Monday, August 01, 2005

Controversy over cast albums

We've mentioned the Irving Berlin exhibit at the SF Performing Arts Library and Museum several times. Recently the intrepid Annette attended a very informative talk by the exhibit's curator, David Leopold, who is also a long-time archivist of Al Hirschfeld. (Remind me at the end to tell you a Hirschfeld story.)

"Mr. Leopold's book on the works of Irving Berlin will be published later this fall by Harry N. Abrams. This exhibit is a joint venture between PALM and The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, which is where the exhibit will move to early next year after it leaves SF.

(Ed. Note: And is where they have an incredible musical theatre score collection and is where I used to go copy all of my audition music back when I lived there...was I breaking copyright laws? Looking back...I think so.)

42nd Street Moon got nice plugs at the Exhibit's gala opening and tonight during the lecture. Mr. Leopold
says MISS LIBERTY has a great score and he hopes to maybe come see the show in the fall.

But 42nd St. Moon controversy erupted because Annette reported that Leopold said: Miss Liberty was the first show to have a cast recording.

Not so! No way! Now we're trying to figure out what landmark the Miss Liberty cast recording might represent.

Greg says: "OKLAHOMA! in 1943 is usually credited with being the first American "Original cast album" (the Brits had been doing it for years before that), although in reality THE CRADLE WILL ROCK really was the first in the late 1930s. By the time MISS LIBERTY came around in 1949, there had been numerous cast recordings released -- including Berlin's THIS IS THE ARMY, so ML wasn't even the first Berlin show to get a cast recording. And SOUTH PACIFIC, I believe, from a few months before MISS LIBERTY, was the first cast recording released as an LP instead of on 78s."

(Greg is clearly a scholar and a gentleman, how else could he know this stuff!?)

Then Annette thought perhaps the landmark was that it was the first Irving Berlin recording out on LP, because it was mentioned that Berlin had really wished that the earlier work Louisiana Purchase had gotten a cast recording.

I tell this story because I think it illustrates pretty well what 42nd St. Moon's work on these older shows really entails: sifting through information that is not always well documented, expertly archived, or easily deciphered. We take for granted today's technologies and how easily they let us record for posterity how things are or were.

As for the Hirschfeld story: I met a guy recently who has a daughter named Nina (as Hirschfeld's daughter was.) During the boom, when he thought he'd be rich and it would last forever he actually hired Hirschfeld to do one of drawing of his daughter. They flew out to New York and spent the day at Hirschfeld's house, where she posed for Hirschfeld. Now my friend has an original Hirschfeld of his non-famous daughter Nina hanging in his house. How cool is that? Gotta be one of the more unique mementoes of the boom, don't you think?

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