Pre-Golden Age Music
The Pre-Golden Age Years:
Before I start to get into the genres you should have in your book, I’d like to put a couple disclaimers out into the universe.
- This is my opinion on what should be in your audition book. But your audition book is your audition book. Some people will have all these genres in their books. Others won’t. Others will have different genres that I haven’t even mentioned here. This is all about making your book work best for you. But as a general thought, these are the most likely genres that should be included in your book.
- I will not be mentioning any songs by name. I’m not here to recommend songs for you. I’ll talk through styles but it’s up to you to go do some research and find songs that are great for you. Go spend an afternoon at the Lincoln Center Library and listen to cast albums and old recordings. There is a treasure trove of amazing music out there just waiting for you to find it.
- If you do need recommendations or help with finding music, there are lots of classes and people that can help you. We’ll have some Rep classes here at Save My Audition (aptly names Find My Audition) in the future. You can send us an email and we’ll gladly help. You can also go visit Sara Glancy over at Audition Rep Matchmaker, she’s wonderful. In fact we just had a session this week and she brought in an amazing song I had never heard before from the Golden Era. It was refreshing to hear and a hell of a good find.
- Have fun. Above all your book should be fun for you.
So let’s start with the first thing on my list. Operetta. English operetta as we know it came to be in the 1860s. Arthur Sullivan (composer) and W.S. Gilbert (libretto) were the staples at the beginning and the end. They wrote 14 operettas together. Operetta eventually made it’s way over to the good ole States where Victor Herbert had his way with it… I’m falling asleep. If you really want to know more about Operetta do some research. It’s actually pretty interesting but too much to go into.
The first Operetta that I ever did was HMS Pinafore when I was in college. I can’t say it was a rousing awakening into a new genre of music that I was unfamiliar with. But I do wish I had appreciated it more when I was doing it. There’s a charm about the music from this era that really makes me feel good now that I’m a little older and maybe a little wiser. I'm not saying that you need to find a song from THE BLACK CROOK (not an operetta). But it is wise to have a oldie but goodie in your book. There is a lot we can tell about your voice from these types of songs.
This is a great genre to find a solid patter song in. Especially the stuff written by Gilbert and Sullivan. It may seem a little dated, but it does a great job showing off that part of your rep. There are also countless ballads that are beautiful and can show off your range and vocal quality.
- Gilbert and Sullivan
- Victor Herbert
- Sigmund Romberg
- Rudolf Friml
- John Phillip Sousa
- Reginald DeKoven
- many, many others
Jazz Age Standards:
The list of songs and composers that can fit into this category is almost endless. This is where some of my favorite songs come from. If you haven’t seen the Ken Burns documentary about Jazz music, do yourself a favor and watch it. Now. You will not regret it. This genre of music covers everything from slow sultry blues standards to hot on fire uptempo swings. If you've never heard Blind Willie Johnsons' Dark Was the Night, Cold was the Ground, listen to it right now... I'll wait.
The sheer catalog of music is a little daunting. Just start listening to stuff and see what you respond to. Also, go see some concerts with Jazz at Lincoln Center (link). They have some wonderful vocal concerts, you can hear some incredible singers and steal some great songs from them.
The fun thing about jazz standards is the limitless possibilities of how you can tailor them to suit your needs. Many of these songs already have a plethora of arrangements that have been circulating for as long as they have been written. Don’t be scared to find a great song you love and hire a great pianist to help you come up with an arrangement that works best for you. This genre is straight up fun to find songs that work for you. Someone to Watch Over Me as a Bossa Nova, I’ve heard it, and it’s brilliant. Think outside the box. Give the people in the room something to talk about. We like old songs done in a new way. As long as it is done well. Don’t throw music in front of a pianist and ask them to arrange something on the spot. We may enjoy doing it, but you never know who is behind the piano, what their skill level is, or what kind of day they have had.
Jazz Standard Writers:
Theatre specific (these composers cross into Golden Age):
- George and Ira Gershwin (both with lots of other partners)
- Jerome Kern
- Cole Porter
- Dorothy Fields
- Irving Berlin
- Rodgers and Hart
- Kurt Weill
- Noël Coward
- many, many others
Way way way too many to name. Start listening to some music and see what you like.
Here is a great place to start your research.
More to come next week…