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Lerner & Loewe

Lerner and Loewe

While not as prolific as either Rodgers and Hart or Rodgers and Hammerstein, the team of Alan Jay Lerner and Frederic Loewe, were, for a short time, as significant a force on Broadway as either of the other teams. American Lerner and German Loewe met in 1942, each having been working in musical theatre for a period of years previously. From the late ‘40s until 1960, the musical theatre teams of Lerner and Loewe and Rodgers and Hammerstein dominated Broadway with six of the finest musicals in theatre history (Brigadoon, My Fair Lady, Camelot, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music).

My Fair Lady, 1957, Julie Andrews and Rex Harrison

Lerner’s training at Harvard, Julliard and Oxford Universities can be seen in his treatment of Brigadoon (two American young men lost in a mystical Scottish town), My Fair Lady (adapted from English author George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion about an English professor and cockney girl) and Camelot (the story of King Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot and the Knights of the Round Table). Though all three works are Anglophonic in nature, just as Lerner was transported to Oxford, his love and respect for English culture comes through for American audiences.

One characteristic which separated Lerner and Loewe from others was Lerner’s careful attention to the dialogue and the play – keeping it as true to the original as possible – and not attempting to dilute the dramatic moments in order to appeal to the lowest common audience member. So important was the acting part of the process that in casting the original roles for the two greatest male leads in their finest shows – Prof. Henry Higgins (My Fair Lady) and King Arthur (Camelot) – Lerner and Loewe did not choose singers who could act. Rather, they felt that the role was so important that they were willing to cast actors and then adjust the music to match their vocal abilities. British actors Rex Harrison (cast as Prof. Higgins) and Richard Burton (King Arthur) were not great singers, but so important were the dramatic elements in the play that Lerner and Loewe were willing to sacrifice vocal skills for dramatic skills. In order to make sure the vocals didn’t become problematic; Loewe wrote songs for the two actors that were narrow in range and closer to ‘sung speech’ than those given to other characters, particularly, the female leads (Eliza Doolittle and Guinevere – both originally played by legendary actress/singer Julie Andrews). This use of ‘patter songs’ hadn’t been used in contemporary American theatre since the days of Gilbert and Sullivan.

Aside from these few musical adjustments from ‘necessity’, Loewe’s music was sweeping and ornate. Not since the days of Victor Herbert and Sigmund Romberg had the elements of Viennese operetta been heard in American musical theatre. My Fair Lady’s waltzes, including “I Could Have Danced All Night” were direct, if contemporized, descendants of Viennese Lehar’s The Merry Widow which swept Europe and the United States when Loewe was only a four-year-old. (Interestingly, the first American tour of The Merry Widow featured German tenor, Edmund Loewe – Frederick’s father.) With strong melodic lines and richly orchestrated harmonies, Loewe crafted musical theatre scores which provided support for the character and the moment without detracting from it by drawing attention to itself.

Though their output never rivaled others in terms of numbers, aside from Rodgers and Hammerstein, no other musical theatre team did as much to influence the craft, and to give audiences some of musical theatres most memorable musical moments in the mid-20th century as Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe.

In December, 1985, Lerner and Loewe were given a Kennedy Center Honor for lifetime contributions to the American arts. In his acceptance speech, Lerner said of Loewe:

“There will never be another Fritz. Writing will never again be as much fun. A collaboration as intense as ours inescapably had to be complex. But I loved him more than I understood or misunderstood him, and I know he loved me more than he understood or misunderstood me.”

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Study Units

An Overview

Ch. 1: Understanding Pitch

Ch. 2: Understanding Musical Pulse

Ch. 3: Understanding Volume

Ch. 4: Understanding Tone

Ch. 5: Understanding Melody

Ch. 6: Understanding Harmony

Ch. 7: Understanding Rhythm

Ch. 8: Understanding Bass

Ch. 9: Understanding Countermelody

Ch. 10: Understanding Structure

Ch. 11: Understanding Instrumentation

Ch. 12: Understanding Tempo

An Overview

Ch. 1: 19th Century: Pre-Foster

Ch. 2: Folk Music by the People

Ch. 3: Popular Music in its Infancy

Ch. 4: Stephen Foster – “Father of American Popular Music”

Ch. 5: The Importance of Stephen Foster

Ch. 6: Scott Joplin – “King of Ragtime”

Ch. 7: The Player Piano – Automated Music

Ch. 8: John Philip Sousa – “The March King”

Ch. 9: John Philip Sousa – Recording Artist and Activist

An Overview

Ch. 1: John Lomax – Recording American Roots Music

Ch. 2: Woody Guthrie – “Father of Modern American Folk Music”

Ch. 3: Leadbelly & Pete Seeger: End of the First Wave

Ch. 4: The Kingston Trio – Beginning of the Second Wave

Ch. 5: Joan Baez – “First Lady of Folk Music”

Ch. 6: Peter, Paul & Mary – Balancing the Message

Ch. 7: Robert Zimmerman – The Beginning of an American Icon

Ch. 8: Dylan in New York City

Ch. 9: Dylan after Newport

Ch. 10: The Importance of Dylan

Ch. 11: Folk Music in the 21st Century

An Overview

Ch. 1: The Roots of Country

Ch. 2: Bristol Beginnings

Ch. 3: The Grand Ole Opry

Ch. 4: Cowboys and the Movies

Ch. 5: Western Swing

Ch. 6: Bluegrass: Hillbilly on Caffeine

Ch. 7: Honky-tonk: Merging Two into One

Ch. 8: The Nashville Sound: Country-Pop

Ch. 9: Rockabilly – Country meets R&B

Ch. 10: Country Feminists Find Their Voice

Ch. 11: The Bakersfield Sound

Ch. 12: Austin “Outlaw” Country

Ch. 13: Neo-Traditionalists at the end of the 20th Century

Ch. 14: Mainstreaming Country in the ‘90s

Ch. 15: Redesigning Country in the 21st Century

An Overview

Ch. 1: What is Jazz?

Ch. 2: Before It Was Jazz

Ch. 3: Jazz is Born!

Ch. 4: Early Jazz Musicians

Ch. 5: Louis Armstrong

Ch. 6: Chicago and Harlem – Hub of 1920s Jazz

Ch. 7: Big Band – Jazz Swing!

Ch. 8: Big Band Musicians and Singers

Ch. 9: Jump Blues and Bop

Ch. 10: Cool Jazz

Ch. 11: Hard Bop

Ch. 12: Free Jazz – Breaking the Rules

Ch. 13: Fusion – The Jazz-Rock-Funk Experience

Ch. 14: Third Stream and World Jazz

Ch. 15: New Age & Smooth Jazz

Ch. 16: Summary – Jazz Lives!

An Overview

Ch. 1: Blues – The Granddaddy of American Popular Music

Ch. 2: Where Did the Blues Come From?

Ch. 3: What Are the Blues?

Ch. 4: How to Build the Blues

Ch. 5: Classic Blues – The Early Years

Ch. 6: Delta Blues – Authentic Beginnings

Ch. 7: Blues in the City – Migration and Power

Ch. 8: Blues in Britain – Redefining the Masters

Ch. 9: Contemporary Blues – Maturity and Respect

Ch. 10: The Relevancy of the Blues Today

Ch. 1: Timelines, Cultures & Technology

Ch. 2: Pre-Rock Influences

Ch. 3: Rock is Born!

Ch. 4: Rock is Named

Ch. 5: Doo-Wop

Ch. 6: Independent Record Labels

Ch. 7: Technology Shapes Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 8: The Plan to Mainstream Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 9: Payola – Rock ‘n’ Roll’s First Scandal

Ch. 1: Crafting Sound in the Studio/Producers and Hit Songs

Ch. 2: West Coast Sound: Beach, Surf, and Teens

Ch. 3: The British Invasion: Two Prongs – Pop & Blues

Ch. 4: Motown and the Development of a Black Pop-Rock Sound

Ch. 5: Soul Music: Gospel and R&B in the Deep South

Ch. 6: The Sounds of Bubble Gum Pop-Rock

Ch. 7: The Arrival of Folk-Rock

Ch. 8: Psychedelic Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 9: Early Guitar Gods of Rock

Ch. 10: Rock Festivals: The Rise and Fall of Music, Peace, and Love

Ch. 11: Anti-Woodstock and Shock Rock Movements

Ch. 1: Technological Breakthroughs

Ch. 2: Electronic Dance Music

Ch. 3: Hip-Hop & Rap – An Introduction

Ch. 4: The Beginnings of Rap

Ch. 5: Old School Rap – Up From the Streets

Ch. 6: Rap’s Golden Age

Ch. 7: East Coast – Political Rap

Ch. 8: West Coast – Gangsta Rap

Ch. 9: The Fragmentation of Rap – Pop, Party & More

Ch. 10: Further Fragmentation – Different Directions

Ch. 11: The Importance of Rap

Ch. 1: Musical Stage Productions in America before the 1800s

Ch. 2: Minstrel Shows and Melodramas

Ch. 3: Stage Presentations in the Late 19th Century

Ch. 4: Early 20th Century: Revues and Operettas

Ch. 5: The Arrival of the Modern American Musical

Ch. 6: Great Partnerships in Book-Musicals

Ch. 7: Musical Theatre Composers in the mid-Century

Ch. 8: Fresh Voices on the Stage in the 1960s

Ch. 9: Two Dominant Forces at the End of the Century

Ch. 10: New Voices at the End of the Century

Ch. 11: New Voices, New Sounds in the New Century

Ch. 12: Musical Theatre Glossary

Ch. 13: Is it “Theatre” or “Theater”?

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