Area Composers Tune Featured in Recent Film, ‘Admission’
By: Keith Loria
There’s a scene in the recent Tina Fey/Paul Rudd film “Admission” that is sure to capture the attention of any Princeton resident.
Ms. Fey’s character, Portia Nathan, an admissions officer at Princeton University, is walking through the school’s grounds when she passes by an a cappella group in mid-song.
Those in our area will be quick to recognize the singers as the Princeton Nassoons, the University’s all-male a cappella group. What’s more, the song, “Tigertown Blues,” was written by 89-year-old Princeton resident and Princeton University Class of 1946 alum, the Rev. Dick Armstrong.
Rev. Armstrong was contacted by the filmmakers during production and was told that Ms. Fey wanted an authentic feel to the scene, and chose the tune after going through a collection of songs. The song is set to contract the mood of her character as she walks by the Blair Arch on campus.
“My wife and I went to see the film within the first week it was in the Princeton area and my reaction is that it was an interesting experience,” Rec. Armstrong says. “We were both thrilled to see the Bassoons singing the song and that was the most enjoyable part for me.”
Rev. Armstrong has written poetry and music since he was a young boy and has directed numerous singing organizations through the years. Two of the songs he has written are in the Princeton Song Book and that’s where Ms. Fey first discovered “Tigertown Blues.”
Many people in our community are already familiar with Rev. Armstrong. In addition to being a minister and composer, the Princeton graduate is an author, educator and has a long history with Major League Baseball.
He is the last surviving member of the Philadelphia Athletics baseball club’s front office and the last surviving member of the first front office staff of the Baltimore Orioles. The Baseball Hall of Fame has asked Rev. Armstrong to narrate and help document both periods of MLB history and the bulk of his baseball memorabilia and documents now sits in Cooperstown.
“It’s a period of time that no one else can talk about, so I was honored to help them with an oral history,” the former Orioles public relations director says.
It was his association with baseball that led to his writing “Tigertown Blues” in the first place. The tune originally was used as a way to honor Hall of Fame member and former Philadelphia Athletics figure Connie Mack, and Rev. Armstrong changed the words years later to fit Princeton.
Upon leaving baseball, Rev. Armstrong dabbled in advertising for radio, writing songs and even considered start a song company. He also organized some friends to sing some radio ads that he had written.
He entered the ministry and his poetry soon took on a more religious slant. He also continued to write music and lead musical groups.
“Right now, I think this is the most relevant things for me,” says Rev. Armstrong, a resident of Princeton Windrows. “We have a group here called the Windrows Warblers, which performs every years at a big party. I started it about 12 years ago and the residents can attend and we sing and dance and perform and it’s a lot of fun.”
As for the move, Rev. Armstrong says that he didn’t love the film at first, but that his sons gave him an interpretation of the script that he didn’t see on first viewing and is reconsidering his critique.
“I thought I was seeing a comedy, but my son Woody gave me a different light on the film that I hadn’t read anywhere else, and it changed my attitude of the move,” he says. “We all liked Tina and Paul but my other children didn’t really enjoy the story. Then Woody explained how the word ‘admission’ has a double meaning. All three leads had something to confess or ‘admit’ as they were harboring something. Once he said that, it changed the whole idea of the move for me.”