This month, we’re celebrating one of the most well-known, well-respected, and celebrated composers out there today—Stephen Sondheim!
The Composer and Lyricist
Born in 1930 in New York, New York, Stephen Sondheim is a composer and lyricist who has written music and lyrics for some of the most well-known and well-loved productions in modern musical theater. His achievements have been honored with: an Academy Award; more Tony Awards than any other composer (eight, including a Tony for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre); eight Grammy Awards; a Pulitzer Prize; and others.
After a well-to-do but troubled childhood, he met James Hammerstein, the son of famed lyricist and playwright Oscar Hammerstein II. The Broadway legend became “Sondheim’s surrogate father” as well as a great mentor for songwriting and musical theater. His relationship with the Broadway great had an enormous influence on his work.
Perhaps Sondheim’s most well-known musical is Into the Woods, which not only was an enormous hit on Broadway, but was made into a feature-length movie with an all-star cast that included Chris Pine, Emily Blunt, and Meryl Streep. What you may not realize, however, is that he also wrote the lyrics for West Side Story. Just a small sampling of the long list of his other works include:
- A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
- Sweeney Todd
- A Little Night Music
- Sunday in the Park with George
He wrote the lyrics for Gypsy and rewrote lyrics for Candide. Sondheim also composed several pieces of music for film, including Dick Tracy. His Academy Award was for a song from the movie performed by Madonna, “Sooner or Later (I Always Get My Man)”. And the movie The Birdcage, starring Robyn Williams and Nathan Lane, features several of his songs, including “Little Dream”.
Sondheim’s musical style is highly recognizable. He is known for complex and intricate scores with large, sometimes unexpected jumps in intervals. The music can even seem a bit tonal and seem difficult to sing because the music isn’t necessarily intuitive.
With his unique style along with his whit, humor, Stephen Sondheim has become one of the most loved, respected, and honored composers today.
So for the rest of the month on the Minnich Music Facebook and in our studio, we will be learning about Sondheim, sharing Sondheim trivia, and even learn some Sondheim music!