Leonard Bernstein — “West Side Story”
Leonard Bernstein — “West Side Story,” medley arranged by Jack Mason

For many Americans growing up in the 1950s, Leonard Bernstein was classical music. The young, vivacious musician— the first American-born maestro to ever hold a major conducting post in America — took orchestra concerts out of the concert hall and put them on radio and television, bringing the glories of classical music into the living rooms of millions of Americans.

He was also a brilliant composer who wrote music for the concert hall as well as Broadway. Bernstein’s first three musicals — “On the Town,” “Wonderful Town” and “Candide” — were quickly hailed as masterpieces. Still, these great works hardly prepared the world for the smash hit that was Bernstein’s fourth foray in the theatre, “West Side Story,” which premiered in 1957.

Based on William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” “West Side Story” tells of two teenagers who fall in love across rival gang lines. Graced by timeless tunes including “Maria,” “I Feel Pretty,” “Somewhere,” and “Tonight,” “West Side Story” summed up not only the concerns of a generation, but also the glory of American music in the 1950s.

Tonight, we’ll hear a medley of tunes from the musical, arranged with Bernstein’s approval by Jack Mason, a great musical theater arranger and orchestrator.

Program notes provided by Joe Nickell

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