Fiddler on the Roof Lyricist Sheldon Harnick and Conductor Judith Clurman at HUC-JIR School of Sacred Music's Masters Series, February 20, 2008

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Celebrated composer and lyricist to discuss career 

The School of Sacred Music at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion/New York Masters Series will feature a discussion with Sheldon Harnick, renowned lyricist of Fiddler on the Roof and other works for Broadway and film, moderated by choral conductor Judith Clurman, on February 20, 2008, from 10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. in the Minnie Petrie Synagogue, Brookdale Center, One W. 4th Street (between Broadway and Mercer), New York. 

The Masters Series, made possible by a generous contribution by Miriam Pollack Rehmar, in memory of her husband Dr. Michael Rehmar, provides the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion community with the opportunity to learn from Jewish musicians and artists who have made a lasting impact on American culture. Other artists in this year's series have included noted opera performer Regina Resnick and celebrated film composer Howard Shore. 

About Sheldon Harnick 

Born and raised in Chicago, Sheldon Harnick began studying the violin while in grammar school. After serving in the U.S. Army for three years, he enrolled in the Northwestern University School of Music, and earned a Bachelor of Music degree in 1949. Though his focus had been the violin, Harnick also developed skills as a writer of comedy sketches, songs and parody lyrics, and eventually decided to try his luck as a theatrical lyricist in New York City. His first song in a Broadway show, "The Boston Beguine" for New Faces of 1952, introduced theatergoers to the wry, subtle humor and deft wordplay indicative of a Harnick lyric. Over the next several years he contributed lyrics or whole songs to such vintage revues as John Murray Anderson's Almanac, The Shoestring Revue and The Littlest Revue. A few more years were spent working on other writers' trouble-plagued Broadway-bound musicals before Harnick joined up with composer Jerry Bock to write their own musicals. 

While the first Bock & Harnick musical, The Body Beautiful in 1958 showed promise, it was their second musical, FIORELLO! in 1959, that put the team on the map. Their musical biography of New York City's legendary mayor earned the Tony Award, Pulitzer Prize and New York Drama Critics' Circle Award. Their next musical, TENDERLOIN (1960), set in the seamy Tenderloin district of late 19th century New York, was followed by SHE LOVES ME (1963), which beguiled audiences with its Central European charm and operetta elegance. In 1964 Bock & Harnick, working with director-choreographer Jerome Robbins and book writer Joseph Stein, created a musical masterpiece that vividly evoked a vanished community while telling a story with universal and timeless appeal. FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, based on a series of short stories by Jewish folklorist Sholom Alecheim, earned the Tony Award, New York Drama Critics' Circle Award, a gold record (for both its Broadway cast album and film soundtrack recordings) and a platinum record (for the Broadway album). In 1971, with the Broadway production still running, United Artists released the film version starring Topol. The following year the stage production became the longest-running show in Broadway history, a record it held until 1979. 

After FIDDLER, the Bock & Harnick collaboration went on to include such versatile fare as THE APPLE TREE (1966), which was comprised of three one-act musicals. This was followed by THE ROTHSCHILDS in 1970, an epic telling of the founding of the Rothschild banking dynasty. Harnick's other collaborators in musical theatre have included Michel Legrand, for whom Harnick translated The Umbrellas of Cherbourg in 1979 before working together on a musical of A Christmas Carol in 1981; Mary Rodgers, with whom Harnick wrote a version of Pinocchio in 1973 for the famed Bil Baird Marionettes, and a song, "William's Doll," for Marlo Thomas' Free to Be...You and Me in 1974; Richard Rodgers, joining forces for the score to Rex in 1976, a Broadway musical about Henry VIII; and Joe Raposo, where their joint credits included Sutter's Gold (1980), a cantata premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and A Wonderful Life (1986), a musical based on Frank Capra's holiday classic. A solo work, Dragons in 1984, was based on a Russian play and given its premiere at Harnick's alma mater, Northwestern University. 

Harnick has provided English-language librettos for classical operas and oratorios, including works by Stravinsky, Ravel, Mozart, Bach and Verdi. His version of Lehar's The Merry Widow (1977) was premiered by the San Diego Opera Company starring Beverly Sills (a subsequent album won the 1979 Grammy Award for best new opera recording). His translation of Georges Bizet's Carmen was commissioned and premiered by the Houston Grand Opera in 1981 and served as the English text for Peter Brooks' acclaimed La Tragedie De Carmen in 1984. His translation of several Yiddish songs were featured in the Los Angeles and New York productions of Joshua Sobol's play Ghetto in 1986 and he collaborated on the English libretto for the Broadway production of the Dutch musical Cyrano in 1993. His original opera librettos include Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines (1975), music by Jack Beeson; Love in Two Countries (1991), music by Thomas A. Shepard; and The Phantom Tollbooth (1995), music by Arnold Black and based on Norton Juster's popular children's book. 

His work for television and film ranges from songs for the HBO animated film, The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1991) with music by Stephen Lawrence, to lyrics for the opening number of the 1988 Academy Awards telecast. He wrote the theme songs for two films, both with music by Cy Coleman: The Heartbreak Kid (1972) andBlame it On Rio (1984). 

Sheldon Harnick is a member of The Dramatists Guild and the Songwriters Guild of America. In addition to his Tonys, Pulitzer, and Grammys, his many other honors include: The Johnny Mercer Award presented by the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Marc Blizstein Memorial Award for achievement in the creation of opera librettos, presented by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and Honorary Doctorates of Humane Letters awarded by Illinois Wesleyan University, and Muskingum College. In 2005, he and his wife, Margery, celebrated their fortieth anniversary with their children Beth and Matthew. 

About Judith Clurman, Moderator 

Judith Clurman is currently Associate Music Director of Sesame Street, Music Director of The Clurman Singers, and Artistic Consultant to the Leonard Bernstein Center for Learning. From 1989-2007, she was Director of Choral Activities at The Juilliard School, where she created the Juilliard Choral Union and the popular seminar "The Complete Choral Musician." She taught and conducted at a number of other institutions, including Harvard, Cambridge University and Eton College in England, the Janáček Academy in the Czech Republic, the Universitá d'Ancona in Italy, and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion's School of Sacred Music in New York. Educated at Oberlin and Juilliard, Clurman is a member of the Special Classifications Committee and Awards Panel of ASCAP and has a choral series published under her name for G. Schirmer/Hal Leonard Music. She has conducted for the New York City Ballet, Lincoln Center's Great Performers, the Orchestra of St. Luke's, the Mark Morris Dance Company, Alvin Ailey II, and served as chorus master for the New York Philharmonic, the Mostly Mozart Festival, and several Carnegie Hall series orchestras. In 2006 she co-directed Harvard University's Leonard Bernstein festival, and "Mr. President" for the Library of Congress. Clurman has commissioned and conducted premieres from dozens of America's finest composers, ranging from Milton Babbitt and William Bolcom to Marvin Hamlisch and Stephen Schwartz. She was guest conductor in New York City for Stephen Sondheim's 75th Birthday Celebration and for both Jason Robert Brown and They Might Be Giants on the Great American Songbook series. For more than a decade, she was founding director of The New York Concert Singers. She began her association with Mr. Harnick when she wrote a paper for her high school English class on the history of the American Musical Theater in 1970 and collaborated with him on projects with the New York Philharmonic and at Juilliard. 

To RSVP to the Masters Series, please call (212) 824-2279 or Admission is free; Photo ID required. 

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's first institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding.