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Topic: All-Garritan Pit Orchestra -“Broadway-style” Overture

  1. #1
    Senior Member Frank D's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Suburban NYC

    All-Garritan Pit Orchestra -“Broadway-style” Overture

    Hey Friends … It’s “Curtain-up” Time! …

    This is an original arrangement/orchestration of six Irving Berlin songs that I structured into a 4-1/2 minute overture to open our church’s 80thanniversary dinner theater production last Fall. My virtual pit was comprised of all-Garritan libraries: GPO4, JaBB3, CoMB2, and GAS (if you would like to know of any specific samples/instruments used, please ask!) I hope you give it a listen, I thank you, and as always, I welcome any and all comments!

    Following the link to the music, I’ve also included information describing the actual ‘chairs’ used (the complete instrumentation of the pit, w/ all doubles and brass mutes used), the structure (and songs) of the overture, and just some general info that may be of interest to hard-core musical theater fans.

    Needless to say, it was a thrill for me on opening night when the house lights went dark and the timpani roll came over a really good, pro speaker system … I hope you enjoy it too! …

    OVERTURE (Irving Berlin Medley)

    THE VIRTUAL PIT ORCHESTRA– (30 ‘Musicians’):

    Reed 1 – Flute, piccolo, soprano sax
    Reed 2 – Flute, Bb clarinet, Eb clarinet, alto sax
    Reed 3 – Bb clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor sax
    Reed 4 – Bb clarinet, tenor sax
    Reed 5 – Eb contra-alto clarinet, bass clarinet, baritone and tenor saxes
    Trumpet 1 – Bb Trumpet w/ straight, cup and harmon mutes
    Trumpet 2 – Bb Trumpet w/ cup and harmon mutes
    Trumpet 3 – Bb Trumpet w/ cup and harmon mutes
    Trombone 1 - Tenor trombone w/ harmon, cup and bucket mutes
    Trombone 2 – Tenor trombone w/ cup and bucket mutes
    Trombone 3 - Bass trombone w/ cup and bucket mutes
    Violins A (4)
    Violins B (3)
    Violas (2)
    Celli (2)
    Keyboard 1 – Piano
    Keyboard 2/Percussion 3 – Synth/sampler, xylophone, Latin & misc. percussion.
    Percussion 1 – Drum set
    Percussion 2 – Timpani, bells, xylophone, vibraphone, Latin & misc. percussion.

    Note: This is the instrumentation for the entire show (original backing tracks for all numbers, plus incidental utilities). I plan on posting additional music from our show and will reference this listing. However, nearly everything listed was used in the overture, except Reed 2’s Bb clarinet, Reed 5’s tenor sax, the Bass chair’s tuba, and the Percussionist’s vibraphone and Latin percussion instruments. Also, the trumpets, when not playing open, used only the cup mutes during the overture.


    Here’s the break-down of the overture with the names and times the various songs enter …

    1.-0:00 - Intro/Fanfare (based on fragments from “Hostess With The Mostess’”)
    2.-0:20 – “It’s A Lovely Day Today”
    3.-0:57 – “Marrying For Love”
    4.-1:25 – “The Ocarina”
    5.-2:17 – “You’re Just In Love”
    6.-3:00 – “The Best Thing For You Would Be Me”
    7.-3:47 - “Hostess With The Mostess’”

    Except for “You’re Just In Love”, I wasn’t familiar with any of the other Berlin songs listed here when I came on the project … But, oh my, WHAT MELODIES!! It was a lot of fun learning and getting inside these songs.


    1.-Part of the fun of crafting an overture is in the creation of the intro, transitions, and ending … I wanted it to start big and finish even bigger and have fun with the various connecting materials.

    2.-Modulations seem germane to overtures. Except between parts 2 and 3 (both in C major), there is a modulation between all other sections, which seems like an important part of medley writing in general to keep the music fresh and the momentum progressing.

    3.-Traditionally, musical theater overtures usually utilize a variety of styles, tempi,and orchestration, so I tried to contrast these elements throughout as well.


    Although the composer obviously writes all the songs, in my research, it’s the orchestrator who usually actually routines the overture. The reason is simple: the overture can’t be created until the last minute (songs are being added and cut during the final couple of weeks before the show’s opening), and the composer usually has his hands full with possibly creating new songs or ironing-out problems with existing ones.

    If I asked if you were familiar with Russell Bennett, Don Walker, Phil Lang, Sid Ramin, Robert ‘Red’ Ginzler, Irv Kostal, Ralph Burns … not really? Understandable. Well, along with another half dozen or so writers, these were the men who orchestrated the lion’s share of American musicals from the 1930’s nearly into the new millennium.

    How important were these guys to the musicals they orchestrated? Imagine humming or running through “Put On A Happy Face” in your mind’s ear without hearing that catchy, lighthearted,colorful, four-flute, four-part harmony counter melody Ginzler orchestrated in Bye Bye Birdie … or how about Burn’s trumpet section blaring that rafter-trembling shake during the finale/reprise of Hamlish’s “One” in A Chorus Line? Or Ramin and Kostal’s ‘cool’ gang/rumble music in “West Side Story” (or Ramin and Ginzler’s bawdy strip music in Gypsy?) These guys really helped bring show music alive with millions of dazzling colors and deeply emotional timbres.

    As mentioned, these orchestrators generally routined the overtures in many of the classic musicals, a place in the show where the orchestra played the music, front and center, without competition from singers, dancers and actors to muck it up J. (Well, maybe a few late-comers might compete!)

    Having been inspired by their overtures for years, it’s my humble homage to them to have patterned my overture after their stellar and memorable creations.

    Dim the lights! ... Maestro ... please …

  2. #2

    Re: All-Garritan Pit Orchestra -“Broadway-style” Overture

    Hi, Frank...

    I just got back from a week-long Jazz workshop & found this as I was catching up on email & forums.

    Made me want to get up & start singing!! (On second thought, maybe I better just play along on my euphonium)

    You really "got it" with this--in form and spirit--and there is no better choice for this type of project than Irving Berlin.

    At first I thought the beginning was gonna be "Lullaby in Rhythm," the Goodman tune, but then I heard what it was!

    Since I am a transplanted New Yorker, the names you mentioned are well-known to me. As a struggling wannabe tuba player in the late 60s who didn't double on bass, I never cracked that scene, but had friends who did. A lot of jazz people spent many a year playing and conducting in those pits.

    You got the transitions & modulations just right. I especially liked the sax voicings...and dontcha just LOVE the Garritan woodwinds?!? That contrabass clarinet is da bomb!

    Another openin', another show...

    Jim Williams
    Professor of Capitalism
    Indianapolis Brass Choir
    All Your Bass Sus&Short Are Belong to Us.

  3. #3

    Re: All-Garritan Pit Orchestra -“Broadway-style” Overture


    And - this just in - candid shot from your church's opening night, right after your incredible overture homage to classic Broadway rang out it's final chord!

    And here's me joining in -

    This is simply spectacular, Frank, and I'm pretty much speechless in the wake of hearing it. w-o-w!


  4. #4
    Senior Member Tom_Davis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Ellendale, ND

    Re: All-Garritan Pit Orchestra -“Broadway-style” Overture

    You have an unbelievable feel for the style – and an orchestration talent beyond compare. This was a pleasant ending to a long hot day. Thank you so VERY much.

  5. #5

    Re: All-Garritan Pit Orchestra -“Broadway-style” Overture

    Wow, Frank, what a great post -- just for the content.

    And the arranging? An over-the-top, out-of-the-park home run!



    David Sosnowski

  6. #6

    Re: All-Garritan Pit Orchestra -“Broadway-style” Overture

    I'm back again - even though I'm still just basically in WOW mode when trying to respond to this great track, Frank.

    The details you mention in your informative text are all things that you accomplished here - the snazzy modulations, the variety of tempi, moods, instrumentation. This recording really does Berlin's tunes extreme justice - I can't imagine a more successful and entertaining overture being developed with them.

    This has inspired me to do something I treat myself to once in awhile, which is pulling out a stack of Broadway records, and making digital copies of them as I let the vinyl spin on my trusty old Technics turntable. I just gotta hear me some more Broadway, after getting revved up listening to your work.

    The Broadway style overture is such an integral part of the whole Broadway experience - even shows with mediocre songs could often have exciting sounding overtures. The orchestrators who put those overtures together were/are akin to the production teams that put together interest-grabbing movie trailers. They pull out the catchiest bits from the score, jazz them up, and do everything they can to unabashedly speed up the collective heart beat of the audience.

    Side note - It is interesting how traditionally, most Broadway composers haven't done their own orchestrations. Even the great Sondheim. He would work out meticulous piano scores, and then hand the results over for expanding into orchestrations. For one thing, it's probably the only practical solution with the intense time table shows are on when they're first being mounted. How could a composer keep working on the show's songs and Also do the mammoth orchestration jobs? And of course, more than a few Broadway composers actually didn't have enough music theory chops to do what the pro orchestrators were capable of.

    Theatre oriented music has always been a fairly rare commodity on the Forum -I'm just tickled to death that this excellent homage to the classic Broadway style (something I've never really attempted) is up here. This is a great example of top-notch orchestration, of pushing Garritan instruments all the way into sonic perfection, and of extremely clever and confident theatre savvy.

    OK - my earlier post still expresses myself best when I said "w-o-w" and !!!!


  7. #7

    Re: All-Garritan Pit Orchestra -“Broadway-style” Overture

    Man, your pit orchestra is great. This sounds just like what they use to do at the beginning of films that Berlin wrote the music for. They play representative parts of each song that are in the movie. Of the top of my head, I am thinking about the film 'White Christmas'. This is a really cool idea and the orchestration is marvelous.
    Thanks for sharing. Jay

  8. #8

    Re: All-Garritan Pit Orchestra -“Broadway-style” Overture

    Quote Originally Posted by jaynkate01 View Post
    Man, your pit orchestra is great. This sounds just like what they use to do at the beginning of films that Berlin wrote the music for. They play representative parts of each song that are in the movie. Of the top of my head, I am thinking about the film 'White Christmas'. This is a really cool idea and the orchestration is marvelous.
    Thanks for sharing. Jay
    You've described it perfectly, Jay - And of course what they were doing in the film musicals was a duplicate of what was first established on stage - The classic Overture/medley. Great stuff, and Frank has nailed the style astonishingly well!


  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Canyon, Texas, USA

    Re: All-Garritan Pit Orchestra -“Broadway-style” Overture

    I want to join the chorus of praise for this piece. It is well done indeed.


  10. #10
    Senior Member Frank D's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Suburban NYC

    Re: All-Garritan Pit Orchestra -“Broadway-style” Overture

    Hey Everyone!

    Just a quick, collective thank-you to all of you who have given the Overture-Irving Berlin Medley a listen, including those who stopped by and listened without commenting ... Thanks to all!

    I really appreciate all the comments and feedback on my piece ... it's really made my day! ... and I will respond to all of them, a few at a time, as I get a few minutes here and there.

    I spent the better part of last night getting caught-up with Listening Room music I either hadn't heard, or heard but hadn't yet commented on ... just a few more to go! (Will I EVER get 100% caught up??? )

    The greatest thing about this site is the diversity of musical loves and tastes of my fellow members ... I'm so happy to see and hear the possitive response to some "Broadway-style" arranging and orchestrating!

    Best regards,


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