HomeJuly 2013Multidimensional Talent

Multidimensional Talent

As a pianist, actor, playwright, composer and producer, Hershey Felder imagines that each note has a color, that the piano is singing and that chords are individual notes.  The results are astounding as he combines the craft of acting and concert-level piano performance in shows about George Gershwin, Frederick Chopin, Ludwig van Beethoven and Gerhard von Breuning and Leonard Bernstein.
As director, Felder produced Mona Golabek in The Pianist of Willesden Lane at The Laguna Playhouse in May and June.  He developed a piano repertoire to help Golabek tell the story of her mother, a talented pianist who escaped the Holocaust via the Kindertransport.  Golabek, a talented pianist herself, played the central role.  Felder described the production as “the most astonishing 90 minutes of theater.”
At a salon to benefit The Laguna Playhouse, Felder offered an intimate evening of music and merriment on Wednesday, June 5, at the home of Michael and Cindy Furst in Shady Canyon.  In addition to performing a range of his music, Felder gave guests a sneak peek of his newest production, Franz Liszt in The Piano Show.  Liszt, he said, “created a style of piano playing that focused on the simplicity and quality of the sound rather than making people feel as if they were being accosted” and “invented the symphonic prelude.”
Joe Hanauer, president and chair of The Board of Trustees, explained that The Laguna Playhouse has fundraising salons that enable the organization “to showcase up and coming artists, or provide a personal and magical opportunity for our donors to personally meet stars like Hershey Felder.”
He added, “As a non-profit theatre, we depend on contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations.  Only sixty percent of every ticket dollar covers the cost of our productions; the rest, forty percent of every ticket dollar, must be raised.  The proceeds from tonight’s event enables us to continue our mission, which is to enrich lives through the magic of live theatre, to provide educational opportunities for children and adults; and to create experiences that stimulate cultural and social interaction and inspire our community.”
Sponsors of the event were Joe and Jane Hanauer, Toni Thomas, Lisa Hale and Cody Engle.  The event host committee included Beth Bidna, Robin Elcott, Aviva Forster, Cindy Furst, Mody Gorsky, Kathleen Mellon, Leslie Anne Mogul and Karen Weinberg.
Born in Montreal to parents who had come from Poland and Hungary, Felder was a first-generation North-American whose upbringing included Eastern European Jewish traditions.  His early schooling included Hebrew Academy Day School of Montreal as well as synagogue affiliations.
Felder, who spent his youth studying Beethoven, Bach and Chopin, began mixing classical music with piano and began to “hear something that changes your life.”  He realized that one could “capture an entire world in a few chord changes.”  He was asked to conduct Fiddler on the Roof at a Yiddish theater as a teenager and attended McGill University at age 13.  The eclectic mix undoubtedly contributed to his versatility.
Felder has appeared as the many composer roles he has created, as well as in theater roles and concerts for more than 4,000 performances.  He plans to continue his theatrical one-man format with stories reaching further than just the art of classical music and will also include his own compositions.  His compositions include Noah’s Ark, an Opera, which has been performed with members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra; Aliyah Concerto on Israeli Themes for piano and orchestra, performed in Canada and in the United States; Les Anges de Paris for violin and piano, Etudes Thématiques; and Song Settings (the poetry of Vachel Lindsay), performed on and recorded by the WFMT Radio Network in Chicago.
Felder’s most recent production, An American Story for Actor & Orchestra, tells the story of the young doctor who came to President Lincoln’s aid at Ford’s Theatre and has been acclaimed by audiences and critics alike.  He has been a Scholar in Residence at Harvard University’’s Department of Music and is the president of Eighty-Eight Entertainment, a music-based production company, producing new performance works worldwide.
Felder is married to Kim Campbell, the former prime minister of Canada.  They currently split their time between North America and Paris.
“The creative process gives me pleasure, and nothing about it is an accident,” he concluded.

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