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The Merit of a Music Muse

December 30, 2010 By:
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Kate Ferber and Louis Greenstein

From "Fiddler on the Roof" to "Up on the Roof," there doesn't seem to be a glass ceiling that could hold Kate Ferber from reaching the top.

If they build it ... Well, actually they had, and who knew it was in Merion Station? That's where local writer Louis Greenstein saw her perform in "Fiddler" at Adath Israel Congregation.

Chava, oh Chava, have we got a surprise for you: This is a young actress, reckoned the playwright of the local star, whom he could work with.

It's worked out since. Ferber and Greenstein have teamed up to write the musical "One Child Born," born of Ferber's longtime fascination and fandom with the personas private and performing of Laura Nyro, the gentle Jewish songwriter of '60s and '70s fame, whose performing credits include "Up on the Roof."

Small shtetl they work in: Just roofs away from Ferber lives Greenstein, a longtime neighbor of the composer, whose talent as a songwriter has brought main thoroughfare attention beyond her Main Line roots.

Indeed, Ferber, 25, was just named winner of the ASCAP Desmond Child Anthem Award, a star-spangled salute for her talent as a promising composer.

Her composure onstage helps in giving Nyro's legacy a born-to-be-revived feeling. Hear for yourself: "One Child Born" will be staged Jan. 6 at World Cafe Live..

The world has come to her now -- or at least parts of New York, where "One Child" has been staged as a songwriter's nativity scene of sorts, a showcase of a performer born to do what she is doing. "I feel very close to her," says Ferber of Nyro, whose oeuvre incudes "Stoned Soul Picnic" and "Eli's Coming."

When Ferber comes to the cafe, she will be bringing a hootenanny of Nyro's hit tunes -- sung by a starting lineup of nine Nyro fans, all played by Ferber.

Ironically, it can be noted that it was at age 15 "when I first felt the full impact of her work," says Ferber of the songwriter whose paeans to peace and harmony had been on the stereo at her home, where parents Joyce and Andre Ferber learned to give a shout-out of encouragement to their daughter's accomplishments.

"She had to write; there was no other lifestyle for her," notes Ferber of Nyro. "She was an artist through and through."

Ferber threw in her lot early on with Nyro's legacy, working on the show with Greenstein while she was still a student at New York University. That old college try: Ferber found success workshopping it, breaking it in as part of NYU's music conservatory program.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it -- but if it's broken, offer some healing help. Tikkun olam -- repairing the world -- was part of Nyro's musical toolbox. "She had a passion to save everything," a trait that tricks out Ferber's own feelings as well, savcing space maybe to tour the Nyro show in the states, Europe and Japan, "where Laura was very big."

Big dreams: In a way, Ferber is a woman of mystery -- not necessarily her own. It is those mysterious lines that she loves, the lyrical siren calls of Nyro that "make you sit down and have to figure them out."

No difficulty decoding Ferber's future. Just build a roof and watch her climb the ladder, footing secure, feats of magical music to come.

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