Happy Talk -- R&H Autumn '95 Newsletter PART 2

Special Features   Happy Talk -- R&H Autumn '95 Newsletter PART 2


News from Williamson Music/R&H Music: "A SONG IS NO SONG TILL YOU SING IT":

Oscar Hammerstein 11 was the consummate theatre man: a playwright, a librettist, a lyricist, a producer. The two landmark musicals of the 20th century-SHOW BOAT and OKLAHOMA!-were both his. He wrote songs that defined characters and situations with breathtaking veracity: "I Cain't Say No" for Ado Annie; "A Puzzlement'' for the King of Siam; Billy Bigelow's "Soliloquy."

So it is always a bit startling to realize that Hammerstein's songs have had an extraordinary ability to cross over the footlights as well. His songs may have flourished on cast albums and soundtracks for years, but they have also, for years been staples in the pop, jazz, blues and cabaret world.

At Williamson Music, co-founded by Hammerstein with Richard Rodgers half a century ago (and so-named since both men had fathers named William), a key directive from President Maxyne Lang is to expand the life of Hammerstein's songs beyond "the wicked stage." "We're selective in how our songs are placed," says Lang, "whether they're written by Berlin or Harnick or Hammerstein. But with Hammerstein in particular, we are dealing with phrases that have become so much a part of the vernacular that people forget who wrote these songs. And while that may be the ultimate compliment to a lyricist, it is still our job" she adds, " to remind them."

In doing so, there is an underlying objective guiding the Williamson team: to keep Hammerstein's songs in circulation, and, says Lang "to keep them before the public in fresh and distinctive ways. Not to take anything away from the great talents of stage and screen who first introduced these songs to us, but hearing a familiar standard sung by another artist is like hearing it sung for the first time."

Hammerstein's songs continue to be heard in new, untraditional settings, from hit music videos (such as country star Lorrie Morgan's version of "My Favorite Things") to Public Service Announcements ("You'll Never Walk Along" as an anthem for the national AIDS Walks) and movie cameos ("I Have Dreamed" in the new Rob Reiner hit film, THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT). In recent years pop stars who have taken to his songs include Carly Simon ("Something Wonderful"), James Taylor ("Getting To Know You"), Robert Palmer ("People Will Say We're in Love") and Barbra Streisand ("If I Loved You," "Some Enchanted Evening," "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" ).

Hammerstein has also been embraced by the jazz world: "All the Things You Are,'' "I've Told Ev'ry Little Star" and "Softly As In a Morning Sunrise" are as likely to be heard at the Blue Note and the Village Vanguard as they are on stage and screen. "My Favorite Things" has been a particular favorite of jazz artists, including John Coltrane, Al Jarreau and most recently Luther Vandross, whose version was released early this fall. (And this just in from Deutsche Grammaphone: ANDRE PREVIN AND FRIENDS PLAY SHOW BOAT, an all-jazz treatment of Hammerstein and Kern's masterful score, with piano, guitar, drums and bass.) " It's amazing to me,'' says Lang, "that when I'm listening to a jazz instrumental of Rodgers or Kern, I can still hear Hammerstein's words!"

Those words, Lang hopes, will continue to be heard for a very long time. "We believe that future generations will discover Hammerstein's wonderful lyrics, and keep his songs alive," she says. "Our new songbook, THE OSCAR HAMMERSTEIN II COLLECTION, was designed with that aim in mind, so that his songs might reach as many different types of singers as possible. And we think Mr. Hammerstein would believe in that goal too," she concludes. "After all, he wrote 'a song is no song till you sing it.'"

Copyright 1995 The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization. All Rights Reserved.


News from the R&H Concert Library: "HIGH AS THE FLAG ON THE FOURTH OF JULY"

In the summer, pops orchestras flourish with the sound of music. This summer, in addition to the red-white-and-blue spirit of the July 4th weekend, many mid-summer pops concerts were devoted to the sound of words, in centennial tributes to Oscar Hammerstein II.

Spirits were as high as a flag on the Fourth of July as more than 400,000 music lovers gathered on the West Lawn of the Capitol on the evening of July 4 for the annual gala holiday concert, A CAPITOL FOURTH 1995, featuring the National Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Erich Kunzel.

Featured in the program was a Hammerstein Tribute starring Leslie Uggams, Barry Bostwick, Gregg Baker, and Sylvia McNair. Highlights included Barry Bostwick's "Riff Song," and "Stouthearted Men" (with Gregg Baker); Sylvia McNair's "Make Believe"; "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" sung by Leslie Uggams; "Ol' Man River," sung by Baker; and Bostwick and McNair's duet of "People Will Say We're in Love."

Hosted by Stacey Keach, A CAPITOL FOURTH was televised live on PBS, and broadcast simultaneously over National Public Radio and worldwide via the Armed Forces Radio and Television Network, ensuring that those gathered on the West Lawn were joined by literally millions of others across the country and overseas.

Across the country, John Mauceri and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra presented a two-night Rodgers & Hammerstein concert on the weekend following Hammerstein's centennial. With both concerts sold out, A SALUTE TO RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN played to a combined capacity crowd of 36,000.

Featured vocalists Paige O'Hara, Richard White and Priscilla Baskerville were joined by special guest artist John Raitt, who was on hand to celebrate two golden anniversary-that of CAROUSEL and his own Broadway debut as CAROUSEL's original Billy Bigelow. For an unforgettable finale, fireworks filled the Hollywood night sky to punctuate the rousing "STATE FAIR Suite," performed in honor of that musical's 50th Anniversary this summer too.

Following his appearance with the National Symphony Orchestra on July 4, Erich Kunzel conducted several more Hammerstein tributes this summer. On July 14 and 15, Maestro Kunzel and the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra gave a full evening of Hammerstein at Riverbend, the Orchestra's summer home on the banks of the Ohio River. Kunzel also lead the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (and choir) in a Hammerstein tribute at the Ravinia Festival on July 9, and will conduct several performances of his Hammerstein salute with the Naples (Florida) Philharmonic in February. Rodgers & Hammerstein concert programs were also featured this summer by, among others, the Utah Symphony, the Louisville Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony, adding to the lush soundtrack of what was, for Hamrnerstein, "a centennial summer."


The Rodgers & Hammerstein Concert Library

attn: Online Director

229 West 28th Street, 11th Floor

New York, NY 10001

Copyright 1995 The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization. All rights reserved.


News from The Irving Berlin Music Company: OPENING THE TRUNK

His many "standards" confirm Irving Berlin's status as this century's premiere American songwriter. But this fall, two exciting new projects were released-a two-CD compilation album and a songbook-based on the songs of Irving Berlin that people don't know. Whether they were unpublished or unsung, the existence of these songs has long held fascination to the casual fan and Berlin scholar alike. Here, Theodore S. Chapin discusses THE LOWER EAST SIDE SONGBOOK and UNSUNG IRVING BERLIN.


When Stephen Holden of THE NEW YORK TIMES met with Irving Berlin's three daughters prior to the announcement of our administration arrangement five years ago, one of his first questions was: "What about your father's unpublished songs?" This was not a question the Berlins expected to hear right off the bat and, since the meeting was about everything their father wrote in his lifetime, they really hadn't formulated an answer yet. But it was a good question and were it asked today, two of our newest Berlin projects would begin to provide the answer.

When Irving Berlin died at the age of 101, he left the keys to his particular kingdom in the hands of his three daughters and The Morgan Guaranty Trust Company of New York. For the final twenty years of his life he let only a very few people into his inner sanctum. For purposes of business, his family was not included. Certainly they saw him at holidays and special occasions, but I would venture to guess that never once was there a conversation in which he said what he did or did not want to happen with his songs upon his death. Therefore his legacy was left in the hands of caring people who had to find their own way in uncharted waters. They approached us here at The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization to see if we couldn't work together on managing the copyrights in an effective and efficient way. (For a related story, see Rodgers, Hammerstein & Berlin in the past articles folder.) Part of the task was clearly, "What would Irving Berlin have wanted?," but as time went on that became more "What do we all think should happen?"

In order to assure a bright future for the extraordinary catalogue of songs written by Irving Berlin, making the catalogue accessible and available was the first task. 140 of the best-known songs were featured in the six-book SONGS BY IRVING BERLIN, published by Hal Leonard in 1991. An anthology followed, which includes 60 of the most well-known titles.

The Berlin catalogue started to enjoy a higher profile, but questions about those unpublished and unknown songs kept lurking in the background. What were they? How many were there? Were they any good? Were they worth pursuing? To find out, we dug into the files, hired a pianist, and spent two or three days just listening. We were fascinated. We heard a wide variety of material: songs cut from musicals we know, songs written for musicals that were never finished, priceless comic gems, oddities and personal musings which appear to have simply been written when the mood struck, etc.

Out of the early years came IRVING BERLIN'S LOWER EAST SIDE SONGBOOK. We became intrigued by the ethnic songs and decided to publish a book of our sixteen favorite, ranging in mood from the merely curious ("How Do You Do it, Mabel, on Twenty Dollars a Week?") to the outrageously indignant, as immortalized in "If You Don't Want My Peaches, You'd Better Stop Shaking My Tree." We asked Charles Hamm, a scholar who has written more about Irving Berlin's early years than anyone, to annotate the book and place the songs in context. IRVING BERLIN'S LOWER EAST SIDE SONGBOOK is currently available (distributed by Hal Leonard).

So early Berlin songs would have a chance to be heard again. But what of those songs that had never been heard at all? When Symphony Space in New York decided to devote one of its twelve-hour WALL TO WALL marathons to the music of Irving Berlin, iô seemed like a logical place to introduce some of the unpublished material. A half-hour was dedicated to the trunk songs and, in a day already crowded with memorable moments, it proved to be one of the highlights.

Along came Bruce Kimmel of Varese Sarabande Records, who was intrigued enough to ask if there were more where they came from. There were, and we decided it was time to take the plunge. The two-CD album, entitled UNSUNG IRVING BERLIN, also came out this fall. Featuring such talents as Laurie Beechman, Davis Gaines, Emily Loesser, and Berlin's granddaughter, Mary Ellin Lerner, UNSUNG IRVING BERLIN covers eight decades of material, including songs written for the never-completed stage musical STARS ON MY SHOULDER and the unproduced movie musical SAY IT WITH MUSIC. An accompanying songbook will follow early next year.

As I write this, I realize how extraordinary the collaboration between The R&H Organization and the Irving Berlin interests has become. Creative geniuses who leave copyrights to their heirs are not necessarily handing over something easy to deal with. If you inherit paintings and houses, you decide whether to sell them or keep them. Period. If you inherit copyrights, however, you deal with such issues as whether Macaulay Culkin mimicking the Drifters' version of "White Christmas" in HOME ALONE is a good idea, whether an obscure show is due for revival, or how to respond to the latest inquiries along the information superhighway. These are judgment calls, as is the decision to release unpublished and unknown songs. If everything is fueled by one thought, it is the preservation and continuation of a great legacy. I have always contended that the more people hear music by the great song writers, the more they will want to hear.

Copyright 1995 The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization. All Rights Reserved.


News from The R&H Theatre Library: "I'M IN LOVE WITH A WONDERFUL THEATRE"

The R&H Theatre Library is home to the major works of co-founder Oscar Hammerstein II, and his musicals continue to thrive a century after his birth. "I'm in love with a wonderful theatre," Hammerstein once wrote. That love, evidently, is mutual and here is a sampling of the many titles that are proud to declare, "Words by Oscar Hammerstein II":


This 1994 Tony Award nominee for Best Musical is the first R&H revue ever to hit Broadway. In the words of USA Today, "It's enough to restore one's faith in the future of the revue and the durability of Rodgers & Hammerstein." This fresh take on the R&H canon features over two dozen songs encompassing standards as well as rarely-heard gems.


When Rodgers & Hammerstein's first original musical was rediscovered in a special concert as part of New York City Center's ENCORES! series in 1994, audiences and critics alike were dazzled by the innovations of what Stephen Sondheim, Hammerstein's assistant on ALLEGRO, called "the first really good experimental show." Told with beautiful imagery and a ravishing score, this Everyman story remains timeless in its appeal. Its theme-striving towards personal fulfillment whatever the obstacles-is quintessential Hammerstein.


Hammerstein's bold reinterpretation of Bizet's classic opera CARMEN sets the story in a rural Southern town during World War II, and calls for an all-black cast. The libretto is infused with American humor, muscle and grit and the score is a synergistic melding of classical opera and crackling vernacular. Confirming the work's timeless appeal and relevance, a contemporary British production ran in the West End for three years, received the Olivier Award as Best Musical (1992), and is currently on a U.K. national tour.


Though it premiered fifty years ago, CAROUSEL today enjoys a popularity that most new musicals would envy: acclaimed in London and on Broadway with award winning productions in '93 and '94, CAROUSEL is now playing in Japan and will have a U.S. national tour by early '96. As profound today as when it was written in the waning days of World War II, CAROUSEL continues to resonate with its universal fable of love and redemption.


It's possible! A musical that combines all the elements of the classic fairy tale-including a glass slipper, a Fairy Godmother and a pumpkin coach-with a sparkling Rodgers & Hammerstein score. A hit this past season on the summer circuit, and a Christmas perennial with opera and theatre companies alike, CINDERELLA is also in pre-production for a return to its roots on television-this time starring Whitney Houston and scheduled for broadcast in late '96. But despite its magical appeal on the TV screen, there is something about seeing this beloved tale told live that guarantees CINDERELLA her own little corner on stages everywhere.


When Rodgers & Hammerstein's first musical celebrated its 50th Anniversary in 1993, more than 900 productions were presented across the country, and kudos included a commemorative U.S. postage stamp and a special Tony Award. The landmark American musical that signaled a triumphant turning point in Oscar Hammerstein's career, OKLAHOMA! is as fresh as a beautiful morning and still doin' fine.


A story of love in a world at war, this Pulitzer Prize winner based on James A. Michener's classic novel features some of the most romantic songs ever written for the musical theatre set against one of the most dramatic events of the 20th Century. Fifty years since the end of World War II, SOUTH PACIFIC carries a message that still deserves to be "carefully taught"-a plea for tolerance, a need for compassion.


This epic musical journey captures the high drama and low comedy of life on a Mississippi show boat at the twilight of the last century. With music by the incomparable Jerome Kern, this lyrical masterpiece features a score unparalleled in the musical theatre, and is considered to be the highpoint of Hammerstein's success-studded career. Nearly seventy years old, this masterwork is no museum piece-in fact, it is the biggest hit of the current Broadway season, winner of 5 Tony Awards, 5 Drama Desk Awards and 4 Outer Critics' Circle Awards, confirming its status, decreed by Vincent Canby in the NEW YORK TIMES, as "the daddy of them all."


The Rodgers & Hammerstein Theatre Library

attn: Online Director

229 West 28th Street, 11th Floor

New York, NY 10001

Copyright 1995 The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization. All rights reserved.

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