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Broadway Hits from the Orchestra Pits

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Broadway orchestration is the lasso that ensnares a catchy tune, a witty lyric, a burst of inspired dance–and spins them out from Times Square to your local theater, cabaret, satirical review or high school.

Wednesday and Thursday, May 6 and 7, the Library of Congress’ Music Division will host a free, two-day public symposium on Broadway orchestration in the Coolidge Auditorium, which is on the ground floor of the Library’s Thomas Jefferson Building at 10 First Street S.E. in Washington, D.C. The Wednesday sessions will run from 10 a.m.-6:30 p.m. and the Thursday sessions from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tickets are not required.

Panelists will discuss the orchestrations and careers of such Broadway legends as Robert Russell Bennett (“My Fair Lady,” “Oklahoma!”) Robert “Red” Ginzler (“Bye Bye Birdie,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”) Don Walker (“The Pajama Game,” “The Music Man”) Philip Lange (“Annie Get Your Gun,” “Hello Dolly”) and Ralph Burns (“Funny Girl” and “Fosse”). The panels will be led by a dozen top musicians–orchestrators, conductors, composers and musical directors–who have been active on Broadway for more than half a century.

The program is under the auspices of the Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trust for the benefit of the Library of Congress. It’s in conjunction with the release of “The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations” by Steven Suskin (Oxford University Press, 2009) a book largely researched at the Library.

The Library of Congress Music Division brings all aspects of music to life through its priceless collections and sponsorship of live performances. In February the Library, through its Music Division, awarded the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song to Stevie Wonder, who premiered a new commissioned work at the Coolidge.

The Music Division also is the home of vast collections of music of all kinds–rare manuscripts, sheet music, recordings, and the personal papes of many musicians and composers. In 2008, for example, the Library received the papers of Charles Strouse (who composed the music for “Annie” and “Bye Bye Birdie”).


  1. At age 88 I can still look back (with one good eye-lol) at my 42 years of playing Bway shows. I was 69 when my last show, Chorus Line, closed after a 15 yr run. Broadway—–my home away from home.

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