Made in America, Program Notes for Orchestra Members Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) Candide Overture (1956)
Born to Russian immigrants in Lawrence, MA, Leonard Bernstein attended Boston Latin School, Harvard College, and the Curtis Institute. At Tanglewood, he was protégé and assistant to Serge Koussevitsky, who called him Lenyushka. In 1958, he became the New York Philharmonic's youngest ever conductor and only the second native-born American to head a major American orchestra.
Bernstein’s works included 3 symphonies, a Mass for the 1971 opening of Washington's Kennedy Center, ballets (Fancy Free and Dybbuk), and songs, but most popular have been musicals for the stage: On the Town, West Side Story, and Candide, a musical comedy adapted by Lillian Hellman from Voltaire’s satire on optimism. Taught by Dr. Pangloss that all is for the best in this best of possible worlds, Candide and his sweetheart, Cunegonde, travel the world seeking honesty and goodness. His experience with malice, greed, and sordid events send him home sadder and wiser with a new philosophy: “Il faut cultiver notre jardin” − We must cultivate our own garden, i.e., tend to our own affairs.
Robert Guyn McBride (1911-2007) Variety Day, A Violin Concerto (1948, 1975)
Born in Tucson one year before Arizona’s statehood, McBride received his musical degrees at University of Arizona. He was a skilled reed player, taught at Bennington and University of Arizona, and was a prolific composer of orchestral works, jazz, film and modern dance scores, opera, and instrumental solos. Variety Day was composed for violin and piano in 1948 and orchestrated in 1975.
Calvin Custer ASalute to the Big Bands (1995)
No biographical information could be found about composer-arranger Calvin Custer. He arranged many well-known film and stage scores as well as classical and popular music. This piece is his medley for orchestra of Big Band tunes made popular by Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, and others. Songs featured are April In Paris (1932), I'm Gettin' Sentimental Over You (1932), Pennsylvania 6-5000 (1940), Serenade In Blue (1942), and Sing, Sing, Sing (1936).
Gould was born and raised in Queens, New York. He was a child prodigy and had a long successful career as composer, arranger, and conductor. He worked as a vaudeville pianist in the early Depression years, then as a staff pianist for Radio City Music Hall and NBC. He composed for the stage, ballet, and television, and his Morton Gould Orchestra later hosted its own radio shows.
American Symphonette No. 2 was written for one of Gould's radio series. "That was a time," he said, "when we used words like dinette and kitchenette, and since this was a little symphony I called it a symphonette." The first movement has jazz elements in condensed sonata-form, marked Moderately fast with vigor and bounce. The second movement, Pavane, became one of Gould's most popular compositions, a tightly-constructed miniature featuring a delicate muted trumpet solo with rhythmic bassoon accompaniment.The last movement, marked Fast and easy, also has jazz elements and is "a slight takeoff on the Prelude from Bach's E-major unaccompanied Violin Partita." Raymond Scott(1908-1994) TheToy Trumpet (1936)
Scott was a pianist, composer, band leader, engineer, inventor, and electronic music pioneer. He became Music Director for CBS in 1938 and conducted the first racially integrated studio orchestra. The Raymond Scott Quintette had six instruments; "Calling it a sextet," he said, "might get your mind off the music." After its 1936 radio debut, Toy Trumpet became an instant success. In the film, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, the Quintette played Toy Trumpet, with lyrics added by Sidney Mitchell and Lew Pollack, as Shirley Temple and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, dressed as toy soldiers, tap danced on a flight of stairs. A self-taught audio engineer, Scott composed on a computer and invented a sound effects device to imitate familiar human and mechanical noises for use in commercial soundtracks. He also helped develop one of the earliest synthesizers to simulate conventional instruments electronically. The Beau Hunks Sextette produced a CD tribute to Raymond Scott, containing nineteen of his compositions, including Toy Trumpet (KOC 3-7909-2), available in the Minuteman Library Network.
Leroy Anderson (1908-1975) The Typewriter (1950)
Composer, arranger and conductor, Leroy Anderson, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to first generation Swedish parents. In addition to piano and organ, he played double bass and tuba in the Harvard Band. He received A.B. and M.A. degrees in music from Harvard where he studied composition with Walter Piston and George Enesco. His graduate work in German and Scandinavian languages led to World War II Army service as a translator in Iceland and Washington. Anderson’s long association with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops began with his arrangement of Harvard songs in 1936, then the premiere in 1938 of his first major composition, Jazz Pizzicato. Over the next twenty-five years he composed over fifty light classics, perfect miniatures, many of which became part of the standard Boston Pops repertoire. “Leroy Anderson was to American light classical music what Johann Strauss was to Viennese light classical music,” said Keith Lockhart, conductor of the Boston Pops.
Anderson’s love of sound effects is well displayed in The Typewriter, sounds rare in our day of silent keyboards and monitors. Like the hammers on a piano, typebars with raised metal letters rise when the typist hits the keys, strike an inked ribbon, and imprint the image on paper mounted on the carriage’s rubber roller (platen). Just before the carriage reaches the end of its line, a bell signals the typist to swing the carriage-return manually, forcing the carriage back and turning the roller to begin the next line.
Roquel (Billy) Davis(1932-2004) I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (1971)
Billy Davis was a Detroit songwriter, singer, and producer. He attended Wayne State University and Maurice King School of Music but said, "My career started early, singing on street corners." He wrote and produced hit records for Motown Records and Chess, two prominent labels in the history of black American music. His recordings were noted by McCann-Erickson, a New York advertising agency which hired him in 1968 and later made him Senior Vice-President and Music Director. There he wrote many successful ad jingles. One of the most famous, for Coca Cola, was I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke," based on a British song `by Cook and Greenaway called Mom, True Love, and Apple Pie. Davis rewrote it as I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing. Recorded by the Hillside Singers of young people from all over the world, it became very popular in Britain and the US. Coca Cola waived royalties to the song and donated $80,000 to Unicef. When the commercial was to be aired in South Africa, the TV network run by its apartheid government wanted an all white version. To its credit, Coca Cola refused and kept its commercial intact. [For more detail, see Mike Patrick's website www.spectropop.com]
George Gershwin(1898-1937) S’wonderful (1927)
Ira Gershwin (1896-1983)
George and Ira Gershwin grew up in New York City’s East Side where their parents had emigrated from St. Petersburg. George's growth from Tin Pan Alley song plugger to America's favorite song writer and his early death from brain tumor are well known. "The other Gershwin" is less well known, although Ira's lyrics were equally responsible for their international fame. George called him "my brother, Ira, the scholar," and his peers nicknamed him "The Jeweler" for his gems and the need to polish them. Ira knew the language of the streets but was well trained in traditional poetic forms. His fascination with words and evolution from writer of light verse to lyricist are well described in Philip Furia's biography, Ira Gershwin, the Art of the Lyricist. Ira's own book, Lyrics on Several Occasions, is an annotated collection of many songs giving insight into the origin, gestation, and birth of his lyrics. He liked the Encyclopedia Britannica's definition of song: "the joint art of words and music: two arts, under emotional pressure, coalescing into a third." He defined lyric as "words fitted to music and fit to sing," explaining that most of his lyrics were arrived at "by fitting words mosaically to music already composed."
'S Wonderful (1927) was written for the Broadway musical Funny Face. Ira explained: "The principal reason for writing this lyric was to feature the sibilant sound effect by deleting the 'it' of 'it's' and slurring the leftover 's' with the first syllable of the following word." He also called attention to the "lopping off" device: 'fash' for fashion, 'pash' for passion, 'emosh' emotion, and 'devosh' for devotion, making fun of sentimental romantic euphoria and the era's linguistic foibles by simulating the flapper era's babble, called "mental pablum" by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Vincent Youmans(1898-1946) Tea for Two (1924)
Irving Caesar, lyricist (1895-1996)
Like George Gershwin, Vincent Youmans began his musical career as a pianist and song plugger for a New York music publisher. He assisted the veteran composer, Victor Herbert, collaborated with lyricists Ira Gershwin, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Buddy DeSilva, and wrote the score for the first Fred Astaire-Ginger Rodgers song-and-dance movie, Flying Down to Rio. His most successful musical, No, No, Nanette, had long runs in London and Broadway and several revivals. Its central character is a wealthy Bible publisher whose irresistible urge to help young girls involves him with three charming young ladies. Its outstanding songs were the title number, No, No, Nanette, I Want to Be Happy, and the enduring Tea for Two. Lyricist Irving Caesar (1895-1996) was already well-known for the words to George Gershwin’s first triumph, Swanee, but it was the international success of Tea for Two which freed Caesar from work on Henry Ford’s assembly line. Tea for Two became the theme song of the great jazz pianist, Art Tatum, and inspired a multitude of arrangements, including Dmitry Shostakovich’s version for salon orchestra, renamed Tahiti Trot. It became very popular in Russia, was often performed by dance bands, and was included as a frequently encored entr’acte in his ballet The Golden Age.
George Gershwin (1898-1937) Six, by George (A Tribute to George Gershwin)
(Arranged by Bernard Hoffer) (b. 1934)
Swiss-born 1Bernard Hoffer studied music in the U.S. at the Dalcroze School and Eastman School of Music, served as arranger for the U.S. Army Field Band, then came to New York as a freelance musician/pianist, composer, conductor, and arranger. He has composed extensively for films and television, and his concert works have been performed by several symphony orchestras, Boston Musica Viva, and the Concord Orchestra, which premiered the Piano Concerto,Concord Rag, and a Dance Medley of songs from Hollywood and Broadway. The following is an extract of Hoffer's own program notes for Six, by George, arranged in the order in which the songs were written...
"George Gershwin was born Jacob Gershowitz September 26, 1898 in Brooklyn NY. His father Moishe changed his name to Gershwin after immigrating from St. Petersburg, Russia. A piano was bought for his older brother Ira, but George was the one who played it as a child. He quit school at the age of fifteen and went to work as a song plugger on Tin Pan Alley in New York. In 1919 he wrote Swanee, with Irving Caesar. It was written for a New York review called Demi-Tasse,was recorded by Al Jolson, and sold 2 million records and a million copies of the sheet music. This success at the age of 20 brought George a healthy income and enabled him to concentrate on writing theater music. Swanee became the biggest seller of George's illustrious career.
"In 1926, George and his brother Ira wrote the show Oh Kay. The big hit from that show was Someone to Watch Over Me. In this version we include the verse. Many of his songs were written with verses, some of them very beautiful. However, there was a practical reason for songs to have verses as the ASCAP ratings were increased on a song with a verse.
"Embraceable You and I Got Rhythm came from Girl Crazy in 1930 with lyrics by Ira. Embraceable You was sung by Ginger Rogers, and she became a star from this show. I Got Rhythm was sung by Ethel Merman.
"In the 1930s, many of the Broadway theaters were turned into movie houses, so in 1936 George and Ira went to Hollywood and signed up with RKO. They Can't Take That Away(1937) was written for Fred Astaire …in a film called Shall We Dance with Ginger Rogers. The song was nominated for an Oscar, though George did not live to see that. In this arrangement I included the interesting and original verse which sets up the chorus both lyrically and harmonically.
"In 1937, George had been suffering from a brain tumor. He was still working on Our Love is Here to Stay until the day before he died. I scored this as an elegy to George, performed very slowly and lushy. A swinging upbeat reprise leads to a quote from Rhapsody in Blue which I use to frame the entire set..."
Like his trombonist father, John Philip Sousa was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Band and its Musical Director from 1880-1892. His resignation to create the Sousa Band was received with dismay by Washington, and his farewell concert was attended, despite the rain, by a huge crowd including President Benjamin Harrison. A Washington Post reporter wrote “It looked as if an army of black mushrooms had camped out on the green lawn while the heavens wept, presumably with sorrow.”
The Sousa Band, with its outstanding well-paid musicians, was one of America’s most famous ensembles. In addition to over 130 marches, Sousa composed several comic operas, was a brilliant band arranger, wrote several novels, and an engaging autobiography, Marching Along.
Stars and Stripes Forever, Sousa’s most popular march, was conceived during a transatlantic voyage. “As the vessel steamed out of the harbor, I was pacing the deck, absorbed in thoughts. Suddenly, I began to sense the rhythmic beat of a band playing within my brain, echoing and re-echoing the most distinct melody. I did not transfer a note of that music to paper while I was on the steamer, but when we reached shore, I set down the measures that my brain-band had been playing for me, and not a note of it has ever been changed.”