Listen to what people who know and love the tradition of live music on Broadway say about the musical theatre experience:
“New York City is about live music. Nobody suggests for a second that you would have the same quality performance if you just play a tape.” – Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
World-renowned Broadway musical composer Stephen Sondheim talks about the critical importance of maintaining live music on Broadway
A veteran musical director of scores of Broadway productions, Paul Gemignani discusses how live orchestras make performances exciting in a way that taped music never can, and the importance of preserving live music in America
John McDaniel has many Broadway orchestration and musical production credits to his name, including Grease and Annie Get Your Gun. Here he demonstrates how live orchestration profoundly boosts the authenticity of a musical.
Notable Supporters of Save Live Music on Broadway
Among the many supporters of the Save Live Music Campaign On Broadway campaign:
Marc Shaiman – Composer, Lyricist, Arranger (Hairspray, Catch Me If You Can)
Michael Korie and Scott Frankel – Lyricist and Composer of Grey Gardens
Joseph Polisi – President of the Julliard School for Dance, Drama and Music
John Corigliano – Composer. Academy Award for Original Music Score (The Red Violin), Pulitzer Prize for Music (Symphony No. 2), Grammy Award for Best Classical Cotemporary Composition (Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan)
Glenn Dicterow – Concertmaster – New York Philharmonic Orchestra
Laura Hamilton – Assistant Concertmaster – Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
William Ross – Composer and arranger. Emmys for Outstanding Music Direction (Streisand, The Concert) and for Outstanding Original Music (Hugh Jackman Opening Number, 81st Academy Awards). Conducted John Williams’ theme for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Marshall Coid – Violin Soloist (Chicago and many other musicals), Actor, Arranger
John Sebastian – Singer/Songwriter (The Lovin’ Spoonful)
Coati Mundi – Vibraphonist (Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band)
Brian Keane – Emmy and Grammy winning Composer and Producer
Tommy James -Singer/Songwriter (Tommy James and the Shondells)
Quotes from Notable Supporters
“I guess if you really want to know why live music in the theater is so essential, look at the arbiters of taste who think it’s unnecessary: the producers of cruise ship shows and theme park musicals. Any producers of Broadway shows who want to join their ranks are welcome to the critical drubbing and audience snubbing they will receive, but I don’t believe any respectable, knowledgeable Broadway producer will ultimately want to use canned music, particularly when every composer, lyricist, director and lead performer they want for their show will take themselves and their work elsewhere to get produced. Because there is not one single composer working today in live theater who thinks canned music is going to make the music sound better. Not one.
To a stage performer, there is nothing more stifling than to sing to a prerecorded music track. It robs a performance of everything that makes a live performance alive. Lost is the actor’s ability to control his or her performance by changing a shading or nuance in the music because being ‘in the moment’ calls for it. Lost is the conductor’s ability to musically shape a performance by, say, moving a tempo along more briskly if he or she senses that the audience is falling asleep—yes, it happens. Most important of all, lost is the audience’s very costly chance to experience the literally spine-tingling thrill of hearing live musicians in the orchestra pit of a Broadway theater. Why? Because there is a physical phenomenon known among the musicians as ‘assonance,’ by which the way musicians are seated can affect the sound– in other words, for example, seat a flutist next to a clarinetist, the sound that emerges has an assonance which can only happen live, one that enriches the experience of everyone in the theater who hears it. When music is pre-recorded, no assonance happens. No mingling of the acoustic of the theater with the invisible magic of the live musicians occurs. Can audiences tell the difference? You bet they can. And they’ll be pointing it out in an instant on all the theater blogs.
While we’re on the subject of live music, note to Broadway set designers and directors: stop covering the orchestra pit with an extended stage. Please give up that tired affectation. Even an orchestra with a great deal of sound reinforcement sounds a million times better when that mixed sound is combined with the natural acoustic emerging from an orchestra pit, instead of a room in the basement. We all have to be vigilant about keeping the music live and present, or the reason for going to live theater will cease to exist.” – Michael Korie, Lyricist (Grey Gardens)
“There’s no substitute for musicians in the pit.” – John Sebastian, Songwriter (The Lovin’ Spoonful)
“Going to see a Broadway musical is one of the few remaining hand-cobbled experiences left in our digitized entertainment world. It is still something of a tightrope act: the actors are delivering their lines and songs in real time, not prerecorded; the live musicians perform the score with nuance and sensitivity, reacting not only to subtle interpretative variances” – Scott Frankel, Composer (Grey Gardens)
“The notion that the integrity of your product doesn’t matter is dangerously short sighted. Broadway is a ‘brand name.’ It is one of the most respected brand names in all of entertainment. Simply mentioning that a person has played Broadway or written for Broadway, directed or produced on Broadway….is an association with a brand name that implies a unique quality, integrity, and artistic experience.
Businesses are spending tens of millions of dollars to build and protect brand names. The producers, who are so greedily and short-sightedly passing off an inferior product to a public, mistakenly thinking that the public won’t care, are in for a real surprise as the public becomes unwilling to pay the ticket prices for what will rapidly be considered an inferior production.” – William Ross, Composer and arranger (The Tale of Despereaux); Emmy winner for Outstanding Music Direction (Streisand, The Concert) and Outstanding Original Music (Hugh Jackman Opening Number, 81st Academy Awards).
“Back in the disco days STRINGS were front and center. They were an integral part of the music thus they were figured into the recording budgets automatically.
Strings were prominently featured in many of the disco classics like”Fly Robin Fly” , “Last Dance” and “YMCA”. In fact many disco songs made use of the orchestral sound including “Let’s All Chant” , “Fifth of Beethoven” and the disco versions of the “Star Wars” & “Space Odyssey” themes.
Specifically on our albums (Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band) STRINGS gave our music a sizzling sophistication. We used them in every one of our songs. Strings acted as a time machine taking us to a bygone era and place. They triggered our imagination in real time. They added animation to our dreams.
As kids we were thrilled by the mere sight of all these amazing players gathering in one room to adorn our record. Charlie Calello did the orchestrations for our first record and then in subsequent albums we used legendary figures like Jimmy Haskell and Van Alexander.
Witnessing all this inspired me to learn string orchestrations. Was fortunate to work with amazing performers like Harry Lookofsky, David Nadien, Marin Alsop and Jill Jaffe.
As an arranger it was a career highlight to stand in front of all these talented and celebrated artists. For the most part I am self-taught so initially I was a bit intimidated. I thought due to a preconceived idea there would be a certain amount of snobbery but it never materialized. These highly trained musicians were most patient and generous and eased my fear. They also made our music “dance.”
As an audience member there is nothing as thrilling as to see and hear real strings. The minute you see them even one violin player in a subway it takes the whole musical experience to a higher aural dimension. The visual impact of seeing a string ensemble is priceless. When it came to disco music Violins, Violas & Cellos represented royalty. Strings were King … ummm … and Queen!!!” – Coati Mundi (Disco Veteran)