Posted on September 11, 2006 at 9:20 am

Oh, I suspect there are many things in the world that can be blamed on Larry Blank, but only some of them are musical, and this is the story of one of those things.

I made Larry’s acquaintance through our lawyer, Mark Sendroff, when I asked Mark for some recommendations for orchestrators. (Larry has done several charts over the years for my State Farm shows, and he is also an extraordinarily gifted conductor.) Larry and I had a good time hanging out, I think we probably had some form of mutual respect based on the fact that at some point everyone in the New York theater world has wanted to have one or the other of us defenestrated.

So Larry called me and said he was doing this concert called “A Miracle On Broadway,” it was going to be this huge Chanukah concert with Betty Buckley and Kristin Chenoweth and Audra McDonald and I don’t even remember who else though I don’t think there was a Jew in the bunch, but anyway: they were going to do it at the Gershwin Theater, every Lubavitcher was coming, it was a holiday tradition in the making. Larry asked if I would write a suite of traditional Chanukah songs in a “Broadway” style to be used as the opening of the concert. Big chorus, big orchestra, big hoohah, and they’d give me a nice fee.

So I wrote the choral arrangement, I even taught the second movement during a rehearsal, I was just getting the score paper out to orchestrate the thing, the copyists were waiting, and Larry called, said “Wait, stop writing. Concert’s cancelled.” And it was, two days before it was supposed to happen, it was just stopped dead in its tracks. Anyone who went to the Gershwin that night was confronted by a locked door without even a taped notice that the show had been scratched. Which, apparently, wasn’t such a problem since they hadn’t really sold any tickets. Or so I was told, anyway.

Did I ever get paid? No, I did not.

So a couple of years later, I was going through my files and I found these choral arrangements, and I thought they looked pretty cool, so on a lark I sent them to Rick Walters, who’s my editor at Hal Leonard. And Rick wrote back and said he’d love to publish them. Et voila!, as the Jews say.

You can read more about the Chanukah Suite here.

I’m putting this recording up now because I figure any choral group that wants to do these arrangements for Chanukah probably has to get started right about now, and I really do want to encourage as many performances of this piece as I can. The choral literature for the holidays is all Christmas, Christmas, Christmas, and the few Chanukah pieces out there are generally about as much fun as … well, shul. So here’s one for the Tribe.

The recording is from a broadcast of the world premiere last winter by the Los Angeles Master Chorale. It’s got some bumps in it, but wow, these folks can sing, and Grant Gershon does an incredible job of making this choir sound at home in any style. ההנה מהמוסיקה!

“Chanukah Suite”
Arranged for chorus and piano by Jason Robert Brown
The Los Angeles Master Chorale, Grant Gershon, conductor
Lisa Edwards: piano
Recorded live at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA, December 11, 2005

Had a great concert last night at Birdland with Alice Ripley tearing up “And I Will Follow” and “Still Hurting,” and Kate McGarry just knocking us all out with a new song I wrote called “One More Thing Than I Can Handle” and new arrangements of “Long Long Road” and “If I Told You Now.” I also premiered a song from “Honeymoon In Vegas” that got a very nice response. If you weren’t there, I hope you’ll make it to the next one!

I’ve got a lot of unanswered “Ask JRB” posts, particularly about the “13” auditions, so I’ll try and get to those soon. Hang in there.

Later, peeps.