Harbinger Records and The Musical Theater Project are pleased to announce the release of “Hugh Martin: Hidden Treasures,” a CD and accompanying booklet produced with the full participation of the Broadway
and Hollywood songwriter, who died in March at age 96.
Composer-lyricist Martin is best known for three classic American songs featured in MGM’s 1944 film musical Meet Me in St. Louis: “The Trolley Song,” “The Boy Next Door” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” But his output extended from 1941 (his first Broadway musical, Best Foot Forward) through 2010, an unprecedented career of seven decades that made him the elder statesman of American song.
Stephen Sondheim, in his foreword to the CD booklet, praises the songwriter:
“Hugh Martin’s music, lyrics and vocal arrangements are the quintessence of 1940s musical comedy: they define what is meant by ‘show tunes’ or ‘pizzazz’.” The goal of the Harbinger release is to document in both rare recordings and extensive commentary the art of a neglected figure in musical theater history – a man who, as Tony Bennett said a year ago, “is the single most talented and finest human being I know.”
Drawing on the archives of Martin, Michael Feinstein and many other collectors, “Hidden Treasures” features mostly demo recordings of songs written for such stage and screen musicals as Best Foot Forward, Make a Wish, Athena and High Spirits. It also offers memorable songs from unproduced musicals including the legendary Here Come the Dreamers, a fascinating 1961 project planned for Jeanette MacDonald and Liza Minnelli, but aborted when MacDonald was diagnosed with cancer.
The CD opens with a 1941 selection from Best Foot Forward and closes with Martin’s final completed song. Virtually all of the album’s 30 songs are accompanied by Martin himself at the piano – providing listeners with the chance to gain valuable insight into the composer’s intentions. Martin also performs five vocals.
Produced by musical theater authorities Bill Rudman and Ken Bloom, the “Hidden Treasures” CD is supplemented by an 88-page booklet with articles on Martin’s multifaceted talent. Mark Eden Horowitz, a senior music specialist at the Library of Congress, writes about Martin as composer and vocal arranger; master lyricist Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler on the Roof, She Loves Me) discusses the work of his fellow lyricist; Michael Feinstein comments on Martin as fellow vocalist (the two collaborated on a Martin songbook CD in 1992); Ted Chapin, president of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization, talks about the influence of Martin’s mentor, Richard Rodgers; and Terry O’Donnell, Martin’s music editor for the last 18 years of his life, offers a vivid picture of the songwriter’s working process.
In other articles, Rudman and Bloom provide perspective on eight of Martin’s stage musicals, four film musicals and one musical created for television.
“Hugh Martin was the last living songwriter who contributed to the golden era of Broadway and Hollywood musicals,” says Bloom. “This collection puts his art and philosophy on display for all of us to enjoy and learn from.” Rudman adds: “Ken and I were fortunate to know Hugh and to benefit from his involvement in producing this CD. Our interviews and 10 years of correspondence give the project a wonderful authenticity.”
Other entries in the Harbinger Songwriters Series include Strouse and Adams’ All American Backers Audition, Noel Coward Sings Sail Away and Other Coward Rarities, and Richard Rodgers: Command Performance.