Hyde Parker’s torch song

By JEFFREY BISHKU-AYKUL
Assistant to the Editor

Hyde Parker Ruth Fuerst will sing in a Wicker Park cabaret show this week. The show, entitled “Thank You for the Music,” will take place at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 22, at Davenport’s Piano Bar, 1383 N. Milwaukee Ave.

Fuerst will perform, with area singers Carol Weston and Arlene Armstrong, songs written, sung or composed by the group’s musical inspirations as part of Chicago Cabaret Professionals’ 15th year of programming. Fuerst’s vocal instructor, Louise Cloutier, was the show’s artistic consultant.

Fuerst will include a song by her late father, Jimmy — also a Hyde Parker and South Side resident for most of his 92-year life.

“He was my earliest musical inspiration,” Fuerst said.

J.S. “Jimmy” Fuerst was once a professor at the Loyola University School of Social Work and the director of research and statistics at Chicago Housing Authority. A prolific lyricist who did not play music or sing, Fuerst’s words were sung by the likes of folk musician Bob Gibson, and even made it into a short-lived Broadway play, “New Faces of 1962.” His daughter estimates her house contains the hundreds of song lyrics.

Fuerst will perform her father’s song, “Malarkey,” a cynical but humorous take on the realities of life. “They tell you love and honor are the stuff that can’t be bought / That evil individuals will always come to naught / They say that you’ll be bless’d if you will hold the proper thought but / That’s a lot of malarky,” the opening reads.

Fuerst, who is a family therapist by day, gives eight to ten cabaret performances a year. “One of the main things about it that I think differentiates it from a lot of other musical genres is the storytelling aspect, that people tell stories. And the personal aspect: That we tell stories often about our lives,” she said.

Ruth describes her father as an “iconoclast,” adding that his influences were English composers W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan and satirist pianist Tom Lehrer. He would bring her with him to the Gate of Horn, a folk club located in the basement of the long-gone Rice Hotel, at 755 N. Dearborn St.

Despite her exposure to music from an early age, Fuerst says she came to cabaret less than three years ago, after the death of her father. “I think it was a way of keeping my father alive,” Fuerst said, “because it was something that we very deeply shared.”

Soon after her father’s death, Fuerst and her husband were invited to a downtown cabaret performance. At the time of the show — where Fuerst heard her current cabaret coach Claudia Hommel perform —she had been thinking of spending the next phase of her life writing.

“But I found myself in this club, and I thought, ‘What I really want to do is to sing,’” Fuerst said. “So I asked her if she would teach me.”

The transition was smooth. “People always said I had a good voice,” Fuerst said, adding, “I would sing every chance I got.” Although while living in New York, Feurst says, she was enveloped in her role as a therapist, she also took occasional singing lessons.

Fuerst performed “Thank You for the Music” earlier this month at the South Loop’s Daystar Center arts school, and will perform again at Davenport’s Piano Bar in a Dec. 9 show entitled “Merry Measures: A Holiday Cabaret.” Fuerst has yet to perform in Hyde Park, given the dearth of appropriate venues, but she says she is interested in exploring her options at the Logan Center.

For more information about her upcoming performance or to learn more about Chicago Cabaret Professionals, visit chicagocabaret.org.

j.bishku@hpherald.com