Hello Again, Friends! …
In January, after three months of leisurely working on preliminary arrangements and orchestrations for a new, parish musical comedy, we received word that our show needed to be ready for May … not next Fall as originally planned. And THAT was about the last time I visited these pages!
I’d like to share with you over the next few months some of the musical numbers from our show, which had it's brief, but successful and well received run in May. These original arrangements and orchestrations for the 30-piece virtual pit orchestra (our show used these instrumental backing tracks) are nearly 100% Garritan … JaBB 3, GPO 4, CoMB 2, GAS (Basic), supplemented with only a few drum set samples from Sonar X1’s Session Drummer 3, and on one song, a jazzy, gospel Hammond organ from Dimension Pro 1.5 (I don’t think there’s one in a Garritan library).
I hope you enjoy this music from our show, and please feel free to comment; I'd love to hear from you … it’s good to be back!
First up is the overture…
This was one of the last four pieces created (as is almost always the case), but is always one of my favorites to produce. If you are an arranger at heart (which I am!), musical comedy overtures offer the writer an endless amount of diversity of musical styles, meters, keys, colors, moods …you name it … and all in the span of a piece only 3-4 minutes long!
When I sit down to create an overture, I usually start by selecting a song from the score that embodies the show’s overall theme. In this show, a romantic comedy, it was the last part of the Act II finale medley: George and Ira Gershwin’s “Love is Sweeping the Country”. This tune was perfect with its ‘love-y’ lyric message, but more importantly, it has that show-biz feel to it: a blistering, jaunty, 2-beat tune that just drips musical theater. I based the intro, fanfares, transitions, and1st and last parts of the overture on it, as well as the Entr’acte and Bows music (Excerpts available below). IOW, I used this song (or parts of it) as an anthem for the entire production.
Note the curtain-opening music (which begins after the overture has concluded and the applause have started). These little utilities (curtain openers and closers, playoffs, crossovers, etc.) help keep the show’s momentum flowing. They’re short, but a lot of fun to create! In the case of this one, the curtain opens during the cue, and as soon as the cue ends, the 1st actor begins speaking his lines immediately. A seamless transition to dialogue.
Component Songs of the Overture (w/ writers) …
1- Intro/fanfare and 1st Song, “Love is Sweeping the Country”
(George and Ira Gershwin)
2- “Tea For Two”
(Victor Youmans and Irving Ceasar)
3- “I’m Only Thinking of Him”
(Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion)
4- “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive”
(Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer)
5- “Love is Sweeping the Country”; also used for the utility (curtain opener).
Instrumentation for the 30-piece Virtual Pit Orchestra …
Reed 1 – Flute, piccolo, Bb clarinet, soprano saxophone
Reed 2 – Flute, Bb clarinet, alto saxophone
Reed 3 – Flute, Bb clarinet, Bb bass clarinet, tenor saxophone
Reed 4 – Bb clarinet, oboe, English horn, tenor saxophone
Reed 5 – Bb bass clarinet, Eb contra-alto clarinet, baritone saxophone
Bb Trumpets 1, 2, & 3
Trombones 1, 2, & 3 (Tb 3 is bass trombone)
Violins A (4)
Violins B (3)
Keyboards (Piano, organ)
Bass (Acoustic upright)
Percussion 1 – Dum set, Latin percussion
Percussion 2 – Mallets (xylophone, vibraphone, orchestral bells, tubular bells), Latin percussion
Percussion 3 – Timpani, misc, Latin percussion
‘Bonus’ Tracks …
Here are short excerpts of the Entr’acte and Bows music. I’ve included them to show how the basic arrangement of “Love Is Sweeping The Country” (as developed for the Overture), was reused with slightly modified orchestration, transpositions, and with some new material. Bear in mind that the three pieces of music are separated from each other by nearly an hour in each instance: the beginning, middle, and very end of the show (except, of course, for the Exit Music).
If you’re not familiar with the term, an entr’acte (“On Tract”, which literally means “between act” in French) in musical theater jargon is a brief Act II overture (in multi-act operas, each subsequent act may have its own entr’acte).
Sadly, the overture and entr'acte have become passé in a lot of modern musical theater, but as someone with arranging/orchestrating sensibilities, I still love 'em. Our producer/director wanted an overture and of course I didn't argue! (PS: Don't tell any of your orchestrator friends, but the real reason many shows had overtures and entr'actes was simply to quiet the audience and let the late-comers squeeze into their seats before the first actor spoke ... talk about utilities! )
The Bows Music was a little more complex to create. After the show’s big production number finale, and after the applause have sounded for a while, you need a brief utility (about half a minute) to close the curtain, get all 30 adults and 24 children/teens into the wings (and in the order necessary for their bows), and then reopen the curtain when the first group of performers are ready for their bows.
Besides allowing the company to make their back-stage maneuvers, this utility also needs to entertain the audience and add a little suspense to the moment. Once the curtain reopens, then the actual bows music can play.
Bows music needs to run long ... we needed 7-8 minutes worth (for these local shows, everyone in the audience knows someone on stage … easy to get applause! J)
I was proud of this cue because I created it just a few hours before opening night (using the timings in my head that I observed during rehearsals) and it worked like a charm … everybody, performers and audience, loved it ... here’s a minute or so of it.