Feb 13, 2013

Norman Leyden: I've Got a Crush on You Sweetie Pie...

I've got a crush on you, sweetie pie

All the day and nighttime, hear me sigh

I never had the least notion
That I could fall with such emotion
Could you coo, could you care
For a cunning cottage we could share
The world will pardon my mush

Cause I've got a crush, my baby, on you....
(Sung originally by Ella Fitzgerald)
Norman Leyden
His name is Norman Leyden. That's right. I have a crush on the former conductor of the Oregon Symphony Pops. I have to admit it (even to my husband). This man worked his magic on me! He plays a clarinet like no one I have ever heard

It only took the sound of that clarinet filling a concert hall to win my heart. Sweet memories are part of every crush I suppose, at least that was true for me.

It all happened on as the result of a very special New Year's Eve in 2008. My husband I were given tickets to a Pink Martini concert at the Schnitzer Theatre in downtown Portland, Oregon. Mr. Leyden was part of the Pink Martini big band that night and had a solo part. Anyone that was there that night can understand why his performance made me cry! It was pure Norman Leyden magic.

Norman Leyden on clarinet with Thomas Lauderdale, Pink Martini band leader.
I walked around the corner to a
side street when the back stage door
is located.

I don't know if you swoon at the sweet sound of beautiful music but for me it is a bit of heaven and that is what Mr. Leyden's clarinet solo sounded like. I didn't want the evening to be over so. I don't want to sound mushy but I felt alive and newly in love. So after the concert, on a whim, I decided that I needed to tell Mr. Leyden how much I appreciated his part in the show...in person.

I pleaded with the ushers in the auditorium to let me see him but of course that privelege was reserved for people that held backstage passes. I was very disappointed but understood

Then the magic happened...again.  As I left, one of the young ushers came and whispered in my ear. "Go around to the back street stage door and wait. He will probably come out to talk with special guests that gather there." she said.  At my daughters urging I did just that.

I stood on the street next to Thomas Lauderdale, Pink Martini's leader, as he visited with his former music teacher. The crowd was not large but it still was a heady experience. Even though I wasn't, I felt like I was doing something illegal.

When I was about to leave, I found myself standing face to face with the then mayor of Portland, Tom Potter. Not even a man with that much power could help.  It turned out Mayor Potter hadn't seen Leyden either. Wow!

That was when I asked a back stage employee standing on the loading dock down the street to hand a note written on a Pink Martini Playbill to Mr. Leyden.  It said simply "Thank you" and I signed it Barbara. I included my phone number. See, I was hoping he would call so I could express my gratitude in person. I knew it was probably a dream that the note would even find Mr. Leyden let alone that he would call me but still....

I knew when the phone rang it was him...I don't know how that happened but it is true. We visited that winter morning and I told him how much I had loved his performance. I said that I truly hoped I would be giving the privilege of hearing him play again one day. He must have know I was sincere because his parting words were, "I'll see you next New Year's Eve."

How sweet it is. I have a crush on you sweetie pie.....

Happy Valentine's Day

My husband and I have tickets for a Pink Martini concert here in Tucson in March! Life is good!
Note: Norman Leyden was born in 1917 and I he is still living in Portland. He performed with Pink Martini again just this last summer. He is 95.
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  1. What a sweet story! Enjoy the concert. As for the song, I love Ella, but my favorite version is Sinatra's.

  2. I love this post and after I first heard that song by Linda Ronstadt in her ballgown stage, I was sold. Good pick. And yes, conductors...I don't know what it is, but they got it.

  3. Thank you ladies for stopping by. I am a very lucky woman. AND Valentine's Day is my very favorite holiday so this post was a labor of love. :)


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