Jerome Kern: 1st Composer of the American Songbook

  • Searle Kochberg (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk

Description of Activity

Jerome Kern once famously said of Irving Berlin that he… ‘has no place in American music. He is American music.’ Well that was very generous of Kern, but not strictly accurate. Like Berlin, Kern was one of the most important American theatre composers of the early 20th Century. Like him too, he was innovative. Unlike Berlin, however, he was also classically trained. But that training alone did not account for a style that produced a melodic line that was ‘as natural as walking’.

Generally considered to have written the 1st great song ‘standard’ for the American musical, They Didn’t Believe Me (1914), Kern was an early exponent of songs to further the action or develop characterisation. He worked with a variety of Librettists, such as Guy Bolton, PG Wodehouse and Oscar Hammerstein (in their famous 1927 musical for Ziegfeld, Show Boat).
In this online talk, I will remind you of the enormous output of this extraordinary talent, as well as perhaps introduce you to some new works. Along the way, Youtube clips will help illustrate the talk with a cast of stars including Judy Garland, Howard Keel, Diana Shore, Irene Dunne, Allan Jones, Kathryn Grayson, Lena Horne, Paul Robeson, June Allyson and Angela Lansbury.
Period10 Nov 2021
Held atJW3, United Kingdom