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Gerald Bordman

revised by Jonas Westover

(b New York, NY, Sept 8, 1896; d New York, NY, July 30, 1983). American lyricist and librettist. He studied at Columbia University, where he was a contemporary of Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II, and served in the US Navy before becoming director of publicity and advertising in 1919 for the Goldwyn Pictures Corporation (from 1924 known as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer or MGM). He wrote verse in his spare time, and was asked by Jerome Kern to supply the lyrics for Dear Sir (1924). He also worked with Vernon Duke, Jimmy McHugh, and Ralph Rainger. But he is best remembered for the numerous songs he wrote in collaboration with arthur Schwartz , beginning in 1929 with the revue The Little Show (with “I guess I’ll have to change my plan”). Other collaborations with Schwartz include Three’s a Crowd (1930) and The Band Wagon (1931, containing the hit “Dancing in the Dark”). Their professional relationship extended over a period of more than 30 years to the production of the musical ...

Article

Ellen Marie Peck

(b New York, NY, Jan 28, 1880; d New York, Jan 4, 1928). American lyricist, librettist, and actress. Born into a theatrical family, she spent her entire life in the theater. A meticulous actress, Donnelly was particularly known for her ability to interpret a role with depth and sensitivity at a rather young age, as she demonstrated with title roles in Candida (1903) and Madame X (1909). However, chronic illness and years of touring took an early toll on Donnelly, forcing her to transition to a writing career in her late 30s. In 1916 Donnelly penned the libretto for an Americanized German operetta, Flora Bella. She soon teamed up with composer sigmund Romberg , with whom she wrote some of the most successful operettas of the 1920s. Donnelly and Romberg enjoyed a close friendship and a symbiotic collaborative process, which lay behind the overwhelming success of ...

Article

Paul C. Echols

revised by David Music

(b Northampton, MA, May 14, 1752; d New Haven, CT, Jan 11, 1817). American poet and author of hymn texts. He graduated from Yale College in 1769, becoming a tutor there two years later. He served as a chaplain in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and wrote the texts of several patriotic songs, one of which (“Columbia, Columbia, to Glory Arise,” 1787) became widely popular. From 1783 to 1795 he was pastor of the Congregational Church in Greenfield Hill, Connecticut, where he rose to eminence as a preacher, educator, and poet. He was elected president of Yale College in 1795. In 1798, at the request of both Congregational and Presbyterian governing bodies in Connecticut, he undertook a revised edition of Isaac Watts’s Psalms and Hymns to replace one by Joel Barlow (1785) that had previously been compiled for the Congregationalists. Issued at Hartford in ...

Article

Gerald Bordman

revised by Jonas Westover

(Abels )

(b Salt Lake City, UT, Aug 18, 1873; d New York, NY, Jan 24, 1963). American librettist and lyricist. He was educated at Knox College, then taught English for six years at Whitman College before going to New York for further study at Columbia University. In 1902 he became a newspaper journalist and the following year a copywriter for an advertising agency. His friendship with the composer Karl Hoschna led him to try his hand at writing musicals, and their collaboration Three Twins (1908, including the song “Cuddle Up a Little Closer, Lovey Mine”) was a great success. Harbach soon became a prolific writer; he produced over 40 works for Broadway and also wrote occasionally for films. After Hoschna’s death in 1911 he entered into a successful partnership with Rudolf Friml. Many of his best lyrics and librettos, however, were written after 1920 in collaboration with his younger protégé Oscar Hammerstein II. Among his best-known songs are “Rose-Marie” and “Indian Love Call” (...

Article

Gerald Bordman

(b Concord, NH, July 26, 1860; d New York, NY, Nov 20, 1900). American librettist, lyricist, and producer. He studied law and worked on a western cattle ranch before becoming a writer for the Boston Post. He then began to write plays, achieving success with A Bunch of Keys (1883) and A Rag Baby (1884), the latter of which was produced by Tony Pastor. Both works were farce-comedies. Though in Hoyt’s hands these rather simplistically conceived shows, with their thin plots and their reliance on existing musical material, were transformed into recognizable musical comedies; he wrote full-length librettos and assigned a single composer to write a basic score (though still allowed for the traditional practice of interpolating of songs). He also preferred to write on American subjects. In collaboration with such composers as Edward Solomon, Percy Gaunt, and Richard Stahl, Hoyt produced a series of popular shows which included ...

Article

Article

Gerald Bordman

(b Pittsburgh, PA, Nov 16, 1889; d New York, NY, June 2, 1961). American librettist and director. He first worked as a journalist, serving for a time as head of the drama desk at the New York Times, but resigned in order to write his own plays. His first libretto, produced in collaboration with Marc Connelly, was for Helen of Troy, New York (1923; music by B. Kalmar and H. Ruby) and established his reputation for witty and satirical writing. He then created two important shows for the Marx Brothers, The Cocoanuts (1925; I. Berlin) and, with Morrie Ryskind, Animal Crackers (1928; Kalmar and Ruby), and also collaborated with Ryskind on the libretto for the highly successful Of Thee I Sing (1931; G. Gershwin), the first musical to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize for drama, and Let ’Em Eat Cake (1933; Gershwin). Kaufman contributed both libretto and lyrics for ...

Article

Jonas Westover

(b Stamford, CT, Dec 31, 1885; d New York, NY, Jan 22, 1976). American lyricist, publisher, and songwriter. He began his career in vaudeville, tailoring songs to individual singers, and working with a variety of composers. Leslie began to publish songs in 1909, when his lyrics and Irving Berlin’s music combined for “Sadie Salome.” That same year saw an early hit, “Lonesome.” Several of his songs were used on Broadway and vaudeville alike, including the huge hit “For Me and My Gal” (1917), which he co-wrote with George W. Meyer and E. Ray Goetz. His songs were recorded by a slew of popular stars, such as Guy Lombardo, Bing Crosby, and Connie Francis. In 1914, he became one of the founding members of ASCAP, later serving as president from 1931 to 1941. Leslie also created his own publishing company, where he worked primarily with Horatio Nicholls. Collaborations with Harry Warren (“Rose of the Rio Grande,” ...

Article

[Sister Aimee ]

(b Salford, ON, Oct 9, 1890; d Oakland, CA, Sept 27, 1944). American evangelist, composer, librettist, and hymn writer. Known worldwide as “Sister Aimee,” she founded the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (FSGC) and built the Angelus Temple in Los Angeles, California. The daughter of a Canadian wheat farmer, she grew up in the Methodist church and the Salvation Army, from which she inherited a strong preference for hymn singing. The Salvation Army also taught her the value of community service, emphasized the potential of women to be active in the ministry, and demonstrated the importance of vigorous and attractive music in worship services, especially brass bands and popular congregational hymns. After the death of her first husband, the preacher and missionary Robert Semple in Hong Kong in 1910, she settled in New York City, where she became active in religious revival work. In 1912 she married businessman Harold McPherson, but her growing interest in pursuing an evangelical ministry led to their divorce in ...

Article

Jacquelyn Sholes

(b Chicago, IL, May 31, 1892; d Barcelona, Spain, Nov 19, 1954). American lyricist. Trent, who was African American, most likely studied at Pittsylvania Industrial, Normal, and Collegiate Institute in Virginia. He appears to have managed music publishing houses and was a writer and assistant director for films and the author of Modern Adaptation of Primitive Tones. Trent is known mainly for his work as a lyricist in the 1920s and 30s. His songs were recorded by Bessie Smith and Fletcher Henderson, Bing Crosby and Paul Whiteman, Joe Venuti, Bix Beiderbecke, Red Nichols and his Five Pennies, Joan Crawford, and others. Collaborators included Clarence Williams (“Outside of that, he’s all right with me”), Duke Ellington (“Blind Man’s Buff,” “Pretty Soft for you”), Fats Waller (“In Harlem’s Araby,” “Georgia Bo-Bo”), Porter Grainger, Willard Robison, Peter DeRose (“Muddy Water,” with Harry Richman), “I just roll along, havin’ my ups and downs”), Louis Alter (“My Kinda Love,” “Gotta feelin’ for you”), Hugo Riesenfeld, and Hoagy Carmichael (“In the Still of the Night,” “Sing it way down low”). Some of his songs appeared in musicals and revues such as ...