When we think of musicals such as “West Side Story,” “The Sound of Music” or “My Fair Lady,” we are reminded of Tony crooning “Maria,” another Maria rapturously singing the title-tune “The Sound of Music,” or Eliza Doolittle claiming “I Could Have Danced All Night.” The melodies and words roll by, but the colors of the instruments playing them, the haunting high string lines, the countermelodies and embellishments in the flutes and clarinets, or the dramatic chords by the trumpets are all the works of the orchestrators.
In homage to the orchestrators, the Music Division of the Library of Congress on May 6 and 7 hosted a free public symposium on Broadway orchestrations accompanied by a display of items from the division’s collections.
“We hope that this symposium will provide a deeper appreciation and understanding of the vital role that these talented musicians play in the sound of the Broadway musical, as well as highlighting the extraordinary resources in the Library’s collections,” said Mark Eden Horowitz, senior music specialist in the Music Division.
The symposium was presented under the auspices of the Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trust for the benefit of the Library of Congress. Moderating the program was Steven Suskin, staff contributor to Playbill.com and Variety, and author of “Show Tunes,” “Opening Night on Broadway,” “Second Act Trouble” and the recently released “The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations.” Suskin was joined by theater historian Robert Kimball, author of numerous books, including “The Complete Lyrics of …” series: “Cole Porter,” “Lorenz Hart,” “Ira Gershwin,” Irving Berlin,” “Frank Loesser,” and the soon to be released, “Johnny Mercer.”
Panel discussions examined the craft, the orchestrations and careers of such Broadway legends as Robert Russell Bennett, Robert “Red” Ginzler, Don Walker, Philip J. Lang and Ralph Burns. Joining in the discussion were several top musicians—orchestrators, conductors, composers and musical directors—some who have been active on Broadway for more than 50 years.
A panel of music directors focused on reconstructing and conducting classic Broadway shows for revivals or concerts today. Another group of panelists provided the pit musicians’ view of working with orchestrators and their scores.
Participating orchestrators included Oscar-winner Sid Ramin (“West Side Story,” “Gypsy” and “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”), multiple award-winner Jonathan Tunick (“Follies,” “Sweeney Todd” and “Titanic”), Larry Blank (“The Drowsy Chaperone,” Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” and “The Producers”) and Grammy-winner Marion Evans (“House of Flowers,” “Mr. Wonderful” and “What Makes Sammy Run?”).
Other panelists included Tony- and Emmy-winner Donald Pippin (“Oliver!,” “Mame” and “La Cage aux Folles”), Rob Fisher (“Chicago” and the City Center Encores! Series), Ted Sperling (“Light in the Piazza” and “South Pacific”) and musical contractor Red Press (“Gypsy,” “Mame” and “Chicago”).
The symposium was presented in conjunction with the release of “The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations” by Steven Suskin (Oxford University Press, 2009). The book includes a lively description of the art of orchestration and discusses at length the work of 12 major orchestrators of the American musical theatre. It details contributions to more than 700 musicals, in many cases, including a song-by-song listing of precisely who orchestrated what, along with relevant comments from people involved with the productions.
Much of the extensive research was done at the Library’s Music Division, which has a vast collection of orchestrations and related materials, including the collections of Richard Rodgers, Jerome Kern, Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Leonard Bernstein and Don Walker. (See story on page 116.)