Christmas with Alabama Connections

SPECK SPEAKS – A Cinematic Christmas has an Alabama Connection

Three of the songs you’ll hear in our Cinematic Christmas concert are by an Alabama native – and a thoroughly fascinating one at that. The celebrated composer and lyricist Hugh Martin took his Alabama talent and conquered the musical world.

Hugh Martin was born in Birmingham in 1914. He grew up in a house designed by his architect father, Hugh Sr., who also designed the Birmingham Public Library. After studying at the Birmingham Conservatory of Music and Phillips High School, young Hugh went on to college at Birmingham Southern. There he became so inspired by the innovative Broadway music of George Gershwin that he decided to devote himself to songwriting. From there it was off to New York – and a star was born.

None of Hugh Martin’s songs are more celebrated than the three you’ll hear in this concert. That may be because they were made famous by Judy Garland (who later became a regular collaborator and one of his best friends), in the film Meet Me in St. Louis.

Of the three songs from that movie, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is by far the most performed, having been taken up by artists from Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Ella Fitzgerald, Doris Day and Bing Crosby to Christina Aguilera, Garth Brooks, Ella Fitzgerald, Whitney Houston, Barry Manilow, Bette Midler and Lou Rawls, and even the rock bands Coldplay, Twisted Sister and The Jackson Five!

And although this song originated in Meet Me in St. Louis, it has shown up onscreen everywhere else, including The GodfatherWhen Harry Met Sally, Home AloneMiracle On 34th Street and Donnie Brasco. The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers named it the most-performed feature-film standard of all time.

For our purposes, the song “The Boy Next Door” has been turned into “The Elf Next Door.” Hope you won’t mind. And as for “The Trolley Song” – well, it wasn’t originally a holiday song, of course. But we’ve made it into one! By the way, “The Trolley Song” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1945.

In addition to his Oscar nomination, Hugh Martin was nominated for four Tony Awards  three for High Spirits (Best Musical, Best Book Author of a Musical, Best Composer and Lyricist) and one for the 1990 Broadway version of Meet Me in St. Louis (Best Original Score).

We are thrilled to present the prodigious talents of Hugh Martin in this concert!