THE GIRL I KNEW. . . .
and know…
This is my story…

I was born in Carrier Mills, Illinois and graduated with honors from Indiana University School of Music. The voice lessons started with the incomparable PW Sherman in Harrisburg when I was 12…and continued with the equally incomparable Virginia MacWatters at IU. But wait. . . how did I get there. . . and here now?

Well, it all started when I entered Talentsville USA, a nationwide talent contest sponsored by Coca Cola. I kept winning the heats and found myself onstage at New York Town Hall for the finals. Yes. . . I won and the prize enabled me to "tread" in my sister's footsteps at IU. Like her, I was a featured soloist of the famed Belles of Indiana. I was known as the "Singing Ambassadress of IU."

My next visit to New York was to audition for the Metropolitan Opera National Company . . . yup, I got that and went on the road for a year all over the States and Canada. I made my debut as Susannah in MARRIAGE OF FIGARO with the company. However, my love for Musical Theatre totally overwhelmed that of my love for opera…and a very happy career in musicals has followed. I have to say that the training I had for Opera…and with Miss Mac has been invaluable in sustaining and maintaining a vocal technique which is strong and steadfast.

It was during my first visit to London where I performed the "backers' auditions" for a show called THE AMBASSADOR (in which a role had been created for me) that I was heard by the associate of one of London's most influential producers. Nothing was said at the time, but a week later, when, on the day that I was flying back to the US, I was doing some last minute shopping at Harrods; I checked for messages at my hotel and was asked to ring my agent. He said Mr. Fielding, Wendy Toye, and Ray Cook wanted to audition me in 30 minutes. Well, 35 minutes later I walked on stage at the world famous Theatre Royal Drury Lane. . . auditioned. . . and then a taxi whisked me straight to Heathrow for the last flight back to New York (a must for me as I had a show to do with Bob Hope the following day in Montreal!) It was like a scene from an MGM movie!

Mr. Fielding had to submit a list of over 800 English artists auditioned to the Home Office and to Equity to get the approval to sign me for the role. Six weeks later in New York the phone rang at 6AM (wish they had remembered the time change!) I was offered the starring role of Magnolia in SHOW BOAT in London at the Adelphi Theatre with the divine Cleo Laine. . . who to this day, with her other half, John Dankworth, are two of my dearest friends and mentors.

Well, the show ran for 2 years and 3 months (at that time, the longest run of the show in the world ever). . . all very happy times. I found myself in love with London and decided to stay. There followed major television series, many West End shows, my own BBC series (MY SERENADE and LORNA DALLAS. . .MY MUSICAL WORLD) with a 72 piece orchestra, Concerts and Cabaret all over the world. . .Hong Kong, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Europe. . .and an 8 month residency in Germany learning the language, specifically to record an opera, KATHARINA UND POTEMKIN written for me. Also, during this time, I squeezed in a movie role playing Telly Savalas' wife!

Then the real love of my life. Garry Brown, a well known agent who booked the QE2 was sent a picture of me (to this day, I don't know who sent it!)…he knew of me…but when he opened the envelope and saw my picture, he said to his secretary, "That's the woman I'm going to marry." Eighteen months later, he came to see an act in a show that I was headlining in Eastbourne. The next day he rang my agent to book me for the World Cruise. I had heard he was in the night before and had rung her in the meantime. I insisted that I wanted to speak with him to determine the profile of the passengers in order to have the right program for the ship. When I called him and made an appointment for the Tuesday afternoon at 4, he said that I should call that morning to make sure it was still OK as he was a very busy man. Well, on the day, I phoned…and was told he was too busy. I just replied that "Friday will be fine with me, I'll come by then" and I promptly hung up the phone. When I arrived at his home/office on the Friday and he opened the door, my heart skipped a beat. Could it be? No! Well, right behind me was his daughter Gaby arriving home from boarding school. I immediately suppressed these feelings and discussed my show. Six weeks later when I arrived at the airport to fly to Istanbul to join the QE2, who should be in the lounge but Mr. Brown? Furthermore, he was on the same flight…and sitting next to me! In the course of the conversation, I found out he was a widower…and he found out that I was NOT married to an American doctor as he had thought. Wonderful! These feelings wouldn't have to be suppressed! The wooing and pursuing began. In short, we were both madly in love. We married on Valentine's Day in 1982. . . with Simon and Gaby…his two children as best man and bridesmaid …in Sissy and Joe's house in Jacksonville, Florida. Twenty two years together and we remain 'so in love'…and even more so today! Now, here's a coincidence…Garry had played trombone in the Dankworth Big Band…was there when Cleo met John…way back when. Cleo and John were thrilled to know we had met and were getting married. It was more than fate that brought us together…we add up a lot of friends and great music between us!

It was also during this period while I was performing concerts in Holland that I received a phone call from my agent who asked, "Are you sitting down? Well, you have the honor to have been chosen to appear on the Royal Variety Performance in the presence of HER MAJESTY, QUEEN ELIZABETH, THE QUEEN MOTHER…singing her favorite song, MY DEAREST DEAR by Ivor Novello. How I love that Novello!

This very special evening took me back to the Theatre Royal Drury Lane which, of course, was filled to capacity. As I stood there "shaking" in the wings prior to my performance and saying a quick prayer, I suddenly thought, "My God, there are more people sitting in this theatre audience than live in my home town of Carrier Mills!" I was jolted from these thoughts by the reassuring voice of one of the presenters, David Jacobs, saying: "You're on, kid." I walked onstage thinking, "You've come a long way, baby" to the opening strains of the beautiful orchestration by Peter Knight. Oh, what a night to remember! This was also the start of many appearances before members of the Royal Family. Now, back to reality. . .

During this time I was busy with HELLO DOLLY! Starring Danny LaRue…yes, I played Mrs. Molloy! Danny was a great leading lady! Ned Sherrin asked me to be in his wonderfully witty RATEPAYERS' IOLANTHE…and I made my entrance chewing gum and singing a high note through the bubble! Good fun! Needless to say, that show was divinely irreverent and witty.

I finally went into the studios at CTS and recorded my first solo album with a hand picked orchestra of the finest musicians…and many of them personal friends. The album was called RAINBOWS. What an exhilarating experience! A most hectic but stimulating time! Then, I had the incredible good fortune of several BBC series. First there was the ½ hour SERENADE programs recorded in the studios with Stanley Black (an incredible musician and pianist!) and various conductors. Then came the 1 hour series… the jewels in the crown! The series was called LORNA DALLAS…MY MUSICAL WORLD. I had the 77 piece BBC Radio Orchestra…and special guests each week…and the finest of the arrangers including Stanley, Peter Knight, Roland Shaw, Robert Farnon, Dave Lindup, John Dankworth, etc. I used a different conducter with each show to suit the various material being performed. The shows were themed. Martin Smith was my special guest one week…as well as conducting! Martin and I devised a fabulous program celebrating the theatre. Our renditon of NO MORE/BEING ALIVE brought the house down! Ned Sherrin was a special guest as well…and the divine Denis Quilley. The audiences were so packed in to the theatre, we broke the fire laws!

Several years later, I approached Barry Kleinbort about devising a new one woman show for me. It was at Barry's suggestion that I considered delving into the music of Ivor Novello and Jerome Kern even more for my show. It was Kern's music that took me to London…and it was there that I fell in love with Novello's rich and soaring melodies. There are wonderful parallels in their writing and with my career and life. That much became evident when we found musical passages from one and/or the other to intertwine seamlessly. Proof of that is when we first put YOU ARE LOVE/LOVE MADE THE SONG onstage. . . and no one realized we had two composers in the one arrangement! Well, a new journey began. . . and we have gone through hundreds of songs. . . with a penchant for those belonging to the lovely Liz Welch. The result of it all, the CD, THE GIRL I KNEW…THE MUSIC OF NOVELLO AND KERN which has garnered rave reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. I have also performed several acclaimed shows based on this material at the Jermyn Street Theatre in London and at the FireBird (GLAMOROUS NIGHT) in New York. This is a show which was so fulfilling…both as a theatre piece in 2 acts and in the shorter version.

I fulfilled a lifelong ambition when I sang at Carnegie Hall. I made my debut with Skitch Henderson and the New York Pops. What a thrill! And talk about full circle…I sang "Bill" from SHOW BOAT. That Kern music just keeps coming back in to my life! I would like to play the role of Julie next time round!

Countless concerts and cabarets have followed in the intervening years…including my own symphonic concert of THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK with Don Pippin conducting. Skitch and I have teamed again with major orchestras around the States…and I returned to Carnegie Hall with the New York Pops. A new show, SPRING COLLECTION was debuted in New York and then London…once again with Barry and Chris. I was truly overwhelmed by the critics' response. No one could have asked for more glowing reviews. I have since become even more immersed in the music of Novello, Kern, Coward, Gershwin and Porter…and hopefully, consider myself somewhat an expert in their music. More one woman shows are in the pipeline…and another new musical for the West End.

Another chapter…good friends, Dame Judi Dench and now Dame Cleo Laine & John Dankworth have been my "referees" for my British citizenship…which is pending. It will put the seal on this truly BiPondal existence!

That thrill of performing is as strong as ever. If anything, it is stronger. My passion to sing has not diminished. I have the great good fortune to work with the amazing voice coach Ian Adam in London. Yes, I still take voice lessons! Fortunately, I have a family who encourage me. Sissy has been my staunchest fan…Vicky and Anna (daughters of Gaby) have come to my shows…and even Champers our beloved Tibetan Terrier howls in delight when I vocalize! Now to get Archie and Autumn (they belong to Si & Jo) in the audience…

Garry and I have "rediscovered" New York together…with a wonderful apartment overlooking Central Park which we refer to as "Heaven." And what about that girl I know? Well, she's back "home" with a slightly Mid Atlantic accent. . .

That's it in a nutshell. OK, just a few scattered tidbits…but thanks for reading…and stay tuned for the next chapter! I hope you have found it interesting…and want to know more. It has truly been a marvelous life…for me…and I hope for you!