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Dedication Celebrates the Legacy of Harry Sukman
Susan Sukman-McCray cuts the ribbon outside The Harry Sukman Foyer. Holding the ribbon are President Walter Harrison (left) and Kent McCray.
The foyer, located outside The Hartt School’s Millard Auditorium, was made possible by a generous gift from Sukman’s daughter, Susan Sukman-McCray, who donated a collection of memorabilia from her late father’s career, including his beloved ebony Steinway grand piano. The collection will be on permanent display in the new foyer.
Under a clear, bright sky on Sunday, Sukman-McCray cut a large red ribbon officially opening The Harry Sukman Foyer and Memorabilia Exhibit. Lt. Gov. Kevin Sullivan read a proclamation from Gov. M. Jodi Rell. Two more proclamations were read, one from the City of Hartford dedicating the day as “Susan Sukman-McCray Day,” and one from West Hartford declaring the day “Harry Sukman Day.”
After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, guests were invited to see the exhibition. The collection represents an overview of Sukman’s life from the start of his musical career as a concert pianist at age 12, to staff pianist at Paramount Pictures, to his Oscar, Golden Globe and Emmy award nominations for film scores and more than 200 episodes of television shows such as “Bonanza,” “Dr. Kildare” and “The High Chaparral.” Sukman won an Academy Award for the adaptation of the background score for Song Without End, a movie based on the life of pianist-composer Franz Liszt.
The celebration continued with a concert featuring Sukman’s music. Susan McCray introduced everyone to her father through the movie Piano Playhouse, starring Sukman. Then, the performance continued with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra performing as The Harry Sukman Orchestra conducted by guest Vincent Falcone, a friend of Harry Sukman’s. Falcone also performed as part of The Vincent Falcone Trio with Joe Cocuzzo and Kevin Thomas. Hartt music theatre students, under the direction of Michael Morrison and accompanied by Paul Feyer, performed a variety of Sukman’s vocal music, including “The Golden Wedding Ring,” “My Consolation,” “What is Different About Today” and “You are There.” The tribute came to an end with “Nightfalls into Starlight” performed by The Harry Sukman Orchestra and featuring piano soloist and Hartt Faculty Member Margreet Francis.
At the dedication, a touched Susan Sukman McCray told the crowd a story of her first experience at Hartt 21 years earlier. She was visiting the school with her husband, Kent McCray, who graduated from Hartt. They had gone to visit Hartt co-founder Moshe Paranov in his home, where he played the piano for them. Paranov performed music by Liszt, a favorite composer of Harry Sukman’s and a piece he had played frequently. This being just months after the passing of her father, the music moved Susan McCray to tears. Paranov stopped playing and went over to comfort her. “You need not cry,” he said. “Your father continues to live on through his music.”