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)
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.
GOALS IN CREATING THE OVERTURE:
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.
WHO ROUTINES THE OVERTURES?
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 …