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Ager, Milton  

Samuel S. Brylawski

(b Chicago, Oct 6, 1893; d Los Angeles, May 6, 1979). American composer. He began his career as a song plugger and arranger for the publishing companies of George M. Cohan and Irving Berlin, and had his first success as a songwriter (in collaboration with the composer George W. Meyer) with Everything's peaches down in Georgia (G. Clarke, 1918), introduced by Al Jolson. He wrote many songs to lyrics by Jack Yellen (with whom he founded the publishing firm Ager, Yellen & Bornstein in 1922), including I wonder what's become of Sally (1924), Ain't she sweet? (1927) and Happy days are here again (1930); the last became closely associated with the presidential campaigns of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Other well-known songs by Ager are I'm nobody's baby (lyrics by B. Davis; 1921), Auf Wiedersehen, my dear (A. Hoffman, E.G. Nelson, A. Goodhart; ...


Allyson, June  

William A. Everett and Lee Snook

[Geisman, Ella]

(b Bronx, NY, Oct 7, 1917; d Ojai, CA, July 8, 2006). American singer and actress. Trained as a dancer and with a career which began on Broadway, she became known as the perennial ‘girl next door’ in MGM motion pictures. Her early career in film was as a dancer in shorts such as Dime a Dance (1937), but she gained attention with her first major Broadway role in Best Foot Forward (1941) and reprised her role in the 1943 film version. Other musical films in which she appeared include Thousands Cheer (1943), Girl Crazy (1943), Two Girls and a Sailor (1944), Music for Millions (1944), Two Sisters from Boston (1946) and Good News (1947). In 1948, she began to appear in non-musical films, including dramas and comedies. She received a Golden Globe Award in ...




Andrews Sisters  

Michael J. Budds

American vocal trio. It was formed in 1932 by the sisters LaVerne (b Minneapolis, 6 July 1915; d Brentwood, CA, 8 May 1967), Maxene (Maxine) (b Minneapolis, 3 Jan 1918; d Hyannis, MA, 21 Oct 1995) and Patti (Patricia) (b Minneapolis, 16 Feb 1920; d Los Angeles, CA, 30 Jan 2013) Andrews. They began performing in vaudeville houses in the Midwest with the Larry Rich Orchestra in 1932, and first achieved national prominence with a version of Bei mir bist du schön in 1937. They made frequent radio appearances in the late 1930s and 40s, including regular performances with the Glenn Miller Orchestra; they acted in 16 films (1940–48), often cast as themselves; they made nationwide tours; and they produced a steady stream of popular song recordings, some with Bing Crosby and Guy Lombardo. Among the most popular of their recordings were ...


Andrews, Dame Julie  

Howard Goldstein

[Wells, Julia Elizabeth]

(b Walton-on-Thames, Oct 1, 1935). English singer and actress. Her prodigious talents as singer and dancer were recognized early on by her mother (Barbara Morris Wells, a pianist), and stepfather (Ted Andrews, a Canadian vaudeville performer). After vocal lessons with Lilian Stiles-Allen and sporadic appearances in her parents' act, she made her solo début at the age of 12 in the Starlight Roof revue (1947), singing ‘Je suis Titania’ from Ambroise Thomas' Mignon. She repeated this feat at the Royal Command Performance of 1948.

Following engagements on BBC radio (‘Educating Archie’, 1950–52) and in Christmas pantomimes, she was asked to play the female lead in the Broadway production of Sandy Wilson's West End musical The Boy Friend (1954). This led to her portrayal on Broadway of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady (1956), a role she repeated in London in 1958...


Ansell, John  

Philip L. Scowcroft

(b March 26, 1874; d Marlow, Bucks., Dec 14, 1948). English composer and conductor. He studied composition at the GSM with MacCunn and then pursued a career in London's West End, latterly as a musical director, especially at the Playhouse, Winter Garden, Alhambra, Shaftesbury and Adelphi theatres. He subsequently worked for the BBC from 1926 to 1930. Drawing on his theatrical background he composed incidental music and also operettas, of which The King's Bride, Violette and especially the well-characterized Medorah achieved modest success.

He was also adept at writing colourful, attractively scored and melodious suites and single movements. Some of these showed a fondness for Ireland, the country which also inspired his Overture to an Irish Comedy. Others sought to explore fresh ideas in the light concert suite, a common genre in the first half of the 20th century, as in his Mediterranean Suite (three dance movements representing Spain, Italy and France) and ...


Arndt, Felix  

Ronald Riddle

(b New York, May 20, 1889; d Harmon, NY, Oct 10, 1918). American composer and pianist. After studying the piano at the National Conservatory of Music in America and taking private lessons with Alexander Lambert, he pursued a varied career in New York, writing material for vaudeville entertainers, serving as a staff pianist for various publishers and recording extensively both on piano rolls (Duo-Art, QRS) and discs (Victor). Arndt’s compositions combine salon gentility with occasional ragtime syncopation, foreshadowing the novelty-piano works of the 1920s by such composers as Confrey and Bargy. They include ...


Ascher, Leo  

Thomas L. Gayda

(b Vienna, Aug 17, 1880; d New York, Feb 25, 1942). Austrian composer. He studied law and music at Vienna University, the piano with Hugo Reinhold and L. Thern (1898–1904) and composition with Robert Fuchs and Franz Schmidt. By 1905 he had decided to devote his time to composition, and by 1932 had composed 32 operettas. His first, Vergeltsgott (1905), was produced at the Theater an der Wien and had 69 performances, while one of his greatest successes was Hoheit tanzt Walzer (1912), first produced at the Raimundtheater and performed more than 2500 times over the next ten years. Characteristically Ascher’s music was in a strong local Viennese idiom, and he created a perfect example of the so-called Wienerlied with S’Lercherl von Hernals (1911). He also wrote lieder and film music. Ascher was arrested during the Reichskristallnacht, and upon his release emigrated to the USA (...


Aston, A. William  


Azpiazú, Don  

Lise Waxer

(b Santa Clara, Feb 11, 1893; d Havana, Jan 20, 1943). Cuban pianist and bandleader. As the leader of the Havana Casino Orchestra he is best known for having launched the El manicero (‘Peanut Vendor’) craze in the United States after his band performed this number at New York’s Palace Theater on 26 April 1930. Written by Moises Simon, the song became an instant hit, and within a year popular jazz artists such as Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington had recorded versions of the tune. Expanding upon the traditional Cuban conjunto (sextet or septet), Azpiazú’s band was a 14-piece dance orchestra with trumpets, saxophones, trombone, tuba, piano, bass and Cuban percussion. Although Latin bands already existed in New York, his was the first group to be successful with the non-Latino public, helping to catalyze the rhumba dance craze that lasted throughout the decade. The Havana Casino Orchestra recorded popular versions of other tunes such as ...


Bacharach, Burt (F.)  

Michael J. Budds

(b Kansas City, MO, May 12, 1928; d Los Angeles, Feb 8, 2023). American composer and pianist. He learnt the cello, drums, and piano from an early age and developed a particular interest in jazz. He played as a night club pianist, and then served in the army, touring as a pianist (1950–52). He went on to study music at the Mannes College of Music, New York, the New School of Social Research, and McGill University, Montreal, and gained a scholarship to the Music Academy of the West, Santa Barbara, California. His composition teachers included Milhaud, Martinů, and Cowell. Bacharach became an accompanist for Vic Damone, subsequently working with such performers as Polly Bergen, Steve Lawrence, the Ames Brothers, and Paula Stewart, to whom he was married from 1953 to 1958. From 1958 to 1961 he toured internationally with Marlene Dietrich. Bacharach began writing arrangements and composing songs in the mid-1950s, working at the Brill Building and collaborating with the lyricist Hal David (...


Ball, Michael  

(b Stratford-upon-Avon, June 27, 1963). English popular singer. He studied at the Guildford School of Acting before touring in Godspell, later gaining a leading role in the Manchester production of The New Pirates of Penzance. He created the role of Marius in the long-running Les misérables (1985) in London, introducing the song ‘Empty Chairs at Empty Tables’, and took over Raoul in The Phantom of the Opera. He played Alex in Lloyd Webber’s Aspects of Love in London (1989) and on Broadway (1990), and so introduced ‘Love changes everything’, which was arranged to demonstrate Ball’s full-bodied top range. The popular success of the number enabled his expansion into the popular field and into concert tours. In 1991 he released his first solo album and the following year represented the UK in the Eurovision song contest with One Step Out of Time. His concert repertory has become increasingly wide, and he performed on his ...


Ballet Folklórico  

Brenda M. Romero

A generic term since the 1950s for dance groups that merge theatrical elements of classical ballet with Mexican folk dances. The use of the term was primarily modeled on the famous Ballet Folclórico de México, founded in 1952 by Amalia Hernández (1917–2000). Mexican dance companies had begun to incorporate regional folk dances into their modern dance and classical ballet theatrical productions by the 1920s, as part of the postrevolutionary Mexican nationalist movement in the arts. By the 1950s, such “staged spectacles” were founded on anthropological and historical research and reflected a “revolutionary nationalism” that celebrated and highlighted the importance of music and dance in Mexican identity. No doubt this was partly in response to increasing anti-Mexican sentiment in the United States. Regional Mexican folk dances have always been practiced by Mexican-American immigrant communities in the United States. With the Chicano social and artistic movement that followed the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, ...


Bargy, Roy F(rederick)  

David Thomas Roberts

(b Newaygo, MI, July 31, 1894; d Vista, CA, Jan 16, 1974). American composer and pianist. He began to study piano at the age of five in Toledo, Ohio. By the time he was 17 he had discarded his ambitions to become a concert pianist, having become fascinated with ragtime pianists in Toledo’s red-light district, including the famous exponent of eastern ragtime Luckey Roberts. After playing professionally in cinemas and organizing a dance band, he was engaged in 1919 by the ragtime composer Charley Straight to edit, play, arrange and compose for Imperial Player Rolls. Bargy’s association with Straight led to his acquaintance with the agent Edgar Benson, who assembled a band directed by Bargy to record for Victor. Bargy later joined Isham Jones’s orchestra for two years and, in 1928, began a 12-year association with Paul Whiteman’s band, for which he is best remembered today. Later he served as conductor and arranger for Larry Ross’s radio show, and from ...


Barroso, Ari  

Gerard Béhague


(b Ubá, Nov 7, 1903; d Rio de Janeiro, Feb 9, 1964). Brazilian composer and conductor. In 1920 he moved to Rio de Janeiro where he developed his career, first as a pianist in dance bands and cinemas, then as a composer of pieces for musical theatre, as a radio programmer and announcer, and later as a television programmer. He also composed the sound tracks for various films, especially Walt Disney’s The Three Caballeros (‘Você já foi à Bahia?’), for which he received a diploma from the Hollywood Academy of Cinematographic Sciences and Arts. In 1955, the Brazilian government bestowed upon him, together with Villa-Lobos, the National Order of Merit.

Barroso greatly contributed to the establishment of the classic urban samba in the 1930s. Among the over 160 sambas that he wrote, those of the 1930s and 40s have remained the most popular. Such pieces as Faceira (...


Bennett [DiFiglia], Michael  

Robert Howie

(b Buffalo, NY, April 8, 1943; d Tucson, AZ, July 2, 1987). American director and choreographer. He made his début at the age of 17 as Baby John in a tour of West Side Story, and was influenced by working with Jerome Robbins, Michael Kidd and Peter Gennaro in further Broadway shows. His first orginal dances featured in the short-lived A Joyful Noise (1966), and in the following year he staged How Now, Dow Jones whose producer, David Merrick, spotted Bennett’s potential and gave him his first hit, Promises, Promises (1968), with his first show-stopping number, ‘Turkey Lurkey Time’. His staging of Follies in 1971 was so integral to the show’s success that Hal Prince gave him co-director’s credit. By Seesaw (1973), he took over the direction, choreography and writing of an out-of-town disaster and reversed its fortunes: this level of artistic control inspired Bennett to develop ...


Benson, Ivy  

Alyn Shipton

(b Leeds, Nov 11, 1913; d Clacton, May 6, 1993). English dance bandleader, saxophonist, pianist and singer. She was a child prodigy as a pianist, broadcasting on ‘Children’s Hour’ in 1922, and playing frequently in public. She took up the clarinet and saxophone in her teens, and in 1929 joined her first all-female band, led by Edna Croudson. After some years with Croudson, she came to London and in 1937 played in female orchestras directed by Teddy Joyce, becoming leader of his Girl Friends. In 1940, after leading small groups of her own, she formed a nine-piece band for the revue Meet the Girls, which had an entirely female cast. For the rest of her career Benson led an all-female band, variously called her Rhythm Girl Band, her Ladies’ Dance Orchestra and her Showband. She broadcast frequently during World War II and afterwards, and toured internationally for the Entertainments National Servicemen’s Association from the 1940s onwards. In the 1940s she mainly played in a jazz-influenced swing style, but later often added a string section to play dance music in the manner of Victor Sylvester or Mantovani....


Bergknappen, Die  

Thomas Bauman

(‘The Miners’)

Original-Singspiel in one act by Ignaz Umlauf to a libretto by Paul Weidmann; Vienna, Burgtheater, 17 February 1778.

Old Walcher (bass) opposes the suit of the young miner Fritz (tenor) for the hand of his ward Sophie (soprano), whom he secretly wishes to marry himself. After thwarting one rendezvous he ties Sophie to a tree. The gypsy Zelda (soprano) frees her and takes her place. When discovered, she reveals to Walcher that Sophie is his own daughter, stolen by gypsies. An attempt by Fritz to gain Walcher’s consent miscarries but when a mine shaft caves in on Walcher, Fritz rescues him and earns his blessing.

Umlauf composed Die Bergknappen as a trial piece for the National Singspiel, the German opera company Joseph II hoped to create alongside the theatrical company (Nationaltheater) he had established in 1776. The opera enjoyed immediate success, ensuring a fair start for the enterprise with Umlauf as its music director. The work is notable for its musical portrayal of Walcher, for the brilliance of Sophie’s part (written for Caterina Cavalieri, Mozart’s original Konstanze in ...


Black(stone), Don(ald)  

(b London, June 21, 1938). English lyricist. In the 1950s his various jobs included that of a writer for the New Musical Express, a performer in the rapidly declining variety theatres (billed under such titles as ‘Donald Black, the young gangster’ and ‘Don Black, a living joke’) and a song-plugger. He began writing song lyrics in the mid-1950s, gaining success in the 1960s when Matt Monroe recorded his April Fool and Walk away, Black’s English version of the German Eurovision song contest entry Warum nur warum. Beginning with the James Bond film Thunderball (1965) he worked with the composer John Barry on many title songs for films, including Diamonds are Forever (1971), The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), and Born Free (1966), for which Black received an Academy Award. Further collaborations with Barry include the musicals Billy (1974...