Bernstein at 100: “West Side Story”

Tomorrow marks the centennial of the birth of Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990). As a conductor, Bernstein brought a distinctive, youthful dynamism to the podium, producing performances which sizzled with “edge-of-your-seat” energy. He championed adventurous new American works during his tenure as music director of the New York Philharmonic (from 1958 to 1969), and sparked a revival of interest in the music of Gustav Mahler. As a composer, he synthesized a variety of musical styles, from …

Read moreBernstein at 100: “West Side Story”

“There is No Music”: Ira Gershwin’s Poignant Remembrance?

George Gershwin passed away on this date (July 11) in 1937 at the age of 38. Doctors diagnosed brain cancer as the the cause of death. The songwriting team of George and Ira Gershwin produced over two dozen scores for Broadway and Hollywood. They are credited with elevating the sophistication of Broadway theater as an art form with shows such as Strike Up the Band, Of Thee I Sing, and Let ‘Em Eat Cake. Porgy …

Read more“There is No Music”: Ira Gershwin’s Poignant Remembrance?

Three Excerpts from “The Band’s Visit”

At last Sunday’s 72nd annual Tony Awards, The Band’s Visit came away with a special distinction. In addition to sweeping the Tonys by winning ten awards, it was one of only four musicals in the history of Broadway to win these six big awards: Best Musical, Best Book (Itamar Moses), Best Score (David Yazbek wrote both music and lyrics), Best Actor in a Musical (Tony Shalhoub), Best Actress in a Musical (Katrina Lenk), and Best Direction of …

Read moreThree Excerpts from “The Band’s Visit”

The Art of the List Song

Here at The Listeners’ Club, lyrics normally take a backseat to music. But today, let’s bring some of the Broadway musical theater’s most exhilarating lyrics into focus with a brief survey of the list song. List songs are built around extensive inventories of people, places, and things. They open the door to lyric writing filled with sparkling virtuosity and unexpected rhyme. Surprise is a key element of humor, and in this respect the …

Read moreThe Art of the List Song

Tossing Off Melodies: Leonard Bernstein’s “Lucky to Be Me”

The jubilant, infectious melody and gushing lyrics of the song, Lucky to Be Me, from Leonard Bernstein’s 1944 Broadway musical, On the Town, seem appropriate for any Valentine’s Day playlist. (The lyrics are by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and the show’s inspiration came from Jerome Robbins’ ballet, Fancy Free, produced the same year with a score by Bernstein). Listen to the way the contour of Bernstein’s melody, beginning around the 35 second mark, mirrors the carefree euphoria …

Read moreTossing Off Melodies: Leonard Bernstein’s “Lucky to Be Me”

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! The songwriter Frank Loesser may be best known for creating the music and lyrics for the 1950 Broadway musical, Guys and Dolls. Three years before that show opened, Loesser wrote the stand-alone song, What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve? It has been recorded by countless performers- The Orioles, Nancy Wilson, Ella Fitzgerald, and Barbra Streisand, to name a few. This 1947 recording featuring Margaret Whiting was the first. The photo, above, taken …

Read moreHappy New Year

Nutcracker Rag: A Sweet Travesty On Tchaikovsky

One of my biggest pet peeves is “cutesy” holiday music which weaves in references to classical music. This time of year, there seems to be no shortage of these kinds of cheap, gimmicky arrangements.  I’m sure you’ve already fallen victim. The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra’s premiere recording of Rick Benjamin’s Nutcracker Rag: A Sweet Travesty On Tchaikovsky doesn’t fall into this category. It transforms Tchaikovsky’s familiar themes into something new with an infectious sense of …

Read moreNutcracker Rag: A Sweet Travesty On Tchaikovsky

Send this to a friend