Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress, singer, and recording artist Leslie Uggams (Roots, King Headley II, Hallelujah, Baby!) is ringing in the holidays with the release of a new single “Wishing You a Happy New Year" written by renowned film, television, and concert composer-orchestrator Curtis McKonly. Available online at iTunes, Amazon.com, CD Baby and other major digital music outlets, this elegant new tune features the 41-piece Curtis McKonly Orchestra.
“When Curtis approached me to do the vocals for ‘Wishing You a Happy New Year,’ I leapt at the chance,” Ms. Uggams says. “The music and lyrics harken back to the big-band days, but there’s a contemporary feel to it, too. Curtis’ arrangements are lush and romantic, and they capture the sounds of the season beautifully. The song is both nostalgic and hopeful. I just love its emotional complexities.”
McKonly and Ms. Uggams have had a strong working relationship for 20 years. In concert he has served as her music director, orchestrator and conductor. However, this is the first time they have released a new single together. They hope their collaboration will become a new holiday “classic” in the tradition of Barry Manilow’s “Just Another New Year’s Eve,” Ella Fitzgerald’s “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” and Nat King Cole’s “Happy New Year.”
Leslie Uggams has had a long and distinguished career as a stage actress, concert performer and recording artist. Her gifts as an entertainer have brought her from Harlem (Uptown) to Broadway (Downtown), the big screen (Skyjacked) to television (The Leslie Uggams Show). Perhaps best known for her stirring portrayal of Kizzy in the landmark TV mini-series Alex Haley’s Roots (Critics Choice Award, Emmy and Golden Globe nominations), Ms. Uggams has performed to critical and popular acclaim ever since her first professional appearances at the age of nine at the famed Apollo Theater. There she opened for such musical legends as Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Washington. Now, after six decades on stage and screen, Ms. Uggams is a legend in her own right.
On Broadway Ms. Uggams made her stunning musical theater debut starring in Hallelujah, Baby! earning both Tony and Theater World awards. Since then she has starred on Broadway in Blues in the Night, Her First Roman with Richard Kiley, Jerry’s Girls, Anything Goes at the Lincoln Center Theatre (also the first national tour), King Headley II with Brian Stokes Mitchell (Tony Award nomination), Thoroughly Modern Millie, and On Golden Pond opposite James Earl Jones. She also recently starred in the Encores! presentation of Pipe Dream at New York City Center and in the Broadway-bound world premiere of Stormy Weather: The Lena Horne Story (Ovation nomination) at the Pasadena Playhouse in California, breaking that theater’s all-time house attendance record. She also tours regularly with her one-woman autobiographical musical Uptown Downtown which is available on a 2-CD set.
Curtis McKonly has proven his versatility as a composer with numerous television credits including themes for WCBS News, Sunday Edition, NYC Marathon, A&E: The Stage, and Shame on You for WCBS. He has composed underscores for national commercials, theatrical trailers and promotional spots for networks including NBC, WPIX, WCVB and SHOWTIME.
McKonly’s arranging credits include a gold CD with Vanessa Williams plus songs for Jennifer Hudson, Brian Stokes Mitchell, the Four Tops, the Temptations and James Brown. He has also completed numerous orchestrations for the Chicago Symphony, the Boston Pops, the Dallas Symphony, feature films and television.
In addition to his work as a composer and orchestrator, McKonly has played piano and keyboards for numerous Broadway shows. He has arranged for and accompanied Leslie Uggams and Diahann Carroll and conducted countless major symphonies and theatrical musicals. He also leads the Curtis McKonly Orchestra featured on “Wishing You a Happy New Year.”
McKonly’s new Christmas single “The Warmth of Christmas” has also been released this holiday season. Curtis King Jr. is the featured vocalist. Both songs/CDs are published by Curtis McKonly Music through ASCAP.