That boundless energy ... that brilliant smile ... and oh yes, that unforgettable voice! She's Carol Channing, and at 90 years young, "she's still glowing, she's still crowing, she's still going strong!" Much like Dolly Levi, that illustrious matchmaker whom she first personified on the Broadway stage in 1964, Channing is proving that she really does stand for motherhood, America - and well-rounded instruction in the arts for all students!
"If you've benefited from exposure to the arts in school like I did," she explains, "you know it builds self-confidence, self-discipline and teamwork. And ultimately, this creates better, safer schools for our kids."

In 2004, Channing was awarded an honorary doctorate from California State University Stanislaus. Since then, she and her husband Harry Kullijian - who themselves first met in an English literature class back in junior high school - have been dedicated to promoting arts in education through their nonprofit organization, Dr. Carol Channing and Harry Kullijian Foundation for the Arts, also known as Channing A.R.T.S.(Arts Returned To Schools). Together, the couple have committed countless hours and even more energy to putting, art, music, and drama classes back where they belong - in every public school's curriculum throughout the country.

The organization was founded in 2005, and its primary aim, according to executive director David Green, is to "raise awareness about the lack of the arts in America's public schools and the vital need for an arts education."

Green says that such programs serve as "a core component of a well-rounded academic education." He says the group strives to raise money to assist public schools in making such programs possible -- including providing funds for musical instruments and art supplies.

"We believe that unlike any other subject matter, the creativity, independence, self-expression and self-esteem that come through the arts are essential to the future of America," Green says.

Channing has prepared a new CD of patriotic songs to remind us of exactly that.

True to the Red, White & Blue includes many of her (and our) best-loved "call to action" tunes. Proceeds raised from its sale will directly support the foundation.

Equally inspiring, though, is how the entire project was conceived. Most of the melodies presented were written during periods when the United States needed to rally and come together in support of a common ideal. This patriotic theme was chosen in hopes that these songs will once again ignite that sense of pride among the public and urge them to get involved for the benefit of our nation's youth.

"We aren't trying to save 'The Arts,'" Channing stresses. "We are trying to use the arts to save our children!"

Channing is once again given the chance to fly as high as the flag she's honoring - not just through the lyrics but also in the polished and deeply sincere way each number is delivered. Happily, she doesn't just fly - she soars. The songs of this "Lorelei" - from the sprightly "Dear Old Glory" to the stately "God Bless America" - are as enticing as ever, and she uses her considerable talents to make each one sparkle like fireworks on the Fourth of July.

The selections here can definitely be called
"standards," but they range from more classical to more popular offerings. All of them recall a more innocent time, which makes listening that much more delightful. For instance, integrating the complete (if a bit lesser known) verses in with the more familiar ones, Channing's duet with Country Music Association Award winner T. Graham Brown on the Andrews Sisters' World War II-era hit "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree," is bouncy and bright, conveying romance and optimism. At the other end of the spectrum, her rendition of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" has dignified simplicity and reverence, which renders it as the prayer-set-to-music it was meant to be.

Also included is "Before the Parade Passes By" from Hello Dolly. This song was a personal declaration of independence for Channing's renowned character, but this time her interpretation has more maturity, surprisingly giving it a whole new appeal.

Numerous tracks include a brief narration by Channing, which almost makes the experience of listening similar to having a stage-side table for a star-spangled cabaret act.

Take the George M. Cohan medley: Channing performs an enthusiastic chorus of "Yankee Doodle Dandy," leads a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, then resumes with an equally spirited rendition of "Grand Old Flag." Such moments (and this CD abounds in them) can only be described as "disarmingly sweet." In fact, an exhilarating side benefit of the entire album is how it invites listeners to take a break from the rampant cynicism of our times, relax and just enjoy.

"Carol's uniqueness and ability to tell a story through song shines through," Green says with a smile. "It's a heart-filled CD - every song stands alone as a gem!"

Every anthem featured - 11 in all - reminds us that this woman who first taught the world that "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend," is a genuine diamond herself!

So don't wait until the parade passes by - this makes a great holiday gift. Produced by Ferguson Music, True to the Red, White & Blue is available from Amazon.com, and a downloadable version can be purchased at www.emusic.com. To learn more about Channing A.R.T.S., including how you can help achieve their mission of expanding arts education, go to www.channingarts.org."

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