AMS - Library of Congress Lecture Series

The American Musicological Society and the Music Division of the Library of Congress are pleased to present a series of lectures highlighting musicological research conducted in the Division’s collections.

Open to the public, the series is held in the Library’s famed Coolidge Auditorium in the Jefferson Building.

Upcoming Lectures

Paul LairdPaul Laird describes his lecture as follows: “Chichester Psalms (1965), composed by a musician who prized accessibility and tonal structures, is often comparable with common-practice harmonies and resembles the style of Bernstein’s theatrical works. A reason for this appears in the correspondence between the composer and the set’s commissioner, The Reverend Walter Hussey, dean of Chichester Cathedral. Hussey requested that the piece include ‘a hint of West Side Story,’ an invitation that the composer embraced as he assembled and transformed excerpts from his ‘bottom drawer’ and wrote fresh material for Chichester Psalms.

“My lecture describes Bernstein’s 1964-65 sabbatical season from the New York Philharmonic and his compositional process for Chichester Psalms, based on material in the Bernstein Collection at the Library of Congress, including correspondence, datebooks, compositional sketches, and scrapbooks. Sources demonstrate Bernstein’s unsuccessful efforts to write a musical based upon Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth with Betty Comden, Adolph Green, and Jerome Robbins, and those sketches also show how he adapted some of that music for use in Chichester Psalms. Sketches of ideas from the 1940s and 1950s also became part of the work, and written notes illuminate Bernstein’s developing thinking on the composition’s organization. Finally there are musical sketches for the work itself, which include intriguing possibilities that he rejected, as well as the draft of the piano/vocal score and fair copy, along with lyric sheets that provide more unrealized organizational possibilities.”

Paul R. Laird has published books and articles on the life and works of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Schwartz, musical theater, the Spanish villancico, and the Baroque cello. His Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms (2010) is part of the series CMS Sourcebooks on American Music Series and his most recent books include Wicked: A Musical Biography and The Musical Theater of Stephen Schwartz: From Godspell to Wicked and Beyond. With William A. Everett, Laird co-edited the two editions of The Cambridge Companion to the Musical. Laird’s current project, with co-author Hsun Lin, is the second edition of Leonard Bernstein: A Guide to Research.

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