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He wrote songs for Lillian Harvey, Willy Fritsch, Greta Garbo, The Comedian Harmonists, Heinz Ruehmann, Hans Albers, Hildegard Knef and a great many other actors and singers besides. Every German knows at least one of those famous Heymann film-songs: "Das Gibt's Nur Einmal" (Just Once For All Time), "Ein Freund, Ein Guter Freund" (A Friend, A Good Old Friend),"Das Muss Ein Stueck Vom Himmel Sein" (This Must Be A Piece Of Heaven) etc. Even most French people know: "Les Gars De La Marine" (The Official French Navy Hymn) or "Amusez Vous" (Enjoy Yourself). Fewer remember him as the composer of serious music, of 1918's "Rhapsodic Symphony" and a portfolio of popular German cabaret songs during the 1920s. Though his work endured, W.R. Heymann's name slipped from the folk memory.


Singer SCARLETT O' and musician JUERGEN EHLE chanced to become acquainted with W. R. Heymann's daughter. Elisabeth Trautwein-Heymann gave them unprecedented access to the family archives and her father's heritage: manuscripts, correspondence, interviews, unpublished autobiographical material and hitherto unperformed songs. Telling stories and trading anecdotes about W.R. Heymann can easily become a consuming passion as SCARLETT O' and her musicians have discovered. A little context may help. Born into a Jewish family in Koenigsberg (then in East Prussia) in 1896, W.R. Heymann wrote his first tune at 8, his first orchestral piece at 16. The main stations of his life go like this: he served as a soldier in the Great War, gravitated to the Berlin Kabarett scene in the 1920s, rose to become the General Musical Director of the UFA film corporation, fled Nazi Germany, settled in Paris, then Hollywood, took US citizenship and scored the soundtracks to over forty films (four 'Oscar'-nominated) before returning to his homeland. One specific incident from his life is typically illuminating. When he returned home in 1951 he had to go before a panel to determine whether he was 'worthy' of re-naturalization. He was instructed to sing a German folksong. Instead he sang one of his own songs that had entered the folk memory. The panel applauded and W.R. Heymann was German again. His finest songs grew to become evergreens. They survived war, the Depression, society's changes, self-imposed banishment, changes in popular taste and styles, the social, technological and sexual revolutions. They live on in their original form, on dance floors, as covers, in adverts, radio specials, supermarket and shopping mall, as musical wallpaper but most important of all in the heads and hearts of people. SCARLETT O's recital is a conducted tour through W.R. Heymann's life, a song cycle of lovingly crafted contemporary interpretations and arrangements, and the opportunity to discover the man behind the music and the name. (Ken Hunt, 2002)

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