stage stool to rehearse 'Cry Me A River' with the symphony's richly melancholic accompaniment, evidence that she indeed shares the ability to live within the lyrics was ample.

The Phoenix Valley will also get a fun dose of Callaway's spontaneous wit in a unique 'Steisandesque Improv' during which she'll take audience suggestions and write a song on the spot. "I love that the Symphony allows me to do this," she said. "Sometimes, if it's a good hook, the audience will sing it along with me."

Callaway. Streisand. The Phoenix Symphony. The Valley is in for an unforgettable songbook tonight.

Arts BLAST!
because art IS a BLAST
because sometimes a quick heads up makes you want to head out
BLAST off!

-Jennifer Haaland