A tribute to Yogi

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Two Rowan guitar professors and the dean of FPA honor the baseball great and his words with a show at Carnegie Hall.

The old adage about getting to Carnegie Hall didn't hold true for Yogi.

Yogi Berra practiced a lot but still never played Carnegie.

So Carnegie Hall played him.

The legendary New York Yankees player and manager, who was known almost as well for his quips and quotes as his work on the ball field, was honored June 6 with a show at Carnegie Hall by two Rowan University music professors and the dean of the College of Fine and Performing Arts.

The program, featuring Dean Jon Robert Cart and professors Kathleen and Joseph Mayes, featured the world premier of The Sayings of Yogi Berra, a musical tribute to the retired baseball icon that paired blues, jazz, Latin and popular stadium sounds with Berra's memorable quips.

The Mayes', who not only teach guitar but for years have performed together as the Mayes Guitar Duo, commissioned the work by Nashville-based composer Roger Hudson.

Hudson, an avid baseball fan and one-time pitcher, took such famous Berra lines as "a nickel ain't worth a dime" and "it ain't over till it's over" and turned them into art.

"I had an idea for a production for a long time and was going to compose it myself but then we thought of Roger," Joseph Mayes said. "We really like his music and it's quirky enough that we thought a project like this would be perfect for him."

His initial idea for a production was many short tunes, each paying tribute to a Berra quip.

"Roger put several in each song and it worked out great," Kathleen said. "The way it turned out, the show was a variety of works with the Yogi piece in the center."

The performance in the Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall included performances by the Mayes' on guitar and lute as well as by Cart, an accomplished operatic tenor who had previously played Carnegie, Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and the White House.

The three had never previously performed together but said despite the seemingly odd pairing of classic guitar, lute, an operatic tenor singing blues (for the first time!) and Yogi Berra, the show was a smashing success.

"They were applauding for everything, all the time," Cart said.

The show also featured performances by Rowan alumni Jamie Mann and Kaleb Magnussen on guitar.

A Carnegie Hall encore has not yet been booked but the performers plan on staging The Sayings of Yogi Berra and its accompanying pieces as part of the Faculty Spotlight Series on campus this fall.

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