The Magic of Rodgers & Hammerstein

(Mar. 4, 2018) — I am having a great time creating arrangements for pedal harp of well-known Broadway show tunes, many of which were composed by the famous duo of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.  Rodgers wrote the lyrics to the melodies which Hammerstein seemed to magically put together for dozens of musicals.

During my 28 years in performing, I “arranged” a lot of the songs now uploaded to SheetMusicPlus for sale, but they were often played from penciled-over piano parts or from memory, since that was often easier.   It is quite different now having them properly notated, and they are much easier to read.

Since I grew up in the 60s and 70s, I loved adapting songs recorded by Neil Diamond, John Denver, Lionel Ritchie, and other greats of that era.  I was sometimes asked to play Beatles selections, which worked well as long as they were the slower ballads such as John Lennon’s “Grow Old With Me.”

Songs of the 80s, 90s and later also worked well if they were written, or could be interpreted, in the same vein.

In an earlier post, I wrote that I like to produce arrangements in groups of ten, but I am enjoying doing the show tunes, especially the Rodgers & Hammerstein ones, so much that I plan to stay the course until I run out of material.  Then I will move on to other “pop” tunes that I believe will work well on my instrument.

I particularly remember playing “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” by Jerome Kern quite often at events, where it was often recognized by the older guests as nostalgic, a throwback to an earlier time when the world seemingly moved a bit slower and people appreciated a good musical performance.  There are some challenging pedal changes in that one, but even with the modulation in the middle, it’s quite playable for intermediate-to-advanced harpists.

My favorites thus far are “Younger Than Springtime” from “South Pacific,” whose harp part I performed some years ago in a high school production; and “If I Loved You” from the musical “Carousel.”