White House Cantata, A

From Wind Repertory Project
Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein (trans. Ryan Nowlin)

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Subtitle: Selections, mezo soprano and baritone vocal soloists

General Info

Year: 1997 /
Difficulty: (see Ratings for explanation)
Original Medium: Orchestra
Publisher: Unpublished
Cost: Score and Parts - Unknown


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None discovered thus far.

Program Notes

A White House Cantata, a work released after Bernstein’s death and compiled from music originally written for the composer’s little known collaboration with Alan Jay Lerner, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, is a unique Broadway musical, composed in our nation’s bicentennial year of 1976, that conveys American history as viewed from the perspective of the residents of the executive mansion.

- Program Note from Butler University Wind Ensemble concert program, 15 November 2018

The musical was much anticipated at the time because of the collaboration of these two titans. Their names were in larger typeface on the theater marquee than the title. Instead it ended up as one of the greatest flops in Broadway history, closing after only seven performances and causing such grief to Bernstein and Lerner that they decreed there would be no cast recording.

A White House Cantata retains 90 minutes of the two hours of music from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and was shaped by Charlie Harmon, the former music editor of the Bernstein estate, and Sid Ramin, an original orchestrator of the show. Their purpose was to rescue Bernstein’s music and Lerner’s lyrics from a clunky book overburdened with sermonizing about race relations. The cantata had its debut in London in 1997, performed by the London Symphony Orchestra with the London Voices under the American conductor Kent Nagano.

“Musically, this is top drawer,” said Robert Bass, the director of the Collegiate Chorale, “and whatever shortcomings the original Broadway musical had, the cantata does not suffer from. The score is Bernstein at his most exuberant and all-embracing. Identifiable in it are anthems, ballads, blues, calypso, drinking songs, Dixieland, torch songs, waltzes, jazz, hymns, spirituals, marches and a cappella barbershop harmonies.

“It is music that evokes the pioneering spirit of discovery which is quintessentially American,” Mr. Bass said.


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State Ratings

None discovered thus far.


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  • Butler University (Indianapolis, Ind.) Wind Ensemble (Michael Colburn, conductor; Sara Sheffield and Kevin Bennear, vocal) – 15 November 2018

Works for Winds by This Composer

Adaptable Music

  • Cool (Flex instrumentation) (arr. Murtha) (1957/2018)
  • West Side Story (Flex instrumentation) (arr. Sweeney) (1957/2015)

All Wind Works