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MEREDITH WILLSON

Meredith Willson was one of America’s most talented artistic personalities. As a composer his idiom, style and sources of inspiration were always American. Meredith was born in Mason City, Iowa on 18 May 1902. It was a family tradition to gather every evening around the piano in the living room to sing favorite songs. As a boy, Meredith was the proud owner of the first mail-order flute ever seen in his native city. The fact that he promptly sat on it, bending it to resemble a scimitar, may have been inadvertent. But it may also have been intentional, because he was bitterly disappointed to discover that he had to play it sideways, over his shoulder, instead of where he could see what was going on.

At fourteen, armed with a new flute, his father’s prayers and a bag of his mothers fried chicken, he set off for the Damrosch Institute of Musical Arts in New York, for the start of what was to be a brilliant career. There, young Meredith took private flute lessons from Georges Barrère, composition from Mortimer Wilson and conducting from Henry Hadley. To help meet expenses during his musical schooling he began playing in motion picture theaters in the Bronx. At the age of seventeen he auditioned for John Philip Sousa, who signed him up for a nationwide tour with his famous band. He remained with Sousa for three seasons, touring the United States, Mexico, Cuba and Canada. In 1925 Willson joined the New York Philharmonic as flutist, performing under such conductors as Toscanini, Furtwängler, Mengelberg, Goossens, Reiner, Stravinsky, and others.

In 1932 he joined NBC as general musical director of the Western Division, with headquarters in San Francisco, at radio station KFRC. He was a busy man for the next ten years, directing sometimes as many as seventeen musical radio programs a week and finding time for such extra-curricular activities as conducting the Seattle Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

For nearly four years during World War II he was addressed as Major Meredith Willson, head of the music division of the Armed Forces Radio Service, which produced such memorable programs as Command Performance and Mail Call for GIs all over he world. He came out of the service determined to embark on a personal crusade to do something about what he felt were the trite musical programs on radio and the tired format into which commercial announcements had fallen. In his zeal to make commercials palatable, Willson conceived the "Talking People," a speaking chorus to deliver the sponsor’s message, and various other ingenious devices. He also developed his own radio personality as a comedian.

As a composer of popular songs, Willson apparently had a Midas touch. "You and I", "Two in Love" and "May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You" swept the country within a few weeks after they were published. He also wrote marches, anthems, and musical scores for a number of films, notably The Great Dictator and The Little Foxes. His autobiography, And There I Stood with My Piccolo, became a best seller.

Meredith Willson achieved his greatest triumph with his musical revue The Music Man, for which he wrote the book, the lyrics and the music. It opened on Broadway on 19 December 1957 and became an instant success. The sparkling score and the hit chorus 76 Trombones made Willson a household name. He followed this with another Broadway hit, The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1960). Both were made into movies. In addition to his two symphonies, Willson composed a symphonic poem, The Jervis Bay, O.O. McIntyre Suite, based on the writing of the famed columnist, Symphonic Variations on an American Theme, Song of Steel, premièred by John Charles Thomas, Radio City Suite, a choral work, Anthem of the Atomic Age, and numerous shorter orchestral pieces in a lighter vein, including Sneezing Violins, A Child’s Letter, Piccolo Polka, and The Marguerite Waltz. Meredith Willson died in Santa Monica, California on 15 June 1984.

View by Role: Classical Composer | Non-Classical Composer | Lyricist | Conductor
Role: Classical Composer 
Album Title
Catalogue No  Work Category 
100 FAMOUS MARCHES Altissimo
75442201072
Choral - Secular
25 FAMOUS MARCHES, Vol. 4 Altissimo
75442255402
Wind Ensemble/Band Music
76 TROMBONES - Works for Trombone Altissimo
75442259892
Wind Ensemble/Band Music
ANDERSON, L.: Orchestral Music, Vol. 3 - Sleigh Ride / The Typewriter / Plink, Plank, Plunk! / The Syncopated Clock Naxos
8.559357
Musicals
BLUE VELVET - 60 Nostalgia All Time Classics Naxos Nostalgia
8.103018
Nostalgia
Broadway Blockbusters Naxos
8.555012
Orchestral
Broadway Blockbusters Naxos International
8.990041
Orchestral
BROADWAY CHORAL FAVOURITES Marco Polo
8.225913HDCD
Musicals
Choral Concert : United States Army Chorus – KEY, F.S. / SMITH, J.S. / KOFF, C. / JONES, T. / ROBODA, S. / KELLET, D.T. (Songs of the Soldiers) Altissimo
75442255872
Choral - Secular
CHRISTMAS and HANUKAH: I'll Be Home for the Holidays Naxos
8.554714
Chamber Music
LET'S GO TO THE MOVIES! - Popular Music Selection from Movies Altissimo
75442259872
Film and TV Music
PARADE MUSIC Altissimo
75442259922
Wind Ensemble/Band Music
SINATRA, Frank: The Early Years, Vol. 1 (1940-1942) Naxos Nostalgia
8.120539
Nostalgia
UNITED STATES AIR FORCE BAND AND SINGING SERGEANTS: New Singing Sergeants (The) Altissimo
75442262582
Choral - Secular
UNITED STATES AIR FORCE BAND OF THE GOLDEN WEST: Bayside Bravura Altissimo
75442260342
Wind Ensemble/Band Music
UNITED STATES AIR FORCE BAND OF THE ROCKIES: Hands Across the Sea Altissimo
75442260442
Wind Ensemble/Band Music
UNITED STATES AIR FORCE BAND: There She Stands Altissimo
75442261422
Vocal Ensemble
UNITED STATES ARMY FIELD BAND AND SOLDIERS' CHORUS: Band Music Altissimo
75442262652
Wind Ensemble/Band Music
UNITED STATES ARMY FIELD BAND: Let There Be Peace On Earth Altissimo
75442260762
Choral - Secular
Vocal Music - WEILL, K. / DOWLAND, J. / GABRIEL, P. / GABRIELI, A. / CERTON, P. / RODGERS, R. / MANCHICOURT, P. de (… just songs!) (Die Singphoniker) Oehms Classics
OC801
Vocal Ensemble
WILLSON, M.: Music Man (The) (Original Broadway Cast Recording) (1957) Naxos
8.120886
Musicals
WILLSON, M.: Symphonies Nos. 1 and 2 Naxos
8.559006
Orchestral

Role: Non-Classical Composer 
Album Title
Catalogue No  Work Category 
129TH ARMY BAND: 129th Army Band Altissimo
75442261232
Wind Ensemble/Band Music
CHRISTMAS ORCHESTRAL MUSIC - This Is Christmas! (United States Air Force Symphony) Altissimo
75442255552
Orchestral
KAYE, Danny: Danny Kaye! (1941-1952) Naxos Nostalgia
8.120775
Nostalgia
UNITED STATES AIR FORCE BAND AND SINGING SERGEANTS: Christmas on Stage and Screen Altissimo
75442253492
Choral - Secular

Role: Lyricist 
Album Title
Catalogue No  Work Category 

Role: Conductor 
Album Title  Catalogue No  Work Category 





 
 
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9:51:11 PM, 19 December 2014
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