Music department to present 'Simply Sondheim'

SUNY Oswego’s State Singers and College Choir will present “Simply Sondheim,” drawing from musicals by Stephen Sondheim, at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 24, in the Sheldon Hall ballroom.

Sondheim is considered by many to be one of the premiere composers of musical theatre in the United States. He was a student of Oscar Hammerstein II and got his first significant opportunity in music theatre as a lyricist. He provided lyrics for Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” and “Candide” as well as for Jule Styne’s “Gypsy.”

“Sondheim’s lyrics are complicated and brilliant at times, with all sorts of internal rhyming that demands attention on the part of the listener,” said Julie Pretzat, professor and chair of music at SUNY Oswego. “Many of Sondheim’s musicals were not huge box-office successes but are well crafted and often profound—a contrast with many of the musicals of his contemporaries.”

Stephen Citron, in his book “Sondheim and Lloyd-Webber: The New Musical,” writes that fans return to see an Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical to wallow in its romantic effusions, whereas fans return to a Sondheim show to better understand what they have witnessed. Sondheim takes work on the part of the audience, but it is well worth the effort, he noted. Although the names of Sondheim’s musicals are familiar, anyone outside the music theatre world would be hard put to come up with a long list of hit songs from the shows, with one exception: “Send in the Clowns” from “A Little Night Music.”

At this concert, the two choral groups will perform a medley from “West Side Story” as well as selections from the following Sondheim shows: “Anyone Can Whistle,” “A Little Night Music,” “Company,” “Into the Woods,” “Sweeney Todd,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “Passion, An Evening Primrose” and “Merrily We Roll Along.”

“Well-known choral director Robert Page, who has expertly maintained the complex extended harmonic language and the dramatic intent of the composer, has arranged most of the selections,” Pretzat said. “These arrangements exhibit Sondheim’s craft as both composer and lyricist.”

There is no admission charge for this concert, which is sponsored by the SUNY Oswego music department and Student Association. Seating is limited, so early arrival is recommended.

Persons with disabilities seeking accommodations to attend this event should contact the music department at 312-2130 in advance.

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(Posted: Apr 11, 2005)