Posted on July 24, 2011 at 1:33 pm

Peter Filichia in writes:

Trumpet of the Swan is a collaboration between bookwriter Marsha Norman and composer Jason Robert Brown. The piece called “a novel symphony for actors and orchestra” shouldn’t be sampled piecemeal, for it’s a sweeping work that offers commentary with music, but no songs per se. Brown has written some astonishing songs in his time, but he’s never written more beautiful and haunting music. Trumpet of the Swan is certainly no ugly duckling.

Drew Lane writes on

To tell you the honest truth, I didn’t really know what to expect from JRB’s newest recording. With the tag of “a novel symphony for actors and orchestra”, it certainly doesn’t fit with his more well-known fare of musicals. However, I was pleasantly surprised and captivated.

Jason Robert Brown has created a masterpiece with The Trumpet Of The Swan, based on the classic E.B. White tale of a trumpeter swan who cannot make a sound. His parents are concerned for his welfare, but the little swan is determined to view his lack of voice not as a plight, but as an opportunity to grow in other areas. He befriends a young boy (the narrator) along the way, and together they develop a friendship that helps the swan through the challenges in his life.

The recording is beautifully narrated by John Lithgow, and is voiced by an equally talented cast including Kathy Bates, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Martin Short, Mandy Moore and James Naughton. With such a pedigree of talent, JRB has created a truly wondrous orchestral recording. The music soars like a trumpeter swan, ducking and weaving through the storyline. Some composers would miss the opportunities for subtlety and calm, but not here (“Returns”). Robert Brown has an intrinsic understanding of the text he has composed to, and it is obvious through the recording that he has a sincere love for the story, and the entire project.

There are moments when JRB’s musical theatre composer persona creeps through – as you would expect (“The Pond”, “The Eggs and the Fox”, “Philadelphia Swing”), but rather than ever detracting from the piece, it adds dynamic and texture, while also informing any fan that this certainly the work of Jason Robert Brown. You can visualize in your imagination the action as it occurs. The scenes are musically painted and crafted, and the humour of piece remains firmly intact also. There is no sense during The Trumpet Of The Swan of the music being out of step with the text. Every second of the score floats perfectly in conjunction with the events; the music informing the dialogue and the dialogue responding to or anticipating the musical rise and fall (“Camp”, “Courtship”).

While the story is known to many adults and children alike, this is not just a recording for children (they will love listening to it!), but for any person who appreciates excellent composing, brilliant composers, and a heartwarming love story.

And finally, Alan in the Red Curtain Review has this to say:

Jason Robert Brown’s most recent piece is The Trumpet of the Swan, based on the book written by E. B. White. It is described as ‘a novel symphony for actors and orchestra’, with music by JRB (who also conducts); the adaptation is written by Marsha Norman (‘night Mother; The Secret Garden). It is a fun, lovely piece, with the music acting as a soundtrack and as an aid to the story telling, with some lovely trumpet playing by Christopher Michael Venditti (what’s with the triple barrel names!!). It shows a different side of JRB and for me it soars, being reminiscent of John Williams, with a great prelude, but it is the jazzy pieces that really stayed with me, especially “High Fashion & Low Prices.”

The story is about Louis the swan who is not able to speak. Instead he learns other skills, such as the trumpet, in order to woo the swan of his dreams. The story is read by Sam, the narrator, in this recording played by John Lithgow. The other actors play the different parts, and here we have Kathy Bates, Mandy Moore, even Martin Short joining in. James Naughton and Jesse Tyler Ferguson finish the acting troupe.

There is a little bit of everything with some nice jokes and touches thrown in. It would be great to see it performed live. This is a great addition to the JRB collection, and shows how diverse he can be, as if his choice of musicals weren’t enough to gauge that by. So go check it out now.

The Trumpet Of The Swan is highly recommended. Congratulations to all involved, and to Jason Robert Brown for this passionate and inspired work of musical art.

Thanks for all the fantastic reviews! And if you haven’t picked up your copy yet, you can do so at or download it directly from the iTunes Music Store right now!