Friday Night Is Mercer Night

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Live From The Mermaid20091113

BBC Radio 2 celebrates the centenary of the birth of one of the great lyricists of our time - Johnny Mercer - with acclaimed American singer-songwriter and saxophonist Curtis Stigers presenting a special Friday Night Is Music Night, live from London's Mermaid Theatre.

Everybody knows a Mercer song - Lazybones, Hooray For Hollywood, Jeepers Creepers, Fools Rush In, Come Rain Or Come Shine, Moon River - to name just a few.

An all-star line-up from the world of musical theatre and TV - Sally Ann Triplett (Mamma Mia), Ruthie Henshall (Woman In White) , and Nigel Harman (Guys & Dolls / EastEnders) - and, of course, Curtis Stigers himself - will be bringing the Mercer songbook to life - with the help of the 70-piece BBC Concert Orchestra, conducted by Tony award-nominated Larry Blank.

An all-star line up celebrates the music of Johnny Mercer live at the Mermaid Theatre.

Manilow And Mercer20091113

The final programme of Friday Night is Mercer Night sees the international superstar Barry Manilow present his own personal view of Johnny Mercer.

After the death of Johnny Mercer, his widow Ginger found a selection of his lyrics which appeared never to have been set to music.

She approached Barry Manilow and asked him to compose melodies for them.

Manilow's first song with the Mercer lyrics, When October Goes, has become a standard and many others have followed, recorded by the likes of Nancy Wilson, Monica Mancini and of course Manilow himself.

Barry Manilow talks about the work he did to set the lyrics.

We hear examples from recordings and others which have never before been released.

In addition, Barry Manilow tells the story of Mercer's later years and analyses how his genius developed.

We hear about the way in which Mercer kept finding opportunities to write, even when the fashion for musical films was fading.

There's a glimpse into Johnny Mercer's personal relationships, including an affair with Judy Garland.

And there are insights into his final pieces of work and his last recordings.

New interviewees include the singer Andy Williams; the conductor and composer Andre Previn, who wrote a London stage musical with Mercer; and the lyricist Alan Bergman, to whom Mercer was a mentor.

Manilow presents his own personal view of lyricist and songwriter Johnny Mercer.

Pardon My Southern Accent20091113

Friday Night is Mercer Night is a special evening on Radio 2 celebrating the birth centenary of the great lyricist Johnny Mercer.

In the first programme, the singer and actor Clarke Peters, explores the way in which Johnny Mercer's birthplace - Savannah, Georgia - influenced his songs.

Although Johnny Mercer found fame in Hollywood and on Broadway, he came from a very different background to most of his fellow songwriters.

While they were often urban New Yorkers, Mercer was a country boy at heart and took every opportunity to go back to his beloved Savannah in the American South where he grew up.

The images with which he was surrounded, such as moss, birds, pine trees, trains and of course deep rivers, made their way into songs like Moon River, Blues In The Night and Lazybones.

His early experiences of African-American music and rhythms led him to an understanding of jazz idioms and an ability to mix the vernacular with the abstract in his work.

Clarke Peters tells the story of Mercer's earliest years in Savannah and how the place influenced him all through his life.

There are new interviews with the singer Andy Williams, the lyricist Alan Bergman and the jazz pianist and singer Daryl Sherman, as well as Mercer's daughter Amanda and his niece Nancy.

In addition there are voices from the archive including Mercer himself, Bing Crosby and Henry Mancini.

Clarke Peters explores Johnny Mercer's Savannah roots and how they influenced his songs.