Remembering Broadway’s Jerry Herman

The legendary Broadway composer and lyricist Jerry Herman passed away last Thursday at the age of 88. With hit musicals such as Hello, Dolly! (1964), Mame (1966), and La Cage aux Folles (1983), Herman was the exponent of popular and tuneful shows which continued the tradition of an earlier era. He was an unabashed defender of melody. In the 1960s, Alan Jay Lerner (the lyricist of My Fair Lady) called Herman “the Irving Berlin of this generation.” In an interview in Al Kasha and Joel Hirschhorn’s Notes on Broadway: Conversations with the Great SongwritersHerman said,

Irving Berlin is commercial, and his kind of commercialism is what I believe in. I hate seeing the old kind of Broadway song disappear. To me it’s an endangered species. I want songs from Broadway shows to be sung around a piano by a bunch of old drunks at two in the morning. I want to hear songs from Broadway shows in elevators…

“Open a New Window,” from the first act of Mame, is an example of one of Jerry Herman’s infectious melodies. It unfolds as a jubilant march filled with bold and carefree ascending scales and sudden, delightful harmonic twists:

Mame, the story of a 10-year-old boy who, after the death of his father, goes to live with his free-wheeling aunt, explodes with the star power of Angela Lansbury. (The earlier play on which it is based featured Rosalind Russell). It also comes to life with the kind of spectacular, jazzy “big band” pit orchestra which is nearly extinct today. To get a sense of this, listen to the virtuoso, screaming lead trumpet playing in the dazzling, ever-modulating chorus number which precedes “Open a New Window.” Here is “It’s Today”:

Jerry Herman’s songs also ventured into more introspective territory, as in the melancholy “And I Was Beautiful” from Dear World, a show which closed after 132 performances in 1969. It’s a melody which develops in tentative upward steps while remaining anchored on a “home” pitch. Here, again is Angela Lansbury:

Recordings

  • Mame (Original Broadway Cast Recording) Amazon
  • Dear World (Original Broadway Cast Recording) Amazon

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

1 thought on “Remembering Broadway’s Jerry Herman”

  1. “La Cage Aux Folles” is one of the best musicals I have ever attended. It has everything: a heartwarming book by Harvey Fierstein, a beautiful love story (at a time when we were not as accepting of gays), comedy, wonderful score and lyrics by Jerry Herman. I will always remember “I Am What I Am,” “Look Over There,” and especially the lovely “Song on the Sand,” to name only a few.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend