given that filmmakers like to make movies about making movies.
Computer programmers like to blog about programming computers.
Talking heads like to talk, and talk, and talk, about talking,
heady and otherwise.
And singers like to sing songs about . . . singing songs.
Songwriters concern themselves with many topics: love that has
been found, or lost, or found again; travels that have been
memorable; obstacles that have been overcome. But then there are
special moments when songwriters simply write songs about music
itself, how music can elevate emotions in both performers and
listeners, how a "song in my heart" can change a life.
As an arranger of vocal music, I've always been drawn to songs
proclaiming the joys of music. So this section of my website
presents many songs about songs, which I've arranged through the
At the same time, this section also celebrates seven
trailblazers in my life. These are very special folks with whom
I've worked in schools and on stages. They have all loved music
and have wanted to share that music -- and that love -- with
others. These artists have been my teachers and mentors, my
colleagues and friends.
Applauding BILL PETERMAN:
"Be a friend in school,
a teacher outside."
- Bill Peterman
(to Denis Moreen,
a New Trier HS
"Doc" Peterman and
Sound of Music -- 1960
Medley of 3 songs: "The Sound of Music" - "My Favorite Things"
- "Climb Every Mountain"
I first met William J. Peterman when he joined the staff at New
Trier High School as the new Music Department head. I was a high
school senior playing string bass in the orchestra and Bill was
the conductor for a stage production of Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore.
I was impressed with him (not sure if the feeling was mutual).
Flash forward to 1960, my senior year in college. I asked Bill
if I could do my student teaching at New Trier High School. He
said, "Only if you can play piano." I assured him I could, and
furthermore, my fraternity brother Dennis Bowen, a fellow music
major, would also like to do his student teaching at New Trier.
So Bill accepted us as a duo for the spring quarter.
Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical The Sound of Music
had opened on Broadway in November 1959. I asked Bill if I could
arrange a medley of songs for New Trier's spring musical
festival. He said, "Only if you will play piano." I assured him
I would, and furthermore, my fraternity brother Dennis Bowen
would also like to play piano for the work. And thus was born a
medley of songs from The Sound of Music, conducted by
Bill, accompanied by two fledgling music teachers, and sung by
1,000 -- one thousand! -- high school kids.
New Trier High School music festival, 1955
Denis and Dennis (Moreen and Bowen), 1959
The Sound of
Music, performed by New Trier High School
East music festival chorus, arranged by Denis,
accompanied by Denis and Dennis Bowen, conducted by
Bill Peterman, 1960
It with Music -- 1991
Mashup of "Say It with Music" - and other Irving Berlin songs
Bill Peterman hired me to join the music staff at New Trier High
School in 1964, a position I held for six years before moving to
San Francisco. In 1985 Bill retired from New Trier and moved to
San Jose, California. At the time I was teaching at College of
Notre Dame in Belmont, about thirty miles north of San Jose.
One day I jokingly asked Bill if he'd like to "unretire" and
direct the chorus at CND. To my astonishment, he said yes. To
everyone's amazement, Bill built a Campus-Community Chorus with
over one hundred members. When Bill again "retired" in 1990, I
took over directing the chorus and hired him to appear at our
next spring concert as guest conductor. For the occasion I
arranged a mashup based on the song "Say It with Music." I used
an older version created by Roy Ringwald and added a number of
other tunes, all written by, and in tribute to, Irving Berlin.
CND Chorale, with Chris Khoury at piano,1975
Rob Tackes, Bill
and Pat Peterman and Denis, 1990
Say It with
Music, performed by College of Notre Dame
Campus-Community Chorus women's ensemble, arranged and
accompanied by Denis, conducted by Bill Peterman, 1991
Applauding TED KLINKA:
New Trier High School West sign, 2017
Sam Mages, Ted Klinka and Denis at NTHS West, 1966
"Lord, our creator,
How excellent thy name
in all the nations!"
- Ted Klinka
(to LaPorte Choraliers,
Sing -- 1966
Medley of 3 songs: "I Feel a Song Coming On" - "With a Song in
My Heart" - "Sing, You Sinners"
Bill Peterman hired Ted Klinka to join the music staff at New
Trier High School in 1963. Ted had taught high school music in
LaPorte, Indiana, where, most coincidentally, one of his high
school students later became my Northwestern University
fraternity brother Dennis Bowen. The New Trier district was
building a second high school, "New Trier West," to open in
1966, and Ted was slated to become head of the second school's
After New Trier West opened, I joined choral director Ted and
instrumental director Sam Mages as a third faculty member at the
school. Ted and I were in total harmony (so to speak). I cherish
the six years I worked with him and the many opportunities he
gave me to teach, write and perform.
During my years collaborating with Ted Klinka during the 1960s,
we worked with hundreds of singers. Since then, I've kept in
contact with scores of these "kids" and have been amazed to
learn about their accomplishments through the years. Three of
our music students went on to achieve national fame: Ed Zwick,
Emmy- and Oscar-winning TV and film producer and director;
Christie Hefner, former CEO of Playboy Enterprises and still
involved in a number of public causes; and Christine Ebersole,
Tony-winning actress active in Broadway, TV, film, concert and
recording activities. Ed, Christie and Christine have all
recently been inducted into the New Trier Alumni Hall of Honor.
I arranged "Sing Men Sing" for Bill Peterman's Boys Ensemble at
what was now "New Trier East." However, when I moved west, "Sing
Men Sing" also moved with me. I formed a New Trier West Boys
Ensemble, and we performed the medley many times.
New Trier High School
West Boys Ensemble, with Ed Zwick front-and-center, 1970
Sing Men Sing,
performed by New Trier High School East Boys Ensemble,
arranged and accompanied by Denis, conducted by Bill
Applauding RAY PICCININI:
"No U-turns on Valencia!"
- Ray Piccinini
(to Fickle Fox
at the close of his
Denis and Ray
Fox contingent at San Francisco Gay Freedom Day parade, 1976
Those Old Records -- 1986
Medley of 4 songs: "Get Out Those Old Records" - "Play a
Simple Melody" - "The Old Piano Roll Blues" - "Alexander's
My San Francisco piano bar career began at The Fickle Fox in
1971 and continued for fifteen years. The Fox soon became a San
Francisco institution. We were known as the city's premiere
open-mike lounge (the term "open-mic" didn't come into fashion
until many years later). Anyone was welcome to sing, and so I
continually kept track of who came in the door. If I didn't know
the singers personally, it would become a game of Russian
Roulette, because we could never quite predict what would
result. If I did know the singers, I would schedule them to
achieve maximum variety and pacing throughout the evening. As
much crowd control as piano playing.
Ray Piccinini was the star entertainer at the Fox. A comic
singer and actor, Ray showed everyone else what Show Biz is all
about. He knew how to "take stage" and hold it, through thick
and thin. He was brilliant and a great draw, and always closed
the evening show (in those days, at 1:30 am!). Our stellar
performers included Barry Kinder, Oscar Jackson, Robert Sokol,
and scores of others. These folks became known affectionately as
The Fickle Fox Chorus.
When the Fox closed in 1985, I moved on to a rival lounge, Joe
Six's, where our Fickle Fox Chorus regulars soon joined me. "Get
Out Those Old Records" is an arrangement I wrote for Ray and
Barry, which they performed many times at both clubs.
Ray Piccinini and Barry Kinder, 2003
Get Out Those
Old Records (medley), performed by Ray
Piccinini and Barry Kinder, arranged and accompanied
by Denis, 1986
Oscar Jackson's rendition of "The Birth of the Blues" was always
an audience-grabber at The Fickle Fox and Joe Six's. This
recorded performance, as well as the preceding performance by
Ray and Barry, were part of a gala "So long-Farewell-Auf
wiedersehen-Adu" evening on the final night of my open-mike/mic
career in 1986. As we said at the time, "It's a wrap!"
The Fickle Fox
Chorus (left to right Barry Kinder, Weston Bielby,
Billy Pipo, Denis, John Montanez, Ray Piccinini and
Oscar Jackson), 1985
Denis and Rob Tackes, 2003
The Birth of the
Blues, performed by Oscar Jackson, arranged
and accompanied by Dens, 1986
Robert Titlow was one of the movers and shakers at College of
Notre Dame. Bob served as the first chair of the Division of
Visual and Performing Arts. Then when he retired I took over his
position, an administrative journey which lasted for ten years.
From Bob I learned how to be resourceful and flexible in a
In chapter 7 of this website you'll
find two songs from the 1981 revue Bob and I created, Lullaby
of Broadway. Here's one more: To open the show, Bob and I
mounted a flashy song-and-dance number combining "Lullaby of
Broadway" and "All Aboard for Broadway."
Lullaby reinforced our collective love of Broadway
productions, which we demonstrated again and again by staging
many other musicals over a period of twenty years.
The Four Cowards:
Denis, Onnie Taylor, Jody Bettendorf and Bob Titlow,
Broadway opening number with , 1981
Broadway / All Aboard for Broadway,
performed by College of Notre Dame Lullaby of
Broadway entire cast with vocal soloists Kathi
Simas and Michael Morris, arranged by Denis,
accompanied by pianists Chris Khoury and Denis, 1981
Applauding JOYCE KEIL:
"Confidence is a decision"
- Joyce Keil
(to Ragazzi Boys
just before a
Joyce Keil, 2011
conducting Ragazzi Boys Chorus at Stanford University Bing
Concert Hall, 2013
My first concert with Ragazzi Boys Chorus was in spring 1992. My
most recent concert with Ragazzi Boys Chorus was in spring 2017.
During various times in the intervening years, I served as
Ragazzi's principal accompanist, program manager, tour manager,
chaperone and even Kodaly solfege hand-signs demonstrator. I
traveled with the group to Spain and Portugal, Hungary and
Austria and Slovakia and Czech Republic, England and Wales,
Japan, British Columbia, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, Idaho,
Montana, you name it.
How explain this twenty-five-year collaboration? One simple and
profound answer: Joyce Keil. Joyce co-founded Ragazzi in 1987
and has built the group into the premiere boys chorus of the San
Francisco bay area. Joyce is an incredible musician and Ragazzi
is a spellbinding group. It currently serves the singing needs
of over 200 boys from grade school through high school - and
even beyond. I am always amazed each time I hear the immaculate
tone quality, pitch perfection and sheer camaraderie
Joyce develops among her boys.
In 2012 Ragazzi planned a tour of southern California and I
arranged for the group to appear in San Mateo, in a joint
concert with California Desert Chorale. "Music Alone Shall Live"
is an a cappella theme song which Ragazzi has sung
throughout its thirty-year history. For the finale of the joint
concert, I arranged the song for the two choral groups plus
audience and instrumental accompaniment. On the recording you'll
enjoy hearing Joyce explain to the audience how to sing the song
as a round.
Denis presenting a gift to Joyce at the joint concert
of Ragazzi and California Desert Chorale, 2012
Joyce presenting a
gift to Denis at the joint concert of Ragazzi and
California Desert Chorale, 2012
Keil conducting everyone at the joint concert, 2012
Shall Live, performed by Ragazzi Boys
Chorus, California Desert Chorale and Chamber
Orchestra, and audience, arranged by Denis Moreen,
narrated and conducted by Joyce Keil, 2012
Ron Cohn and I have been working together in the Palm Springs
area since 2008 and began presenting annual shows shortly
thereafter. In addition to performing in his intimate living
room, Ron has often appeared at the Joslin Center in the Sundays
in Summer Cabaret Series produced by Les Michaels,
otherwise known as "Mister Cabaret Impresario of Coachella
Valley." Look below at the posters for our annual shows since
2010. Isn't it amazing how Ron still looks the same after all
these years? The wonders of being an octogenarian!
Enjoy this "Battle of the Blues" which Ron staged in 2013.
Ron's show, 2011
Ron's show, 2012
Ron's show, 2013
Ron's show, 2014
Ron's show, 2015
Ron's show, 2016
and Ron's show, 2017
Actually, it appears that Ron and Denis have both
retained their ageless looks. Music is truly a Fountain of
Battle of the
Blues, performed by Ron Cohn and Denis,
arranged and accompanied by Denis, 2013
1 -- Say It with Music
Medley of "Say It with Music" - "You There in the Back Row" -
"Sing You Sinners" - "With a Song in My Heart" - and other
2 -- Sing! Sing a Song
Medley of "Sing! Sing a Song" - "Do Re Mi" - "Johnny One Note"
- and other songs
3 -- I Write the Songs
Medley of "I Write the Songs" - "Thank You for the Music" -
"Alexander's Ragtime Band" - and other songs
In April 2014 Tim Bruneau, artistic director of
California Desert Chorale, asked me to arrange something for the
Chorale's March 2015 concerts. In May I told him I'd do a medley
of a "few" songs about songs. In June I did my research and came
up with 95 (!) possible songs. In July I cut the list down to 34
songs, set in three movements and totaling twenty-three minutes.
In August Tim gulped. In September Tim said it was a total go.
In October, November and December I jumped in and arranged the
parts. In January when they received their music, the singers
gulped, then they jumped in also.
In February Raul Valenzuela choreographed the song "Do-Re-Mi"
for Part 2, wherein Chorale members
waved signs for the various solfege syllables, becoming more
frenetic as the tempo increased.
My ten-year stint with Tim and the Chorale was an incredible
experience for me. I am so grateful for being able to work with
this conductor and chorus. He is super, they are super. "With a
Song in My Heart" is billed as a medley celebrating the joys of
singing. The Chorale and Tim have demonstrated these joys again
Denis and Anne Ransom with California Desert Chorale,
California Desert Chorale, 2010
Desert Chorale, 2015
With a Song in
My Heart: A Medley Celebrating the Joys of Singing,
performed by California Desert Chorale and Chamber
Orchestra with vocal soloists Brianna Finnell, Judi
Russo, Ana Rangel, Christian Quevedo and Michael
Graham, conducted by Tim Bruneau, arranged by Denis,