The following biography includes the notes for the Musicians Club of New York's April 4, 2014, concert, as well as the biography of his wife and collaborator on this and many other concerts:
Composer/conductor/pianist/cabarettist Leonard Lehrman became a member of MCNY in 2013, and is pleased to be premiering his opus 215 here today with his wife, soprano Helene Williams, for whom he has written 140 works, to date. (Among the earliest of his works to win a first prize was his Piano Trio, op. 27, the slow movement of which tied with ones by Robert X. Rodriguez, Robert Schaeffer, and Jay Gottlieb in the composition contest at Fontainebleau Conservatoire, where all four were studying with Nadia Boulanger, in 1969.) Helene & Leonard first met in January 1976, when he auditioned as a stage director for the Bronx Opera Company, which she had co-founded (they didn't take him, but the Met did – as Assistant Chorus Master under David Stivender); then again eleven years later, when she auditioned for the title role, and walked off with the part and the composer, in his E.G.: A Musical Portrait of Emma Goldman, a work they have now performed over 50 times in 5 countries. ("If I Can't Dance" closes the first act.) Today's concert is their 570th together, but their first at Liederkranz Hall, where in 1988 John Balme commissioned Leonard's 6th opera for the Lake George Opera Festival. All but one of Leonard's 10 operas have been performed in the US and are on YouTube. The one exception is his anti-war feminist Chanukah opera Hannah, produced in Germany in 1980, and slated for its US premiere Dec. 23, 2014 at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion where Leonard will be teaching the first course ever offered in Jewish Opera.
As the first Jew to conduct Fiddler on the Roof! in Berlin, Leonard founded the Jüdischer Musiktheaterverein Berlin and produced the European premiere, in a German translation, of Mira J. Spektor's Holocaust opera, Lady of the Castle. Leading up to the Hannah premiere, Helene, Leonard, and 8 cantors, will be performing in a series of concerts entitled "Jewish Opera Lives!" which will include an excerpt from Mira's opera. Helene & Leonard have also been proud to perform Mira's songs on various occasions, including "Take Me Home Tonight" at their wedding July 14, 2002, videoed at Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, and posted on YouTube. Their recording of her Give Me Time with Richard Holmes, for Original Cast Records, is yet to be released.
The founder of Accent Reduction In English Speech and co-founder with Leonard of The Elie Siegmeister Society and Court Street Music in Valley Stream, Helene teaches at Queensborough Community College and Baruch College CUNY and has been heard on five continents, including tours all across North America, Latin America, Israel, Australia, and Europe (7). Critics have characterized her as "a splendid talent with distinctive allure" combining attributes of Imogene Coca, Julie Andrews and Martha Schlamme. Other programs they have done include tributes to Mozart, Schubert, Schumann, Vienna, Siegmeister, Bernstein, Marc Blitzstein, Broadway, feminism, and Russian music. Their performances are on 15 CDs and 1,141 YouTube videos, with 80,000 views, to date. Go to <tinyurl.com/LJLvideos>. Highlights include the Dresden State Opera and Center for Contemporary Music, the first Yiddish song recital at Bayreuth during the Wagner Festival, several Debussy recitals, performances at the U.N., Riverside Church, Merkin Hall, Halifax Summer Opera Workshop, Chapel Off Chapel in Melbourne, numerous Jewish and naturist festivals in NY and Florida, a command performance for Tom Lehrer and an entire evening of his songs, and 58 concerts with the Long Island Composers Alliance (LICA), of which Leonard became the first President and is now Archivist Emeritus.
"The Journey of Life," aka "Beneath the Waning Moon," was written for the LICA bicentennial celebration of the birth of William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878), America's first poet to achieve international recognition. A sort of Arnold Schönberg meets Christian Sinding (a 12-tone melody accompanied by "Rustle of Spring"-type arpeggiation), it was premiered at LICA's first Bryant Library concert and recorded by Capstone Records on the first commercial CD ever made of a public library concert. The composer made subsequent arrangements of the work for cello & piano; violin & piano (premiered at Hofstra by Todd Reynolds), and woodwind quintet, with accompanying lunar visuals, for a 2013 performance at the Vanderbilt Planetarium, which, however, did not take place. The visuals, which include NASA and Hubbell telescope photos, plus original photos Helene took of a lunar eclipse, are being used tonight with the piece for the first time.
"Ode to the City of Cologne" was written in Germany in 1982 and premiered by tenor Daniel Newman at a College Music Society concert three years later in Cologne. Leonard's student Thomas Smith has given a few private performances of it, but this is its professional US premiere.
"The National Security Rag" was written as an opening number for Leonard's fifth musical (of six): The New Improved SUPERSPY!: The S-e-c-r-e-t Musical, originally presented in Paris and by the Center for Contemporary Opera, revived in February of this year at Medicine Show Theatre, a run for which nine new numbers were written, including this one, which was cut, however. So tonight's performance is a world premiere.