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Elisabeth Welch Opens ‘Cabaret Comes to Carnegie’

October 19, 1989

NEW YORK (AP) _ Elisabeth Welch’s first song, ″One Life To Life,″ contained the line ″If I’m in town, I want to be the toast of it.″

On Wednesday and Thursday she can claim to be the toast of New York, where she has come from London to sing the first two nights of ″Cabaret Comes to Carnegie″ in Weill Recital Hall.

Miss Welch’s biography doesn’t include her age but it says that she made her Broadway debut in 1923, in ″Runnin’ Wild.″ The sweet but distinctive timbre of her voice isn’t a great deal different from her vintage recordings and she sings with remarkable control.

But a long time lived infused at least two songs with a special glow. They were Jerry Herman’s ″Song on the Sand,″ a mellow looking back at falling in love, and Noel Coward’s ″I’ll Follow My Secret Heart,″ sung in a soft, reminiscent mode.

Miss Welch recounted how, in 1930, she was singing in cabaret here when three friends of Cole Porter came to hear her sing ″Love for Sale.″ They recommended that she sing it in the Broadway show ″The New Yorkers,″ which she did. Later, when she was singing in cabaret in Paris, Porter sent for her and said he had a song for her in a new London show to star Gertrude Lawrence. ″Let’s face it, who stays in Paris?″, Miss Welch asked.

She sang Porter’s ″Solomon″ in ″Nymph Errant″ in London in 1933 and sang it at Weill Recital Hall on Wednesday. Her voice wavered on the title word, which is held long, and on the exposed long lines of ″September Song″ her voice wavered again, somehow in an endearing way.

The singer made the cabaret staple ″Miss Otis Regrets″ unusually amusing. She said of Helen Morgan, ″Songs seemed to come from her inner depths. She had a great sadness about her.″ She sang a Jerome Kern specialty of Miss Morgan’s, ″Why Was I Born?″, and made it strong but not very sad.

A trio, Peter Howard, Bruce Samuels and Michael Keller, accompanied Miss Welch. Toward the end of her more than an hour show, they were swinging. On those songs Miss Welch danced a bit as she sang, including on her encore, ″Bye, Bye, Blackbird.″

Her appearance here coincides with the release of an RCA album, ″This Thing Called Love,″ and her Weill Recital Hall evenings are being taped for a follow-up, live album.

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