Loretta Kay-Feld’s musical life may have begun somewhat surreptitiously but she soon built up a full and irrepressible head of steam. For the past half-plus century the now 73-year-old composer, lyricist, writer and director has been well-nigh unstoppable.
Born in London’s less-than-swanky Stoke Newington district, as an 11-year-old already totally engrossed in the world of music, she used to bus the not inconsiderable distance from her home to the Royal Festival Hall, on the south bank of the Thames River and managed to sneak into classical concerts there after the break. After a while, she was approached by one of the ushers there who, rather than summarily turfing her out, kindly arranged for her to be allowed in at the start of the concerts, whenever she turned up. Clearly, Kay-Feld has a way of making things work.
She crossed the pond with her American husband at the age of 24, settled in New York, had four children and became a fixture on the American music scene across a range of disciplines and formats. That is evinced by the second set of letters after her name – following the Masters of Music degree initials – ASCAP, which stands for American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.
She made aliyah around 10 years ago and has since been happily ensconced in Ra’anana. “You could say my musical life has very much continued unabated since I moved here,” she says.
That appears to be something of an understatement. It would probably be more accurate to note her career has stepped up yet another gear. After writing countless charts for children-oriented productions, TV shows, musical theater and other projects that traverse numerous areas of musical endeavor, Kay-Feld has made it to Buckingham Palace.
Not that – at least for now – she has been summoned to London to accept an investiture. However, she was asked to compose something for Queen Elizabeth II as part of the celebrations marking the 70th anniversary of Her Majesty’s accession to the throne. That momentous occasion took place February 6, 1952, followed by the coronation in June 1953 and there are various official festivities earmarked for this June – pandemic logistics permitting.
Kay-Feld has been invited to attend the event at which her two contributions to the stately program will be performed. The works in question have suitably regal titles, “70 Years a Queen” and “The Queen’s Soliloquy,” both of which were put to video by Irish film director Jason Figgis.
So, there she was in sunny Ra’anana when, one fine day, she gets a line from “someone close to the Palace,” as she puts it. That must have been quite a surprise. In fact, while it did set her pulse racing, Kay-Feld was not about to faint. “I’ve had many important calls during my career,” she simply notes. “This wasn’t the first one.” Then again, it’s not exactly as if Kay-Feld gets the nod from the Queen and her various “courtiers” on an everyday basis. “This was absolutely thrilling,” Kay-Feld adds. “It was an absolute honor and privilege.”
The composer believes her emotional input resonated with the royal powers that be. “People have heard my work across the world, a lot of work that I’ve done. And I’m pleased to say that they [in British royal circles] felt that someone who writes from their heart and soul could do something like this.”
Kay-Feld is not only a consummate professional she also confesses to being a great admirer of the British sovereign. Hence, she was more than delighted to get down to the task of creating part of the musical backdrop to the ongoing platinum jubilee events. “When you consider the queen, who is 95 years old, most politicians have a [working] life of four years or eight years, she has been on the throne 70 years,” she says, deliberately enunciating every syllable of “seventy.” “And she has worked hard every day of her life. She’s steadfast, she’s stable, she has given help to the country. I think, at the moment, she is actually giving help to the whole world.”
All of which helped to fire Kay-Feld’s imagination and keep her creative juices in full flow. “I have to be honest, it all came to me in about 15 minutes,” she laughs. “It was [as] though it was all written through me. There is no other way to explain it. It just appeared.” The muses were certainly in good attendance at Kay-Feld’s Jerusalem studio that day.
Kay-Feld is not just a talented composer she also has a well-developed gift for the written word. That came to the fore with the project in hand, when she got the lyrics together for “The Queen’s Soliloquy.” In it she offers a paean for the monarch’s long service, and for her country and suggests a behind-the-scenes take on the queen’s thoughts and emotions. The line “I hope the things I’ve tried to do, have served my people well” closes the first stanza. The lyrics end with “Yes, that’s what I’m thinking. That’s what I’m feeling now.” For anyone who relates to Queen Elizabeth II as a snooty figurehead or possibly, an expensive luxury, perhaps Kay-Feld’s words will allay that.
Meanwhile, back here in Israel, Kay-Feld continues to push her creative boat out. She is currently working on getting a production together of her latest venture: 1897 The Musical. That was partially pushed along by the mess of the past two years with COVID-19. “COVID came along while I was working on a musical with a quasi-operatic score.”
She had grand plans for that but had a change of tack in the wake of the pandemic fallout. “At the time we were going to do it with [the] Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, but then COVID broke out and everyone was out of work.” Kay-Feld stuck to the task but had a change of mindset, particularly on a human and humane level. “I have finished the musical completely now, the book and the music. What I am trying to do now is look for investment and funding so I can give all the Israelis work – singers, stagehands, whatever they are.”
There are motives of a patriotic nature here too. “I want to make a film of the musical and have it streamed globally,” Kay-Feld explains. “I want the world to see what Israel can do.”
Kay-Feld’s choreographer daughter, Dorothy, is also on board the venture part of which was shown to a packed-to-the-rafters audience in Ra’anana recently. “I was amazed by how many young people, and how many people, came. It was quite an experience.” The storyline is based in Victorian England and, as the writer puts it, “some of the degrading things they did, with dignity,” she laughs.
Sounds like a definitively entertaining enterprise, with a fly-the-flag ethos. Seems like a winner all round. Perhaps Her Majesty will tune in sometime too. ■
Loretta Kay-Feld, 73From London to Ra’anana 2011