Reed Gratz, professor of music, informed a room full of students and faculty about the life and style of American song master Cole Porter Monday afternoon in the President’s Dining Room for the faculty lecture series.
“He’s always been a favorite of mine,” Gratz said. “I love playing his music.”
Gratz said the reason he loves Porter is because the composer is witty, flamboyant, and a great melody writer.
Porter was born in Peru, Ind., in 1891. His grandfather insisted he become a lawyer, so he sent him to Yale University and Harvard Law School.
Eventually, Porter felt he was not destined to be a lawyer, so he switched to the Harvard music program.
Today, Porter is known as one of the major songwriters for the Broadway musical stage of the 1930s.
Gratz, professor of music and chair of the music department, also grew up in Peru, Ind., As a child, he listened to Porter’s music.
Not only do they share the same hometown, they share the same passion for music.
Gratz began playing the piano at age 6. That ignited the fire inside of him and he ran with it from there.
Gratz said Porter enjoyed writing stage music because he loved working an audience for applause.
One of the most intriguing aspects of Porter’s music, Gratz said, was the way he switched from major keys to minor keys. It created a dramatic effect.
Gratz said that most of Porter’s songs were written in the key of C.
Many of Porter’s songs are known as “list songs,” which are based on a list and are developed by the performer working through that list. One of his most famous list songs is “Let’s Do It,” which Gratz performed.
Before doing so, Gratz told this audience that Porter was a comic. This point was soon proven as audience was laughing throughout the entire song.
Other Porter songs Gratz performed were “Night and Day,” “I Love Paris,” “I Get a Kick Out of You,” “Love for Sale,” “You’re the Top,” and “Begin the Beguine.”
Porter is known for writing sentimental, witty and often cynical words, Gratz said. Many of his songs referred to drugs and sex.
In the song “You’re the Top” Porter wrote “Some get a kick from cocaine I’m sure that if I took even one sniff That would bore me terrifically, too. Yet, I get a kick out of you.”
Porter encountered a few difficulties with censors for some of his songs. He was very direct when he wrote his lyrics.
“(Gratz) is a very knowledgeable person concerning musicals and jazz,” said audio engineer and music student Rob Stoddard, who attended the Monday event.
“Porter was such an influential writer for American music,” added sophomore music major, Vicky Campos who was also there Monday. “He is so praised for his lyrical genius. It’s nice to see he is appreciated.”
Porter’s first successful musical came out in 1929. “Wake Up and Dream” was a huge hit. Porter died of kidney failure in 1964.
A total of 22 Porter musicals have been performed on Broadway, and he is known as one of America’s greatest Broadway writers, Gratz said.
Sydney Daly-Weber can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.