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Article

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; ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

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 (...

Article

Michael J. Budds

(b Kansas City, MO, May 12, 1928). 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, 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 (...

Article

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 ...

Article

Gerard Béhague

(Evangelista)

(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 (...

Article

(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...

Article

Thomas L. Gayda

[Miklós; Nikolaus]

(b Odessa, Ukraine, 7/April 20, 1905; d Hollywood, CA, Dec 24, 1958). Hungarian composer, active in England and the USA. He learnt the piano as a child, later studying in Rome, Vienna and Budapest. By the late 1920s he had contributed songs to long-forgotten and newly-arranged Viennese operettas. He mainly specialized in film music, writing his first score in Vienna for a film starring Richard Tauber and Gitta Alpar. He continued to write numerous European popular song hits during this period. His reputation took him to England in 1937, where he wrote the songs for C.B. Cochran’s revue Home and Beauty.

Although he is credited with the scores to 14 British films over the next ten years, he was solely a songwriter and incapable of scoring incidental music for dramatic situations. Collaborators were employed, often uncredited, and he is known to have relied upon the skills of Charles Williams and Philip Green, and probably also worked with Mischa Spoliansky, Clive Richardson and Sidney Torch....

Article

Jon Alan Conrad

(b Flint, MI, March 30, 1933). American orchestrator, conductor and composer. He studied music at Michigan State University and then at the New England Conservatory, which included conducting with Neel and Stokowski, and the double bass. The latter led to performing engagements with numerous orchestras; from 1961 to 1967 he also conducted, particularly ballet orchestras. At this time he began conducting tours and concerts of musicals, and in the 1970s his orchestrations for musicals were first heard. These included orchestrations reconciling a variety of sources with the requirements for modern revivals or compilations (as with Jerome Robbins’ Broadway, Carousel, Show Boat, and his contributions to the restoration of the Gershwins’ Strike up the Band). He has composed incidental music, arranged for television and film, provided arrangements for recording (for Mandy Patinkin, Plácido Domingo, Marilyn Horne, Frederica von Stade), and written songs and musicals, as well as concert and dance works. Additionally he has provided re-creations of Prokofiev’s film music (...

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Gerard Béhague

(Francisco)

(b Rio de Janeiro, June 19, 1944). Brazilian composer and singer-songwriter. The son of a prominent historian and intellectual, he began studying architecture at the University of São Paulo in 1963 but decided soon after to pursue a career in popular music. Although he was a great admirer of the bossa nova musician João Gilberto, his first hits, Pedro Pedreiro and Sonho de um Carnaval (both recorded in 1965), as well as Olê Olá, revealed innovative talents. The first piece is an early expression of his concern for and subsequent criticism of some of Brazil's urban social problems. The well-known poet-diplomat Vinicius de Morais, a family friend and fundamental figure of the bossa nova movement, exerted a strong influence on Buarque's music and poetry. Indeed the ‘master of the language’, as Jobim characterized him, went on to produce some of the most sophisticated popular songs of his generation, both poetically and musically. In ...

Article

Samuel S. Brylawski

[Samuel]

(b New York, June 18, 1913; d Los Angeles, Jan 15, 1993). American lyricist. His first assignments as a lyricist were for speciality material for dance bands. In 1937 he and Saul Chaplin, with whom he had earlier led a dance band, adapted a Yiddish theatre song into a very successful song for the Andrews Sisters, Bei mir bist du schön. With Chaplin, Jimmy Van Heusen, Nicholas Brodszky and Jule Styne, he wrote many successful songs for Hollywood films, notably for Frank Sinatra, and won many Academy nominations and awards. His talent for adapting lyrics for special occasions and personalities brought him many commissions for song parodies for industrial shows, benefits and television. High Button Shoes (1947), written with Jule Styne, was a successful Broadway stage show, as was an autobiographical revue, Words and Music (1974).

(selective list)

dates are those of first New York performance...

Article

Robert Stevenson

(b Villena, nr Alicante, March 27, 1851; d Madrid, March 25, 1909). Spanish composer. In 1865 he conducted the band in his home village, where his father, an enthusiastic music-lover, was a barber. Two years later Chapí enrolled in the Madrid Conservatory, studying with Arrieta and winning first prize in harmony in 1869. While earning a precarious living as cornettist in the Circo de Price theatre orchestra, he composed an overture Zanzé and his first zarzuela Abel y Caín. In 1871 he competed successfully for the directorship of the artillery regimental band. His first symphonic suite La corte de Granada: fantasía morisca was composed in 1873 (the third of its four movements, ‘Serenata’, is still played); his one-act opera Las naves de Cortés, performed at the Teatro Real on 19 April 1874 with Tamberlik in the title role, earned him a three-year government grant to study, first at the Spanish Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, then at Milan and Paris. As fruit of these years abroad, he sent back the one-act operas ...

Article

Robert Stevenson

(b Madrid, May 5, 1846; d Madrid, July 20, 1908). Spanish composer. He studied elementary piano and theory at the Madrid Conservatory, but then, at his parents' insistence, turned to medicine. However, Barbieri brought him back to a musical career when he conducted a set of Chueca's waltzes, Lamentos de un preso, which commemorated a student escapade. His first theatrical success was La canción de la Lola (1880), which ran for two years at the Teatro de Variedades. He composed about 37 zarzuelas, mostly in one act (género chico), many of them orchestrated by Joaquín Valverde. Chueca was able to capture the local flavour of regions as far apart as Asturias and Andalusia and had the gift of writing facile tunes that immediately appealed to the Madrid public and eventually won the favour of the entire Spanish-speaking world, as well as the esteem of Falla. ...

Article

Philip L. Scowcroft

(b Sydney, Sept 26, 1866; d London, Nov 17, 1951). British pianist and composer of Australian birth. He came to London in 1889 after touring as a pianist in Asia and Australasia and appeared as an accompanist in England before concentrating on composition. He also wrote music criticism for The Observer from 1908 to 1918 and later was vice chairman of the Performing Right Society. Until about 1914 his compositions were not aimed at a wide commercial audience: orchestral works were performed by major London orchestras and four operas were staged, including King Harlequin which was produced in Berlin. The watershed between his serious and light music was his collaboration with the composer Bath and the lyricist Basil Hood in a patriotic operetta, Young England, produced in Birmingham in 1916, before transferring to Daly's and then Drury Lane in London. This was the first of several musicals both original and using music, though not exclusively so, by others, like the popular ...

Article

Geoffrey Self

(b Hucknall, Aug 27, 1886; d Chichester, Dec 23, 1957). English viola player and composer. He studied violin with Georg Ellenberger and harmony with Ralph Horner, but changed to the viola, for which he found a greater demand in Nottingham. Entering the RAM in 1906, he expected viola to be his main study and was indeed placed with Tertis, but the principal, Sir Alexander Mackenzie, had admired his submitted songs and allocated him to Corder for composition. Coates rapidly came to the forefront of viola players, playing for the Beecham SO and Wood's Queen's Hall Orchestra, of which he was principal viola 1912–19. Chronic neuritis plagued him and in 1919, after Wood dismissed him, he never played again.

His composing reputation had been made early by such songs as Stonecracker John (1909) and by Wood's performance of the Miniature Suite at the 1911 Proms. Thereafter he produced a steady stream of orchestral suites, phantasies, marches and waltzes together with some 160 songs, the last march being completed in ...

Article

Geoffrey Block

[Kaufman, Seymour]

(b New York, June 14, 1929; d New York, Nov 18, 2004). American composer and pianist. The son of Russian immigrants, he began to play the piano at the age of four, and performed recitals at the Steinway and Carnegie halls by seven. He studied counterpoint and orchestration at the New York College of Music and developed a serious interest in jazz, within a few years performing in New York nightclubs with his trio and starting a long recording career as a jazz pianist. A collaboration with the lyricist Joseph Allan McCarthy yielded several song hits between 1952 and 1956, including Why try to change me now?, I'm gonna laugh you right out of my life and Tin Pan Alley, the last of which appeared in Coleman's first Broadway venture, the revue John Murray Anderson's Almanac (1953). By the late 1950s he had produced an impressive list of song standards with lyricist Carolyn Leigh, which included ...

Article

Lise Waxer

[Colón Román jr, William Anthony; ‘El malo’]

(b South Bronx, New York, April 28, 1950). American bandleader, composer, arranger, trombonist, popular singer, producer and actor. Dubbed ‘El malo’ (the ‘bad boy’) of salsa, he began playing the trumpet in 1963 with the teenage band the Dandees. Switching to trombone, he made his professional début at 17 with the album El malo (Fania, 1967). Both as a bandleader and a member of the Fania All-Stars, he quickly moved to the fore of the burgeoning New York salsa scene, cementing the raw, trombone-heavy ‘New York sound’ inspired by earlier artists such as Eddie Palmieri and Mon Rivera. Between 1967 and 1973 he made a series of important recordings with vocalist Hector Lavoe, which included the albums Asalto Navideño I and II (Fania, 1972 and 1973) with cuatro virtuoso Yomo Toro, where traditional Puerto Rican Christmas aguinaldos were fused with salsa. During his second period (...

Article

(b Peru, IL, April 3, 1895; d Lakewood, NJ, Nov 22, 1971). American composer and pianist. After studying music at the Chicago Musical College he formed a touring orchestra with his brother James in about 1915. Through his work as a pianist and arranger for various piano-roll companies (QRS, Ampico, Imperial and Victor) he developed a popular style known as Novelty piano. This combined classical piano technique with syncopated rhythms and peppy tunes. The technical possibilities of piano rolls helped inspire some of his flashy keyboard effects and rhythmic tricks that influenced later composers in the novelty-piano idiom. Among his most popular pieces were Stumbling (1922), Dizzy Fingers (1923) and Kitten on the Keys (1921), the last of which he performed at Paul Whiteman’s Aeolian Hall concert, 12 February 1924. These and other pieces were issued by Jack Mills, Inc. as Modern Novelty Piano Solos...

Article

John Snelson

(Peirce)

(b Teddington, Dec 16, 1899; d Blue Harbour, Jamaica, March 26, 1973). English composer, lyricist, librettist and performer. Born into a family of keen amateur musicians, he made his first professional appearance as an actor in The Goldfish in 1911, achieving great public recognition with The Vortex (1924) as both playwright and leading actor. Many of his plays have become standards of the repertory and often include individual songs, most famously with ‘Someday I’ll find you’ from Private Lives and the integrated musical numbers in his series of one-act plays, Tonight at 8.30. As a singer he remains best known for those recordings of his own songs made in the 1950s, and associated with his cabaret performances first at the Café de Paris in London and then the Desert Inn in Las Vegas. The clipped pronunciation, light baritone with much use of head tones, and rhythmic licence have become instantly recognizable trademarks, much copied and parodied....