Dec 26, 2012 Russ Tarby Uncategorized
Music has always filled the Condon family’s Fourth Street home.
Patriarch Don Condon plays chromatic harmonica, matriarch JeanEllen plays piano, as does daughter Colleen. Daughters Ellen and Nan performed in school bands, and sons Don. Jr., Mark, Keith and Paul harmonized barbershop tunes. Nowadays Don Jr. teaches music in Indiana, Paul sings opera professionally and Keith vocalizes with the Syracuse’s Mario DeSantis Orchestra.
And Don and Jean’s grand-daughter, Brianna Condon, now carries on the family tradition. The 17-year-old senior at West Genesee High School sang with the DeSantis Orchestra for the first time this past summer at a Candlelight Concert in Armory Square. One of the songs she performed then was “Our Day Will Come.” You can say that again!
The daughter of Keith Condon and his wife, choreographer Terri Baracco, Brianna studies dance at Caitlan Clark’s Studio and took voice lessons from Cathy Moncrief. On Sunday, Dec. 16, she stood in the centerstage spotlight at Christmas at the Palace with the DeSantis Orchestra. Her performance was part of a segment called “The Musical Future” also showcasing vocalist Michael Ranalli and saxophonist Dunham Hall. Brianna’s older sister, Aubrey Condon, helped with program graphics.
Brianna opened the show with a carefully phrased cover of Eartha Kitt’s sultry “Santa Baby.”
With lyrics by Joan Javits, the niece of U.S. Sen. Jacob Javits, and music by composer Phil Springer, the song is a tongue-in-cheek Christmas list sung by a woman who asks for extravagant gifts such as fur coats, a yacht and decorations from Tiffany’s. It’s one of only two hit Christmas songs written by a woman, the other being “Little Drummer Boy” penned by Katherine Kennicott Davis in 1941 and popularized by the Harry Simeone Chorale in 1958.
Before she waxed “Santa Baby” for RCA Victor on Oct. 6, 1953, Eartha Kitt had just completed a run on Broadway with New Faces of 1952 along with Mel Brooks, Carol Burnett and Paul Lynde. After “Santa Baby” became a big hit, she reprised the song in the 1954 film of the New Faces musical revue.
In 1954, Kitt recorded a new version of the song titled “This Year’s Santa Baby,” but it failed to repeat the original’s commercial success.
The enduring Christmas novelty number has been covered over the years by dozens of female vocalists such as LeAnn Rimes, Maria Muldaur and Taylor Swift (one of Brianna’s favorite singers). Jazz Age sex symbol Mae West performed the song on her 1967 rock’n’roll record album, Wild Christmas.
In 1987 Madonna’s version appeared on the charity album A Very Special Christmas. Springer didn’t make any money from this version, as all royalties were donated to the Special Olympics, but Madonna’s version brought the song back into the spotlight and it has been a Christmas standard ever since.
In 2011, male vocalist Michael Bublé covered the song on his Christmas album, but he changed the words to “Santa Buddy.”
“Santa Baby” was also included on the soundtrack to the Academy Award-winning 1989 film, Driving Miss Daisy and inspired a 2001 holiday TV special called “Santa Baby” starring Kitt, Patti LaBelle and Vanessa Lynn Williams, the former Miss Syracuse and Miss America of 1984.
Eartha Kitt died at age 81 on Christmas Day 2008.
Another young singer with Liverpool connections appeared at Christmas at the Palace.
Nick Blaney, a gifted operatic baritone who recently graduated from Liverpool High School, performed with the full DeSantis Holiday Orchestra during the main program. He drew enthusiastic applause from the audience of 800 or so when he sang “O Holy Night” and “You Raise Me Up.” Like Brianna Condon, Nick Blaney also bodes well for the future of music.
Meanwhile, Liverpool native Keith Condon applied his golden vocal cords to “Silver Bells,” Feliz Navidad” and “White Christmas.” And saxophonist and arranger Joe Riposo, a member of the LHS Fine Arts Hall of Fame, was featured on “The Christmas Waltz” and “I Remember Clifford,” a jazz arrangement dedicated to his sister Rose Musenga, who passed away Nov. 1.
Rose had always enjoyed listening to her brothers improvise on their instruments so bandleader Mario DeSantis stepped aside for that tune as pianist Tony Riposo, the former music director for the McGuire Sisters, sat down at the keyboard to jam with Joe and the band.
It was another marvelous moment in a concert full of marvelous moments. After all, that’s Christmas all about: Family.