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Updated: 4/1/2010 - 4:18 AM



Narrow River Singers return to Orient
Famed pop star Lana Cantrell to perform
  17 comments below

RANDEE DADDONA PHOTO
Pop singer turned lawyer Lana Cantrell of Mattituck will perform with the Narrow River Singers Saturday.
Lana Cantrell of Mattituck may be known to many North Forkers as a family lawyer. It so happens she also has had a long career as an internationally known pop singer.

She hasn't stepped on a stage to sing in years, but she'll do it this Saturday, March 27, at Poquatuck Hall in Orient, when she'll perform one song as part of the annual concert of the popular local women's group, the Narrow River Singers.

The Australian-born Cantrell -- whom American audiences first got to know through her appearances on "The Tonight Show," the "Ed Sullivan Show" and the "Red Skelton Show" -- toured the world at the height of her career and recorded for RCA Victor.

RANDEE DADDONA PHOTO
Narrow River Singers director Margaret Cowden rehearses before the group's performance at Peconic Landing on March 13.
She hasn't wanted the life of a professional singer for quite a while but she has wanted to perform with the Narrow River Singers for years.

"They do it because they love doing it, and nobody's dragging them out there," she said of the group in an interview recently.

Some time back, she asked a friend who sings with the group if she could do a song with them. She was hurt when she got no response, she said.

'Part of what makes it work is it's a group of very generous spirits.' Narrow River Singers associate director Jane Smith
RANDEE DADDONA PHOTO
The Narrow River Singers perform recently at Peconic Landing to gear up for their annual concert, set for Saturday, March 27, at Orient's Poquatuck Hall. From left: associate director Jane Smith of Orient and members Chris Larkin of Greenport and Christine Rendel of Mattituck.
When director Margaret Cowden heard the request, she was convinced Ms. Cantrell was just being polite, Ms. Cowden recalled. "Wasn't that a nice thing to say," she remembered thinking.

A mutual friend, realizing there had been a misunderstanding, eventually told Ms. Cowden that Ms. Cantrell's request had been for real. "We're delighted to have her join us," Ms. Cowden said last week. "She has been an incredibly gracious addition."

The good feelings are mutual. "Margaret is phenomenal," Ms. Cantrell said.

PHOTO COURTESY OF LANA CANTRELL
Lana Cantrell in a publicity photo from the 1980s.
As a child growing up in Sydney, Ms. Cantrell learned about music from her musician father, Bert Cantrell. At 10, she performed jazz concerts at Sydney Town Hall. After she'd won international fame, she returned to Australia in 1972 and performed at the Sydney Opera House. Her career has taken her around the world, and in the United States she has sung at Carnegie Hall, Playboy Clubs throughout the nation, Las Vegas casinos and the Plaza in New York City, as well as many supper clubs.

What brought her to the United States about 40 years ago was a realization that Australia wasn't the land of opportunity for her budding career. She moved first to Los Angeles, but eventually found New York more to her liking.

Her most recent CD, "Lana Cantrell," came out in 1998, with songs from French and American films including "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg," "A Man and a Woman," "Cinderella" and "Pinocchio." The recent price on Amazon.com, $69.95 for a used copy, makes clear it's a collector's item.

Ms. Cantrell tired of singing professionally so she made a career change, going back to school in the 1980s and earning her law degree.

"Things changed," she said. Working the supper clubs, she said she had found herself "losing my temper. I would get snotty" as audiences talked through the program. "You can't have an adversarial relationship with your audience."

So it was back to school in 1986, first Marymount Manhattan College for an undergraduate degree and then Fordham University Law School.

"What I do influences somebody's life for the rest of their lives," she said about the divorce and custody cases she handles. Every case is different with its twists and turns, she said.

"I've lived my life backwards," Ms. Cantrell commented, having pursued a more traditional job after chasing her show business dream. Now, she has little interest in traveling, having spent years on the concert circuit.

"I'm a really good singer," Ms. Cantrell said with a quiet confidence. "The luckiest thing I have is that I can still sing." She described herself as a "perfectionist" and "workaholic."

Ms. Cantrell and the Narrow River Singers have not announced what song Ms. Cantrell will perform this Saturday.

Members of the singing group devote every winter weekend preparing for the annual spring concert in Orient. "It really is a team effort," director Cowden said.

The group's founder, Carol Taylor, had a vision of forming a chorus similar to one she had known at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, Ms. Cowden said. After seven years, Ms. Taylor turned over the reins to Ms. Cowden. This will be the group's 12th annual concert.

"Part of what makes it work is it's a group of very generous spirits," associate director Jane Smith said. "Nobody comes with their egos."

People are generally recommended for membership, Ms. Cowden said. It might surprise an appreciative audience to know that chorus members actually pay dues to participate. The Friends of the Narrow River Singers conduct an annual fundraising drive and, in recent years, they have sold CDs of the concerts. The revenues go to pay expenses.

The group started out singing Broadway tunes, but has expanded its repertoire and is open to all kinds of music, Ms. Cowden said. The group tried some Motown numbers a few years ago but discovered, "It's not our thing," she said. But members are always interested in suggestions.

Ms. Cowden credited Ms. Smith with being able to create special musical arrangements for the group.

She also praised vocal coach Emily Davidson for being able to work with people who haven't formally studied voice, and accompanist Lea Kendall with being able to play a wide array of music so well.

Besides the music, there's a real camaraderie among the women, who enjoy the rehearsals as much as they do the performances. They have seen one another through a lot of life's passages -- illnesses and deaths -- and there are moments when performing certain songs reminiscent of some of those times, Ms. Cowden said, she has a hard time keeping her own composure.

"What Margaret won't tell you is how really blessed we are to have her," Ms. Smith said.

NARROW RIVER SINGERS

Saturday, March 27 at 4 p.m.

Poquatuck Hall in Orient

Admission is free; contributions are appreciated

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Lana Cantrell : 5/31/2012
As a Sydney sider I often wondered what happened to Lana Cantrell. I can remember her wonderfull voice and musical talent so many years ago.
It is nice to know she made a new career in the law but I would rather hear her "state her case" on a stage than in a court room.




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Lana Cantrell : 7/31/2011
I had the opportunity to meet Ms. Cantrell once in NYC in the late '60s. I have the albums - and adore every memory --- from the intimacy of "I've Got a Penny" to the grandeur of (I think it was on Red Skelton) when she sang 'Stairway to Paradise" and the last chorus she moved as if the rotors on a helecoptor - almost lifting off the stairway - a quiet, shy lady -- with a talent to big she would virtually explode in performance - I miss seeing her -




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Lana Cantrell : 1/26/2011
Have been searching fo her CDs for ages with no luck - glad to know she is happy in her new professioon but it would be so fantastic if she made a mini-comeback and performed again - possibly in Vegas or at a small New York cafe....




Lana Cantrell : 10/9/2010
I have been looking for Lana Cantrell for a long time. I have most of her songs in my collection as I am still a fan of Lana. The last I saw her live in concert was at the Bijou Cafe, in Phila., PA. back in the 70's. Time does fly and its great that Lawyer Lana is still alive, singing and kicking some ass !




Lana Cantrell : 5/17/2010
I am glad to hear that Ms. Cantrell is singing once in awhile. I adore her and her singing. I had every one of her albums and I played them over and over again until the vinyl warped. I would love it if all of her albums were rereleased on CD. Her CDs could be marketed on television like Rod Stewart's and Barry Manilow's are. I understand that she may not want to be bothered with concert tours any longer, but the world needs her music. She was one of the few entertainers that my parents would allow me to stay up to watch on television. She is a lovely woman and a great singer. She is better than all of the divas put together. I do not usually post comments, but I couldn't resist posting this one.




Lana Cantrell : 4/26/2010
I was so happy to hear Lana is still singing. I have been trying to find a CD to buy to no avail. That is how I found this acticle. I wish someone would rerelease some of her old albums on CD or mp3 downloads. Lana was before her time and would fit in well with todays renewed interest in standards. Not just another screaming diva, her fine voice and expressive phrasing made her songs some of the finest renditions ever,





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