News Column

Hal Linden bringing 7-piece band to town

September 4, 2013


Sept. 04--Hal Linden's visit to Aberdeen Thursday night is part of an experiment.

Linden will find out if it makes sense economically to go on tour with a seven-piece orchestra.

None of the musicians are from this area.

"We're all traveling together. A 10-piece entourage will be descending on Aberdeen," Linden said in a phone interview from his California home.

The tour is a test case "to see whether it would be feasible to take the show to places where, quite honestly, I've never been before," said Linden, who'll perform at the Johnson Fine Arts Center.

The numbers wouldn't add up for doing one show in the middle of the country. But it might work on a tour, he said.

"I don't like to work with less than that sound that I get from the seven pieces," he said.

Actually, seven pieces is a compromise. Linden has done this show in Las Vegas, backed by 15 pieces. He also appears with symphony orchestras, such as the Omaha Symphony. On the road, transportation must be taken into account.

"So we've got seven terrific musicians, and we have a ball."

By the end of this tour, Linden will have visited all 50 states. Years ago, he figured out that he had visited all but two states -- North Dakota and Montana.

"And I'll be there this trip," said Linden, who will play the clarinet at Thursday's show. "I was a professional musician before I was an actor."

Most people know Linden, 82, for his role on "Barney Miller," which ran on ABC from 1975 to 1982.

But his acting career began on the Broadway stage.

"Long before I ever got to television, I had won a Tony Award as a musical comedy performer," said Linden, whose stage show will feature communication between artist and audience.

The show started as "what we used to call a nightclub act, when they had nightclubs. I've done it in Las Vegas, and I've done it in college auditoriums," he said.

Linden sings a lot of Broadway and Big Band songs, some of which he sang as a young man and some of which he wishes he had. During the evening, he looks back over what's been an interesting life.

"And, hopefully, by the time you leave, you'll know more about Hal Linden than when you came in," he said.

When he sings, Linden tries hard to convey the meaning of the lyrics, reflecting his background in musical theater.

"The song is about something; it's sung by a character. It has a meaning and it's trying to say something, either to someone else individually or to the world, or to yourself."

Spare time

Linden goes out with his stage show when time presents itself.

"It all depends on what else is happening. After all, I do have a career in television as an actor. I have a career in films."

Earlier this year, he acted in a play, "The Scottsboro Boys" at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles.

Linden recently played in a charity golf tournament, hosted by Michael Bolton, in Reno, Nev. He has a home in La Quinta, Calif., which he visits every so often. He roots for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are having an exciting year, he said.

But he likes to make his time at home as rare as he can.

"I'm trying to stay busy, quite honestly," he said.

One of his closing numbers is a parody of the song "I'm Still Here," from Stephen Sondheim's "Follies."

"Except instead of the '20s, I've written references my audience will understand."

Linden is going to keep being active as long as possible.

"I'm still here, and I'm going to be here as long as I'm here," he said.

He invites the audience to be the same way.

"Be proud of the fact you're still here and make an appointment for next year. It'll give you something to look forward to."

Dwindling numbers

Linden said "Barney Miller" featured "one of the premiere ensemble casts in the history of television."

"It was just magnificent ensemble work. And when you're a theater person, that's what you look for. Theater has to do with interaction of actors," said Linden, explaining that being on the show was a pleasure. "It was hard work, but it was joyful work."

Does he still keep in touch with the guys from the old precinct?

"The closest connection I made out of that cast was its creator and producer, Danny Arnold. We became very good friends, and, unfortunately, Danny died about a decade ago," he said. "I see Max (Gail) every so often. I run into Ron Glass occasionally. But we're all getting on in years, aren't we?"

In fact, the cast has been "decimated" by death. Among those who've passed away are Steve Landesberg, Ron Carey and Jimmy Gregory, he said.

"Abe is still alive, of all things," he said, referring to Abe Vigoda. "He's the oldest of us all. He's in his 90s, but he's still kicking."

Linden said he's looking forward to his Aberdeen show.

He was saddened to learn that the man who was interviewing him wouldn't be able to attend.

"You're going to miss one hell of a show," he said.

Follow @JeffBahr_AAN on Twitter.

What: Opening concert in the 2013-14 Aberdeen Community Concert Association season.

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Where: Johnson Fine Arts Center

Admission: Admission is $35 for adults and $10 for students. Memberships in the concert association are $65 for an adult, $20 for a student or $135 for a family or grandparent.

For information: Call 605-226-1557 or visit


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