Tag Archives: Levitt Pavilion

Charlie Karp Tribute: A Levitt Concert For The Ages

The Levitt Pavilion has been the site of countless great concerts.

But in its over-40-year history, it’s never hosted — on one night — artists who have played with the Beatles, Doors, Michael Jackson, Sting, Elton John, Van Morrison, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Linda Ronstadt, The Band, Pete Seeger, Smokey Robinson, Rascals, Aerosmith, Buddy Miles, Billy Joel, James Taylor, Elvis Costello, James Brown, Jon Bon Jovi, Cheech & Chong, Michael Bolton, Barry Manilow, Herbie Hancock, Liza Minelli, Cher, Marvin Gaye, Chaka Khan, Mamas and the Papas, Paul Simon, Foreigner, Grand Funk Railroad, Eartha Kitt, Dave Brubeck, Whitney Houston, Roberta Flack, Lenny Kravitz, Chuck Mangione, Harry Chapin, Arlo Guthrie, Bee Gees, Edgar Winter, Grace Slick, Jefferson Starship, John Sebastian, Joe Cocker, Ted Nugent, Mötley Crue, Boz Scaggs, Amy Grant, Sinéad O’Connor, Vince Gill, Carole King, Orleans, Johnny Winter, Emmylou Harris, Chieftains, Lou Reed, Joan Jett, Larry Coryell, Rosanne Cash, Buckwheat Zydeco, Shawn Colvin, Julio Iglesias, Michael McDonald, Luther Vandross, Usher, Jean-Luc Ponty, Jose Féliciano, Herb Alpert, Bad Company, Paul Winter, Taj Mahal, Badfinger, Rick Derringer, Blue Oyster Cult, James Cotton, Bruce Hornsby, Spyro Gyra, Muddy Waters, Eric Weissberg, Wynton Marsalis, New York Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, Boston Pops Orchestra, Vicki Sue Robinson, Aztec Two-Step and James Montgomery.

Just to name a few.

The key is: Nearly all of the musicians who played with those greats also played with Charlie Karp.

And on Saturday, July 6 (7 p.m., Levitt Pavilion) they’ll honor Charlie’s memory, rocking a sure-to-be memorable concert for the ages.

Charlie Karp, in his Buddy Miles days.

Charlie left Staples High School at 16 to play guitar with Buddy Miles. He hung and played with Jimi Hendrix and Keith Richards, and wrote songs for Joan Jett and Joe Perry, before returning home to earn a fanatic following with bands like Dirty Angels, White Chocolate, Slo Leak and the Name Droppers.

He simultaneously earned Emmys as a producer of music for sports networks, documentaries and feature films, and became a guitar teaching mentor to generations of aspiring young stars.

Charlie died in March, at 65. He had been diagnosed a few days earlier with liver cancer.

Nearly everyone who ever played with Charlie — and a few other big names who were influenced by him — will appear together on the Levitt stage. Over 70 strong, they’ll reimagine the rock and R&B Charlie recorded, played and loved so much.

The mammoth, not-to-be-missed show includes Barry Tashian. Seven years older than Charlie, he fronted the Remains. They opened for the Beatles on their final 1966 tour, and were — in the words of legendary critic Jon Landau — “how you told a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll.”

The Remains were a major influence on Charlie. He and good friend Brian Keane — now a Grammy-winning composer and producer — played their songs in a Coleytown Junior High band. Later, Charlie and Barry became friends.

The Remains’ Barry Tashian (left) and Vern Miller, while touring with the Beatles.

Barry has not played in Westport for several decades. He’s flying up from Nashville for this show.

The cast also includes Roger Ball of the Average White Band, Joe Bonadio of Sting, Michael Mugrage of Orleans, Motown recording artist Ada Dyer, Tim DeHuff and Roger Kaufman.

Of course, members of Charlie’s beloved bands from the ’60s through 2019 — guys like David Hull and Rick Castillo — will play too. The Fun Band, Slo Leak, White Chocolate, Dirty Angels and Name Droppers — it’s a trip down memory lane. And a reminder that great music never dies.

Charlie Karp (Photo/John Halpern)

Mandrake Root — a seminal Westport band — will reunite after 50 years. Tony Prior is coming from North Carolina to join in the jam.

The Reunion Band will be there too. Comprised entirely of Charlie’s classmates from Staples’ class of 1971 — all of them noted professional musicians — they were there with Charlie 2 years ago, for one of the Levitt’s best nights ever.

Charlie’s high school sweetheart, Debbie Sims, will introduce “I Still Love You Anyway.” Charlie wrote that song for her, on Buddy Miles’ iconic “Them Changes” album. It — and “Runaway Child,” which Charlie wrote with Buddy — will be performed by the popular local band, the 5 O’Clocks.

Joey Melotti will be there. The musical director for Michael Jackson and Michael Bolton had a huge Westport following with his 1980s band Sunsight.

Chris Coogan’s Good News Gospel Choir will round out the amazing evening.

Guitarist/producer/songwriter Danny Kortchmar can’t be there — he’s on tour with James Taylor and Carole King’s rhythm section. He sent a note to be read from the stage.

So did Keith Richards. He too is sorry he can’t attend. His band, the Rolling Stones, is out on tour.

Charlie Karp and Keith Richards. (Photo/Ray Flanigan)

Every musician is donating their time. Some turned down lucrative gigs to come.

Proceeds will benefit two organizations. The Charlie Karp Memorial Fund promotes promising area musicians, by offering studio time at the Carriage House in Stamford and Horizon in West Haven. The other beneficiary is the Levitt Pavilion.

That’s fitting. Charlie Karp played to adoring Levitt audiences many times.

On July 6, he’ll pack the place one more time.

(The Charlie Karp Tribute Concert is a ticketed event. Click here to purchase, and for more information.)

Pic Of The Day #788

Levitt Pavilion and Saugatuck River, this afternoon. (Photo/Luke Garvey)

Pics Of The Day #781

In just 4 years, the Westport Schools’ Music Department Pops Concert has become one of the true highlights — and must-have tickets — of the spring.

The choruses, bands and orchestras are phenomenal. The Levitt Pavilion locale is stupendous. The evening is warm — in both the weather and community senses of the word.

It’s a sure sign that summer is almost here.

And that this is a town that loves and supports music, in all its forms.

A variety of chamber groups entertained early arrivals…

… as did the very talented Middle School Percussion Ensemble, playing traditional rhythms of Senegal.

A small part of the large Levitt Pavilion crowd.

The Westport Police Department color guard. (Photo/Tomas Curwen)

Symphonic and jazz band leader Nick Mariconda retires this year, after 41 years with the Westport schools. He was honored at his final concert.

Three of Mariconda’s former students — Jon Owens ’86, Andrew Willmott ’85 and Michael Ances ’90 — came back. They played trumpet — Mariconda’s instrument — on “Bugler’s Holiday.” All are now music educators.

Between sets, Staples musicians hung out by the river.

First Selectman Jim Marpe, interim superintendent of schools Dr. David Abbey and former Staples High School principal/Pops emcee John Dodig enjoyed the show.

The Orphenians wowed the crowd with selections like “And So It Goes” and “Unclouded Day.”

Orphenians director Luke Rosenberg.

Another view of the great crowd. (All photos/Dan Woog unless otherwise noted)

Staples Pops Concert Tickets Available Soon

In just 4 years, the Staples High School Pops Concert has become the town’s newest tradition.

And its hottest ticket.

This year’s event is set for Friday, June 7, at the Levitt Pavilion.

Part of the large crowd at last year’s Staples Pops Concert.

The Levitt Pavilion lawn opens at 5:30 p.m. There’s pre-concert music, mingling, and food from 3 trucks. (Bodega, JR’s and Jim’s Ice Cream all donate part of their proceeds to the Staples music department.)

Free tickets will be available online at www.StaplesMusic.org next Monday (May 20), at 9 a.m. They’re first-come, first-served. For the past 3 years they’ve been snapped up almost instantly.

Like its wintertime cousin — Candlelight — the Pops Concert is a Staples music department gift to the town.

Modeled on Boston Pops’ famed Esplanade series, it features popular classical and contemporary music from the high school’s symphonic orchestra, band, jazz band and Orphenians.

Jim Naughton — emcee for the past 3 concerts — is unavailable this year. Pinch-hitting is one of Westport’s foremost arts patrons, and no stranger to Staples High School: former principal John Dodig.

The Pops Concert is a chance to enjoy great music on the Levitt lawn, greet friends, picnic, and watch the stars of the future as the stars come out.

But first you need tickets. Mark your calendar: Monday, May 20, 9 a.m.!

Mimi Levitt: As Season Begins, Remembering A Golf Legend

Alert “06880” reader and avid golfer Dee Andrian writes:

The other day, I was among the throng of people at the University Club in New York to celebrate the life of Mimi Levitt. [The longtime Westporter — an arts and historic preservation benefactor, and namesake with her husband of the pavilion that has provided free summer entertainment here for over 40 years — — died in January. She was 97.]

What a celebration it was!

The main dining room was filled with love, laughter and tears as we listened to Mimi’s family and friends recall their memories of this remarkable woman. The sound of music in the room was a special part of the scene.

We heard tributes to Mimi’s love of family, art, love music and people as well.

But one love was not mentioned: her love for the game of golf.

I met Mimi when I joined the Longshore Women’s Golf Association in 1980.  When my husband dear husband Jim retired, he suggested I learn to play golf, because he didn’t want to play only with the guys.

At the age of 50, I was introduced to golf. I loved it.

The LWGA holds tournaments every Tuesday, April through October. One fateful Tuesday I was in a foursome with Mimi Levitt — a former LWGA club champion.  It was a team effort, and I had fun.

When she called and asked me to join her foursome, I was surprised. I was just learning to play.

But I recall vividly that after I teed off on the 3rd hole, Mimi said in her Viennese accent, “Dee darling, we have decided: You have potential. As long as you don’t slow us up, you can play with anybody.”

And play we did. Mimi was my first of several special mentors. She taught me the art of golf, the rules, the etiquette.

This Westport News photo from July 1985 shows Mimi Levitt (4th from left) and Dee Andrian (7th from left). The caption says the knee socks were an LWGA tradition.

She was a keen competitor as well, so our rounds were fun but seriously played. My beginner’s handicap was 44. But it quickly dropped way down.

The LWGA was founded in 1960, and Mimi was one of the pioneers. Her love of the game was contagious, and she passed it on to others. Our days on the golf course will remain with me always.

I especially remember after a round of 18 holes on a hot summer day, walking into the Inn for lunch. I kept my visor on over my sweaty hair, and my golf togs were wrinkled.

Then Mimi walked in, looking like she just arrived from the beauty salon.

She was so cool, so elegant — just like her golf swing.

Elegant is the way I will remember Mimi “fore-ever.”

Our LWGA tournaments began this month. As I teed off for my first drive, I thought of her.

Pic Of The Day #736

Levitt Pavilion and Saugatuck River (Photo/Michael Tomashefsky)

Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page Return To Westport For Levitt Fundraiser

Back in the day, Jimmy Page played at Staples High School. He had just replaced Eric Clapton, when the Yardbirds made their first-ever American appearance in Westport.

Clapton made it to the Staples stage a few months later, playing with Cream. It was one more in the now-legendary late-1960s series of concerts here in town.

Both musicians — now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — are still touring. And they’ll be the latest in the list of special artists (including Willie Nelson, Roberta Flack, John Fogerty and many more) who have played at the Levitt Pavilion’s annual fundraiser. This year’s concert is set for Sunday, June 30.

The Clapton and Page concert — called “Cream of the Yardbirds” — came about because of another collaboration.

Dick Sandhaus and Paul Gambaccini were Staples students who managed to book fantastic acts (also including the Doors and Rascals) for the Staples stage.

Both have gone on to noted careers. Sandhaus produced much larger concerts, and now works in the fields of technology and marketing. Gambaccini became one of England’s most famous music critics and personalities.

Several months ago, they reminisced about their teenage concert-promoting days. Both regretted never seeing Clapton and Page play together at Staples. With their connections, they realized, they could make it happen — over 50 years later.

Now they have.

Tickets are not yet on sale. To be placed on an email list for notification when they do, click here.

Memorial Fund, Tribute Concert Honor Charlie Karp

Charlie Karp’s death last week stunned and saddened music lovers throughout Fairfield County. The guitarist/songwriter/teacher/mentor — a free spirit who left Staples High School at 16 to play and record with Buddy Miles, then led a rollicking, music-filled life that included stints with great area bands like White Chocolate and Slo Leak — succumbed to liver cancer. He was 65.

But friends and admirers are making sure his name and legacy live on.

A Charlie Karp Memorial Fund has been established to benefit a promising young area musician every year. In addition to funds, it’s been augmented by generous donations of recording studio time by Carriage House Recording Studios of Stamford and Horizon Recording Studios of West Haven.

Tax-deductible checks made payable to Fairfield County’s Community Foundation (put “Charlie Karp Memorial Fund” in the memo) can be sent to Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, 40 Richards Avenue, Norwalk, CT 06854.

Donations may also be made online at www.CharlieKarp.com. Follow instructions under the donation tab.

In addition, arrangements are being made for a memorial concert at the Levitt Pavilion this summer. Nationally recognized and local musicians are already committed. Details will be announced soon..

Other events honoring are being planned too. For more on Charlie Karp, click here.

(Hat tip: Genie Schomer)

Pics Of The Day #686

It wasn’t the biggest snowfall. It shouldn’t have caused as many power outages as it did.

But it sure was pretty.

Here are some scenes, captured around Westport by alert “06880” photographers.

And now — okay. It’s March. We’re ready for some spring shots!

This yard on Roseville Road sparkled (Photo/Gregg Bromberg)

Marion Road (Photo/Anne Bernier)

Winslow Park (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Levitt Pavilion (Photo/JP Vellotti)

Kings Highway Elementary School (Photo/Maggie Gomez)

Playhouse condos, from Winslow Park (Photo/Molly Alger)

Old Mill Beach (Photo/Matt Murray)

The train station last night, in the thick of the storm (Photo/Tracy Porosoff)

Remembering Mimi Levitt

Annemarie “Mimi” Gratzinger Levitt — patron of the arts and historic preservation, longtime Westporter, and the namesake (with her husband) of the pavilion and organization that has provided free summer entertainment here for over 40 years — died of natural causes earlier today, in New York. She was 97.

Mimi Levitt

The Levitt Foundation sends this obituary:

Known for her intelligence, grace and hands-on approach to philanthropy and activism, Mimi believed in the arts as a source for positive social change and left a lasting legacy of generosity and service to the causes she supported.

Born in Vienna, Austria, Mimi’s childhood was filled with opera and other musical experiences. She emigrated to the United States with her mother at the outbreak of World War II, and soon after attended Pomona College in California. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in French iterature.

Fluent in 5 languages, she was a translator at the Nuremberg trials. I

n 1947, she became senior assistant to Alfred Barr, Jr., the first director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She met rags-to-riches clothier and The Custom Shop founder Mortimer Levitt (1907-2005) at a Manhattan art gallery opening, where they had a spirited debate over a painting (Mimi favored abstraction; Mortimer preferred realism).

Following a brief courtship, they married on June 18, 1948, and together became philanthropists supporting youth music programs, performing arts organizations and educational institutions. Mimi and Mortimer were known for nurturing the careers of aspiring young musicians by hosting salons at their Manhattan brownstone.

An imaginative and meticulous hostess, Mimi threw memorable charity events and family celebrations. She often opened her home to artists and musicians.

In 1963, Mimi and her husband established the Mortimer Levitt Foundation (renamed the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation in 2012 in honor of her contributions). The main focus is to empower communities nationwide to transform underused public spaces into welcoming destinations through the power of free, live music. It now supports free outdoor concerts in 26 towns and cities.

The first Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts opened in Westport in 1974, the result of a community-driven effort to create an outdoor music venue as a community gathering place in the heart of town. As summer residents of Westport, the Levitts gave seminal support to the project and became the campaign’s largest private contributors.

Mimi served on the Levitt Pavilion board for decades, helping the nonprofit flourish and become a community treasure. Following her husband’s passing in 2005, Mimi became president of the Levitt Foundation and supported the growth of the Levitt program nationwide. In 2011, she was honored at the Westport Arts Awards as a “Champion of the Arts.”

Well into her 90s, she attended many Levitt Pavilion events.

The Levitt Pavilion is a Westport treasure. (Drone photo/Dave Curtis, HDFA Photography.com)

An active and loyal benefactor of the Bard Music Festival, Mimi served on the board of directors for 15 years (1998-2013), and for many years underwrote the Festival’s annual opening night dinner. An avid lover of opera, she supported opera workshops in the Conservatory’s Vocal Arts Program directed by Dawn Upshaw and helped commission one act operas. She also funded scholarships for Conservatory students and started the first endowment for the Bard

Music Festival in 2005.

Mimi was also passionately committed to historic preservation. In the 1970s she spearheaded the Neighborhood Association to Preserve Fifth Avenue Houses that successfully championed the creation of the Metropolitan Museum Historic District in New York City, designated in 1977. Her involvement grew from concern about protecting the distinctive character of her Upper East Side neighborhood, which in the 1970s was undergoing significant change.

She was one of the earliest supporters of the New York Landmarks Conservancy, and served on its board from 1978-2014. Mimi was honored by the Conservancy in 2011 for her 30 years of service.

Mimi Levitt

In 1995, Mimi and her husband donated 564 acres of wildlife habitat near Half Moon Bay to the Peninsula Open Space Trust in Marin County, California. The second largest gift in the county’s history, it provides an invaluable boost to ecological conservation efforts.

Together with Mortimer, Mimi also supported the Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Mercy College, Museum of Television and Radio, New York City Opera, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park Conservancy, The Joyce Theater, New Victory Theater, Lincoln Center’s Film Society, Hunter College, Music Center of Los Angeles, School of American Ballet, American Red Cross, and Young Concert Artists. She was a member of the Mayor’s Commission on Drug Addiction under Mayor Koch, a former trustee of the Town School in Manhattan and the Branch Libraries of the New York Public Library, and a children’s literacy volunteer in Harlem.

A beloved mother, aunt, step-grandmother and step-great-grandmother, Mimi cherished her family and their time together. She is survived by her daughter, Elizabeth “Liz” Levitt Hirsch of Los Angeles,who now serves as board president of the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation, and her son, Peter Levitt of New York, who also serves on the Levitt Foundation board.

A private funeral will be followed by a public memorial service, to take place at a later date. For details regarding the public memorial, please email memorial@levitt.org. In lieu of flowers, donations in honor of Mimi may be made to the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation.

Levitt Pavilion, before the crowds (Photo/Katherine Bruan)