2 May 2018

On Saturday, April 28th, composer, orchestrator, arranger and singer, Ian Freebairn-Smith presented a fantastic Master Class with moderator, Sylvester Rivers. The Master Class took place at LA Valley College and lasted 3 hours. I’ve served with Ian on the ASMAC Board of Directors for many years, but, as is the case of many folks we all serve with, we sometimes have no clue how influential our members and presenters are until we hear their story from their own point of view.

While there were, of course, many great stories about Ian’s long life filled with music, we also learned about the history and evolution of his commercial vocal writing from the influences of other great vocal groups like the Pinones, the Rhythmaires, the Singers Incorporated, the HiLo’s, to name a few. Ian also spoke about the great work and substantial effect of vocalist Gene Puerling. We heard and viewed scores for other works by Ian, including Barbra Streisand’s orchestral arrangement of Evergreen, music for “Magnum P.I., as well as his arrangement, including his vocal, for the MASH Theme, Suicide is Painless. Ian also wrote terrific orchestrations for the songs for the Muppet Movie!

He spoke about the TV commercials he wrote from the days when companies were not afraid to spend money on real music and musicians. In addition, he shared his personal vocal arrangements which were written for his friends.

All participants received a thumb drive of all the information presented, which included MP3’s and, more importantly, PDF’s of so many wonderful scores of Ian’s work. The three hour Master Class was chock full of some of the best vocal music of the past several decades, written with Ian’s characteristically beautiful and complex harmonies. Most interesting to the singers in the audience were his amazing arrangements of a medley of songs, Here’s To You, Gene Puerling. In 1999, Artie Butler, composer of Here’s To Life, reached out to Ian to write a vocal arrangement of this song which was recorded and performed by some of the best studio singers in Los Angeles to be played at Joe Williams’ memorial service in Las Vegas. This a cappella arrangement is truly extraordinary and should be a standard in the vocal library for all choirs to perform and enjoy!

The event was very well attended and I feel lucky to have been able to be there to learn and hear this man’s amazing body of work! Everyone should try to make as many of these “once-in-a-lifetime” Master Classes as they can!

Charles Fernandez

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