(Starts at 46:30.)
I’m about to blog about Kitty Carlisle Hart and thought this 1993 clip from PBS might be a nice way to introduce her. Conductor is American musical theater archivist John McGlinn, who died in 2009 at too young an age (55). Also featured in this program are Judy Kaye (On the Twentieth Century) and Rebecca Luker (The Sound of Music, 1998 Broadway revival). Thanks to McGlinn, this is the original Hans Spialek orchestration from the 1937 show Babes in Arms. I’ve always preferred Rodgers & Hart to Rodgers & Hammerstein; this was one of my audition pieces.
The story so far: Cantara, ex-ASCAP solfeggist, ex-porn star and screenplay writer, has fallen hopelessly in love with John Wilson, conductor of an English classical/swing orchestra, and has vowed to create something beautiful for his sake. Accordingly, she has pulled out of a dusty drawer the novel-based libretto for a musical she’d written years ago to please a handsome composer she had been in love with at the time—who eventually died of AIDS—and is now attempting to write the music he might have written.
From the novel Inside Daisy Clover, the 13 year-old Daisy:
I like going down to the old pier at Venice, which is a rotting dump like every other place in this whole area, but has this booth for recording your voice. You’re supposed to use it for sending messages to loved ones overseas, but I pay my twenty-five cents—saved up from baby-sitting wages—and I go inside and face this old man with a nervous twitch who works the machine, and I SING!
There’s no orchestra or anything, of course, and sometimes it feels like a hopeless battle against the surf and people screaming on the Big Wheel and the old man’s twitching left eye—but I can sing songs I like and then go home and put the disk in my Oriental casket, which I paid a dollar for because it has a key and I like to lock these things up.
So far I have recorded: “I’ve Got Five Dollars“—”Isn’t It Romantic“—”They Can’t Take That Away from Me“—”Let’s Do It“—and “Love Is Sweeping the Country“. The only trouble is, I can hardly play them afterwards. We don’t have a phonograph. However, I occasionally baby-sit in a trailer with a phonograph—and then I get to play them very softly, without waking Baby. Also, I don’t want anyone to know about this whole thing. I can’t explain why, except that a person is entitled to privacy, and sometimes you just can’t let people in on a thing without them trying to take over.
The songs I sing are ones that I really and truly like. They make my palms sweat…
© 1963 Gavin Lambert
Can I get an attribution for this absolutely bewitching photo?
Update 15 June 2018: A sympathetic correspondent tells me that “This photo appears on the John Wilson Orchestra website as one from a recording session at Abbey Road Studios in 2012.” Ta, Claire.
Shimmying commences at 4:00.
The indication “burlesque strip style” was actually written on the music right around this point. Both Ramin and Ginzler cut their teeth writing swing arrangements; lead trumpet in the original Gypsy pit was Dick Perry, late of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Solo trumpet Matt Lovatt here gets it down perfectly. Some people obviously know something about burlycue.
After my good luck in finding “The Trolley Song” 42 days ago I started combing the net for more great performances of show tunes to rip from the net for my personal library—and found this, the Overture to Gypsy. Watching it, at around the 4:00 mark I was struck by a lightning bolt.
Almost immediately I took out of a dusty drawer the libretto I’d written for a composer I’d loved (now dead of AIDS) years and years ago. Then I went out and bought Piston’s Harmony, Third Edition.
Composer Jule Styne, by the way, was pleased with this orchestration. Also, the sound of Broadway changed for good.
Co-composer Blaine once said that he’d been glancing at a book he’d found at the Beverly Hills Public Library, landed on a page about early streetcars captioned “Clang, Clang, Clang, Went the Trolley”, and bang was off to the races.
Orchestrator for this song—as well as the entire MGM Judy Garland musical Meet Me in St Louis—was Conrad Salinger. As producer Hugh Fordin wrote:
Salinger’s arrangement was a masterpiece. It conveyed all the colour, the motion, the excitement that was eventually going to be seen on the screen. With the remaining numbers and the background scoring for this film as well as all the work he was to do thereafter, Salinger always maintained sonority and texture in his writing, which made his a very special sound and style that has never been equalled in the American movie musical.
Orchestrator/arranger/conductor Jack Campey pointed to this clip highlighting Salinger’s orchestration, sans vocals. Thanks, Jack.
A grand movie score by the prolific Eric Coates, very inspiring and very English. This is the kind of piece that cues you to proudly fly the Union Jack, which obviously some chap did, right in the middle of Royal Albert Hall. I’m guessing this is some sort of tradition. Normally I wouldn’t have chosen this clip, but the Proms included the famous climactic shots from The Dambusters—you know, the movie George Lucas ripped off when he did Star Wars. Not the Death Star down there, though, it’s the Eder Dam in the heart of Nazi Germany. (Starts at 6:00.)
Oh when will I find you
And where will we meet
My gentle young Johnny
So steady and sweet
Oh when will you come for me
When will you take me away
You’ll see what I am
And you’ll know what I’ve done
And yet when you love me
You’ll be the first one
My gentle young Johnny
Shall we be married today…
Orchestration is by Irwin Kostal of Sound of Music fame, and who I should be blogging more about, as Kostal’s the first orchestrator I was ever aware of. This is an unusual melody, uniquely arranged, and would make a great audition piece.