Friday, May 23, 2008

If I only had a brain

The process of packing, sorting, organizing, and/or discarding my possessions for the upcoming move to the West Coast is causing many relics of past lives to float to the surface. For example, this afternoon I came across two bars of "If I Only Had a Brain" from The Wizard of Oz arranged for theater pit orchestra in my hand.

Once upon a time I worked as a music copyist for the Fifth Avenue Theatre in Seattle when the big musicals would come to town. The numbers were often edited for the requirements of local choreography, etc. and needed minor (or major) re-arranging. In this case the song was cut short, requiring two new final measures that exactly matched the existing arrangement. It was the end of the day, everyone wanted to go home, and the number was being rehearsed in the morning, so I volunteered to do it. (The arranging goes quickly but players' parts have to be prepared for the entire orchestra, which is the time-consuming part, even if it's only two bars.)

Anyway, my two measures saved the day (or at least saved my boss some time that evening) and it turned out to be be my big break in theatrical arranging. I got to do more and more work on subsequent shows, which became a big part of my arranging work in those days when I was composing and arranging professionally.

It was really fun work, too. The shows' original scores were done by the old Broadway pros and I had to seamlessly match the new material with the classic old arrangements. It's a strange gig because -- even more than film scoring -- the better you do your job, the more imperceptible your work should be. However, I would sit up in the balcony during a rehearsal or performance and when, during a dance number, the romantic ballad would appear as a tango, I had the satisfaction of knowing that the change was my work but hoping that to the rest of the audience it all sounded like the original score.

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At May 28, 2008 at 10:28 PM , Blogger Madame Leiderhosen said...

My favorite song. Terribly apt.


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