Concert pays tribute to an amateur's love songs.
A concert of unpublished love songs written during the 1940s by an amateur songwriter from Oklahoma might not sound like everyone's cup of tea. But Eugene vocal music educator Sandra Brown Williams believes that it's just the ticket for Mother's Day.
"I'll Write a Love Song," a program to be presented in the University of Oregon's Beall Concert Hall at 3 p.m. next Sunday, May 8, is, among other things, a Mother's Day gift from Williams and her husband, UO music professor Jeffrey Williams, to 82-year-old Mary Virginia Ozier of Lawton, Okla. The program is a tribute to her late husband, Whit Ozier, who died in February 2004.
The Oziers took in Jeffrey Williams and brought him up as their own after his parents died when he was 15.
"They were his surrogate parents," Sandra Williams says. "They taught him how to be a couple, how to love."
During the 1940s, Whit Ozier wrote many love songs, some bouncy and some sentimental, in the pop music style of the times. After he died, Williams made Ozier's widow a CD of the songs, sung by South Eugene High School graduate Cole Blume and recorded at Don Ross Studios in Eugene.
Mary Virginia Ozier will come to Eugene for the concert program that has grown from that recording project.
Sandra Williams describes it as ``a love story set to songs" about ``first love, lost love and lasting love.''
``Some of them are uplifting and funny, and some speak to the depth of love that is often needed to sustain us,'' Williams says.
The program will include "The Gator Stomp," "Man, That's Crazy," "Darling, Without You," "This Must Be Heaven" and a dozen other songs.
Cole Blume, now a music major at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, will sing 10 of them, flying to Eugene just two days after singing with the St. Olaf Choir at the White House.
Arielle Aryah, a junior at South Eugene High, will sing five.
Ten-year-old Alex Mentzel, a student at Fox Hollow Elementary School, will sing one, "When I Write My Letter to Santa Claus."
Vicki Brabham of the Emerald City Jazz Kings will be the keyboard accompanist. She also will have a featured vocal on one song, "Autumn."
Judy Giers and her husband, David Olsson, will dance a waltz to the song "If I'm Dreaming."
In between, Sandra Williams will read letters and diary entries written by Mary Virginia Ozier and her mother. Storyteller Mark Lewis will read the World War II letters of Whit Ozier and male family members.
Whit Ozier served as an enlisted man and later an officer with the 35th Division of the U.S. Army Combat Engineers in Europe. A letter he wrote in 1945 reflected both his enthusiasm for music and his enthusiasm for Mary Virginia:
``I'm listening to J.D.'s recording of `The Sunny Side of the Street,' and it has the most knocked out intro that I've ever heard anywhere, so look hard and buy it for me for Christmas, honey. I will give you a big kiss, I betcha.''
Whit Ozier died slowly of Alzheimer's disease. His wife took care of him at home, with help during the last year and a half from their son, Rand.
At the time of his death, he and Mary Virginia had been married 62 years.
"I'll Write a Love Song" will tell the Oziers' love story right through to its sad ending.
But Sandra Williams doesn't want the audience to go away sad.
``I just want them to feel uplifted and touched,'' she says.
Admission to the May 8 concert is $10. Proceeds will go to the Oregon Cascade Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association.