Songbook Series

Songbook Series

Sue Matthews brings the legends of song (composers and artists) from our Great American Songbook to life, with the Songbook Series.

Popular music written in better than the 1st half of the 20th Century for Stage, Screen, Publishing Houses and Record Labels, continues to influence musicians, performers and audiences of today.

This immense body of work, culled together, is referred to as our Great American Songbook or The Book of Standards.

The ‘Songbook Series’ (created and produced by Sue Matthews and pianist Robert Redd), celebrates the life and music or lyrics of those composers and lyricists, as well as the singing stars who performed and recorded their songs.

These tribute shows bring the artists to life, weaving both story and song into evocative performances by vocalist Sue Matthews and pianist Robert Redd.

The ‘Songbook Series’ shows can be presented as a 1-set show (running time from 60–75 minutes), or as a standard 2-set show, (running time of 2 plus hours), including an intermission. Additional instrumentation can be added upon request.

“Sue Matthews and Robert Redd performed a musical biography of (lyricist) Johnny Mercer that was to my taste, one of the finest conceived and most beautifully executed and transporting tributes one could hope to hear” Just Jazz Guitar

W.C. Handy Festival, Florence, Alabama

Cole Porter
Composer and lyricist Cole Porter is synonymous with both the American songbook and Broadway musical tradition.  He’s responsible for such classics as “I’ve got You Under My Skin,” “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall In Love,” “Love For Sale,” and “Anything Goes.” With a unique writing style that initially threatened a successful career, he was finally accepted by New York’s musical elite, publishing 800 songs and contributing many favorites to our Great American Songbook.  This tribute brings stories of his Indiana-to-Paris-to-New York life together with some of his greatest songs: “Just One Of Those Things,” “So In Love,” “Night And Day,” “I Concentrate On You,” and “Easy To Love.”

Ella Fitzgerald

Considered a favorite among composers and lyricists: ”whatever she does to my songs, she always makes them sound better,”—Richard Rogers.  Fitzgerald’s dream of being a dancer was suddenly thwarted when, competing at an Apollo Theatre talent contest, she made her unexpected debut as a singer instead.  Caressing the lyric, honoring the melody and then making it all new again through unparalleled improvisation earned her the title “First Lady of Song.” This tribute selects from a catalog of hundreds of recorded songs to commemorate her life and music with “Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me,” “I’m Beginning To See The Light,” “Lush Life,” “Just A-Sittin’ and A-Rockin’,” “Azure,” and “A Tisket, A Tasket.”

Oscar Hammerstein, II

Lyricist and librettist Oscar Hammerstein II revolutionized the Broadway theatre when he made the story central to the musical, giving songs the sole purpose of moving the story forward.  Born into a family dynasty in New York’s theatre history, he exchanged his “almost-law-degree” for a career in the theatre. Before working exclusively with composer Richard Rogers on such ground-breaking musicals as “Carousel,” “South Pacific” and “The King And I,” Hammerstein penned the lyrics to many other composers’ melodies, most notably, those of Jerome Kern.  Their musical “Showboat,” paved the way for musical theatre to mature into its own art form.  In addition to highlighting the wonderful stories of his career, this tribute includes beloved favorites, “I’ll Take Romance,” “The Folks Who Live On The Hill,” “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man Of Mine,” “Hello Young Lovers,” and “People Will Say We’re In Love.”

Richard Rogers

This prolific composer collaborated with lyricists Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II, to publish more than 900 songs by way of 40 Broadway musicals. He filled a career spanning more than 60 years with an endless flow of wonderfully sing-able, dance-able melodies, receiving every possible award in his profession: Tony, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and even a Pulitzer.  The highest honor paid to Rogers was the renaming of the 46th Street Theatre to The Richard Rogers Theater.  How he and Oscar Hammerstein II began working together is just one of the stories told in this tribute highlighting many of his most evocative songs, including: “Spring Is Here,” “There’s A Small Hotel,” “My Romance,” “Out Of My Dreams,” and “Little Girl Blue.”

Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra’s success as a singer and performer can only be matched by his larger-than-life personality, earning him the title “Chairman Of The Board.” From his years with the Tommy Dorsey Band to his nearly two decades of performances while in “retirement,” he transformed popular singing by infusing the lyrics of a massive catalog of magnificent songs with his recognizable, signature style. “When I sing, I believe I’m honest,”—Frank Sinatra.  Through song and story, this tribute highlights Sinatra large lifestyle and many hits with such favorites as “All Or Nothing At All,” “Summer Wind,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “Nice n’ Easy,” and “All The Way.”

Irving Berlin

Nearly 1,500 songs are credited to this composer and lyricist. With a 60-year career writing songs such as “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “God Bless America,” “Blue Skies,” and “Change Partners,” it’s no wonder he is referred to as “The Father of American Music.” His journey from Russia to America at just 5 years of age is only one of the amazing stories shared in this tribute highlighting songs like “Isn’t It A Lovely Day,” “How Deep Is The Ocean,” “They Say It’s Wonderful,” and “What’ll I Do?”.

Johnny Mercer

The lyrics written by Johnny Mercer graced the melodies of well-known composers such as Hoagy Carmichael, Harold Arlen, James Van Heusen and Henry Mancini.  “Skylark,” “Moon River,” “Come Rain Or Come Shine,” “This Time The Dream’s On Me,” “Jeepers Creepers,” and “Something’s Gotta Give” are just a few of the iconic songs highlighted in this tribute.  Stories from his birthplace of Savannah, Georgia to a career spanning 45 years make for a lively evening in celebration of this “True American Lyricist” and “Folk Poet.” Respected and revered by fellow songwriters from Irving Berlin to Paul McCartney, Mercer is credited with nearly 1,500 songs, including an unprecedented number—more than 100—of “Top 10” hits. 

Harold Arlen

Composer Harold Arlen wrote the music to many of the most memorable songs from the 1930’s and 40’s, including the entire score to the classic movie, The Wizard Of Oz.  Although his name may not be as well known as those of his peers—Irving Berlin, Gershwin and Cole Porter—his music certainly is.  Son of a canter in Buffalo, NY, Arlen’s career that brought him from New York City to Hollywood and back is filled with wonderful stories and of course wonderful songs, “I’ve Got The World On A String,” “Stormy Weather,” “If I Only Had A Brain,” “Happiness Is Just A Thing Called Joe,” and “Over The Rainbow.”

Jimmy Van Heusen

Jimmy “River of Melody” Van Heusen composed more than 800 songs during a career that spanned three decades (1930-1960).  His compositions—featured in over 200 films, along with dozens of songs written for artist recordings—were made popular by the two artists he mainly wrote for, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. From his origins in Syracuse, NY, to piloting his own plane cross-county to Hollywood, to becoming one of Sinatra’s closest friends, his fascinating life is celebrated in this tribute that includes “It Could Happen To You,” “Come Dance With Me,” “Darn That Dream,” “Here’s That Rainy Day,” “Come Fly With Me,” and “Call Me Irresponsible.”