The Best of Americana
Andy Einhorn, Conductor and Piano
Christy Altomare, Vocalist
Nicholas Christopher, Vocalist
Star Wars Main Theme
“The Sound of Music” from The Sound of Music
Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein
“There’s No Business Like Show Business” from Annie Get Your Gun
Irving Berlin / Arranged by Jack Everly
“Being Alive” from Company
Stephen Sondheim / Arranged and orchestrated by Jonathan Tunick
Balcony Scene (“Tonight”) from West Side Story
Gershwin by George!
George Gershwin / Arranged by Jerry Brubaker
“You’ll Be Back” from Hamilton
Lin-Manuel Miranda / Arranged by Alex Lacamoire and Lin-Manuel Miranda
“Journey to the Past” from Anastasia
Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens
“New York, New York”
John Kander and Fred Ebb / Arranged by Bill Holcombe
“Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz
Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg / Arranged by Larry Wilcox
The Washington Post March
John Philip Sousa
Irving Gordon / Arranged by Nelson Riddle
“God Bless America”
Irving Berlin / Arranged by Carmen Dragon
Tonight’s Best of Americana celebration begins by paying tribute to service members and veterans, saluting each of the five branches of the United States military with this medley of their official songs. The Coast Guard’s rousing 1927 song, Semper Paratus, is followed by the popular U.S. Air Force Song (“Off We Go, Into the Wild, Blue Yonder”). Next is the Navy’s 1906 march, Anchors Aweigh, and then the oldest of the military songs, The Marines’ Hymn (“From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli”), with a theme borrowed from an 1867 Offenbach opera. The medley closes with the Army’s march, The Caissons Go Rolling Along, written in 1908.
John Williams’s epic score to the Star Wars franchise redefined how music can add to the emotional and narrative impact of the action on the silver screen. Williams essentially wrote a space opera score to George Lucas’s scenario, complete with constantly varying leitmotifs, musical themes that would evoke characters, places, ideas, or relationships. In the heroic main theme, Williams was aiming for a “blazingly brilliant fanfare.” The Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein classic “The Sound of Music” was the title song for both the film starring Julie Andrews and the preceding Broadway musical, introducing the audience to the heroine Maria Rainer (who would become Maria von Trapp). Earlier in their careers, Rodgers and Hammerstein produced the hit Broadway musical Annie Get Your Gun. When their designated composer, Jerome Kern, passed away suddenly, they convinced the reluctant American songwriting legend Irving Berlin to take over composition duties for the show. “There’s No Business Like Show Business” was sung in the show to convince Annie Oakley to join Buffalo Bill’s touring production.
In “Being Alive,” the closing number of Stephen Sondheim’s Company, Bobby, the lost soul at the show’s center, finally comes to the realization that commitment and marriage—despite their considerable challenges—add incomparable richness to the tapestry of life. West Side Story, Bernstein’s updated version of Romeo and Juliet, maintained Shakespeare’s framework: the doomed lovers, Tony and Maria, belong to rival gangs, and accidental deaths, misinformation, and basic distrust lead to tragedy. The soaring Balcony Scene (with lyrics by Sondheim) is a particularly poignant mirror of the original.
A concert of Americana wouldn’t be complete without George Gershwin, whose contributions to the American concert hall and the American Songbook were profoundly influential. The Gershwin by George! medley samples from that beloved repertoire, including “Strike Up the Band,” “I Got Rhythm,” “Embraceable You,” “An American in Paris,” the second Piano Prelude, “Summertime,” and “Rhapsody in Blue.” Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway sensation Hamilton has been called a hip-hop musical, but the music in it is a masterful mix of styles. “You’ll Be Back” is King George’s sarcastic nose-thumbing to the colonists, in an appropriately British pop style (think The Beatles).
In “Journey to the Past,” title character Anastasia from the animated classic gives herself a pep talk as she decides to leave her snowy orphanage in order to go on a quest towards self-discovery. The iconic “New York, New York” also depicts the excitement of a journey to a new life, a final destination: the Big Apple (and perhaps catching the final out at Yankee Stadium). Dorothy dreams of a journey of her own to a place “far, far away—behind the moon, beyond the rain” in her wistful ballad “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz.
Sousa composed his famous Washington Post March at the newspaper’s request to promote its essay contest. It achieved instant success and was recorded by the U.S. Marine Band in 1890, a very early example of audio-capture technology (yes, it’s now on YouTube). Recording technology also facilitated an “Unforgettable” duet between Nat King Cole (for whom the song was a signature number) and daughter Natalie some 25 years after the elder’s death.
Tonight’s tribute to musical America ends with Irving Berlin’s song/prayer “God Bless America,” written during World War I while he was in the army and revised in the run-up to World War II. Its simple and stirring joining of patriotism with peace have made it a beloved and lasting American anthem.
Program notes by Jon Kochavi