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Something’s Coming, Something Good!

Photograph of Leonard Bernstein conducting.

Bernstein, 1956.

This is a very special year for Broadway and classical music fans and those of us at the Library of Congress;  we’re marking the centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth.

For a man who was born in 1918, his music still has fans snapping their fingers (x…x…x is a symbol in print music notation in West Side Story for finger snaps) and hoping that “Somewhere” there’s a place for us.  Combining his interest and promotion of jazz as an American contribution to culture and amazing lyricism, Bernstein provided an extraordinary adaptation of the classic star-crossed lovers’ tale, Romeo and Juliet.

Now for the ‘something  good’ part.  As part of our service to our patrons, we try to provide popular musicals to our collection; sometimes it is a complex process, but I am happy to announce that our patrons can now sing “Tonight, tonight” from a recent addition to BARD.   The vocal score with piano accompaniment of West Side Story is available at call number BRM 36377. It is in five volumes, and was a team effort and labor of love from a group of Library of Congress certified braille music transcribers.

Here is a listing of events happening at the Library of Congress to celebrate this remarkable composer and musician. And if you aren’t able to make it in person, you can certainly enjoy his considerable (say 400,000 items) collection donated to the Library.

Poster advertising a production of West Side Story.

And I can’t present a post about West Side Story without mentioning the other collaborators of this gem.  Stephen Sondheim and Jerome Robbins were part of this astonishing partnership. I can’t imagine any other words sung to the melodies Bernstein wrote, and I am curious to learn how Robbins’ came up with the idea of choreography for tough-guy gang members.  A few years ago I saw the revival of West Side Story as it was ‘trying out’ the show before it went to Broadway, and it seemed like a miracle.

Celebrate the genius of Bernstein all year long with this musical and some other titles available from NLS. Ironically, one item we have is his composition “I Hate Music!” available at BRM 18467 for soprano (but from a kid’s view point) and Four Anniversaries, a collection of songs for the piano dedicated to his wife and friends, BRM 23188. Commentary by Alfred Glasser on Candide, an operetta with music by Bernstein, is available at DBM 01559.

And Bernstein was known for his Young People’s Concerts and talks for newcomers of classical music.  Covering a wide range of music history, the NLS Music Section has Leonard Bernstein discusses Beethoven’s fifth symphony and Eroica symphony, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, the music of Charles Ives  at DBM 00705. What is Jazz? is available on BARD at DBM 00704 and Leonard Bernstein Discusses Humor in Music at DBM 00694.

It’s clear Bernstein is a favorite with the NLS Music Section; Donna Koh blogged in 2016 about him, and Gilbert Busch celebrated his birthday in our series of Amercian Composers and Musicians.

We remember and celebrate Lenny!



Bernstein at 100

When I was in grade school, our chorus teacher let us hear a record called What Is Jazz (DBM00704), where tone color, blue notes, syncopation, and other aspects of jazz were described by a man named Leonard Bernstein (I assumed that he was a jazz piano player). By sixth grade I was listening to classical music […]

The Music and Sounds of the Vietnam Era

Like many other Americans, I have been tuning in to the documentary The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick this past week. This 10-part series depicts the grim realities of the Vietnam War at home and abroad, and the soundtrack of the movie transports one back to the late 1960s quite perfectly. With […]

Made in America

“Children must receive musical instruction naturally as food, and with as much pleasure as they derive from a ball game.” -Leonard Bernstein Today, we celebrate the birthday of Leonard Bernstein, one of the greatest American musicians of the twentieth century. Many of us know him as the celebrated conductor of the New York Philharmonic, the […]