Ann Hampton Callaway is a multiplatinum performer who is considered one of the greatest interpreters of The American Songbook. She has written over 250 songs for television, Broadway and off-Broadway and she garnered a Tony nomination for her performance in "Swing." Her songs range from the theme for "The Nanny," to "At the Same Time," which was recorded by Barbra Streisand and went platinum. Callaway and the Boston Pops, one of America's most beloved orchestras, will perform the songs Barbra Streisand made famous on Tuesday, March 5 at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.
Q: Why have you taken on the Great American Songbook as your mission?
I am proud to sing songs from the Great American Songbook because I am inspired by the qualities of the fine writers that I admire. I love these songs because of their beautiful writing and craftsmanship. Our country has produced some of the finest writing and music of the world, which will stand the test of time.
Q: You have many talents; you are a singer, composer, lyricist, pianist and actress, and you do them all. Why have you crafted such a varied career?
I think most artists like myself are naturally creative people. When I was a kid, I loved to paint, write poetry, play the guitar, write songs, sing, and so on. I think my life has been so interesting because I love to challenge myself. I think we all have a lot of hidden gems and unless we life our life boldly we won't know what we're capable of.
Q: How did your collaboration with Barbra Streisand begin?
In 1987 I wrote a song called "At the Same Time," and the moment I finished it, I thought to myself, "Barbra Streisand should sing this song." I turned down everyone else who wanted it. I turned down Liza Minnelli. Finally, I was told Barbra was looking for inspirational songs for her album, "Higher Ground." I was asked if I would be willing to rewrite my song, I said, 'of course.'" I took quite a while to get it the way she wanted it, but it was a great process and 10 years later, to the very day that I wrote it, she recorded it.
Q: Ten years!?
Everything that happens in my life tends to take forever. I wrote several different themes for "The Nanny," when the pilot was being considered and every time I spent money recording another version, I kept thinking, 'This is money down the drain.' Finally, the show was picked up, and now the theme song is still heard around the world. So I think it's encouraging for people to know that it took 10 years for my song to be released, so they realize that, even if something doesn't happen immediately, it can still happen. Eventually, the timing will reveal itself and you can't rush it.
Q: Is it daunting to take on the songs of an icon like Barbra Streisand and make her songs your own?
I try to do that with any song, no matter if it was made famous or not. I start with the lyric and ask how my life relates to it. I spend sleepless nights trying to imagine different aspects of the song. I was in an airport trying to figure out what more I could say about "People" when I suddenly thought about the song "Being Alive," and how both have similar themes because they are about the fear of intimacy. So I combined them and I get standing ovations in the middle of the show.
Q: Why should people come to "The Streisand Songbook?"
I love the Boston Pops and I feel like we're the Pied Piper going up and down the East Coast with these wonderful songs.
More info: Adrienne Arsht Center