Music from a Treasured Composer

Leonard Bernstein

I have always been a person who respects others choices, preferences and beliefs. Most people have their favorites, definitely in the entertainment industry, and those differences give us a wonderful diversity. Recently, I had an opportunity to view the 1961 movie “West Side Story” with an assorted audience of friends differing in age, culture and race. October 18, 2011 marked the 50th anniversary of the epic, multi-academy award winning movie.  Nevertheless, as with any movie there will be some who will not appreciate it, no matter how many awards it may have won. Most who elicited a negative response said things like “too old”, or “too much singing and dancing”.  I can understand persons expressing their opinions even though I may disagree. However, I have a problem with the dislike of the work of composer Leonard Bernstein.  More than just a matter of my opinion, Bernstein was not just another composer; he was a national treasure.  One of his endearing qualities was the way he sought to teach young people through his musical works and the works of other composers. Bernstein himself was greatly influenced by older composers like Aaron Copland.  One statement I made in our discussion of “West Side Story” was that no one has made an attempt to remake the film.  Many older films with the success of “West Side Story” have been given a modern music update with a rock or hip hop feel. That’s when I stated that the composition was indeed more important to the film than the story line itself. Bernstein created something that was far ahead of its time and (as I feel} impossible to re-create. The classically trained Bernstein exhibited a real feel for jazz and modern music throughout the musical score.  Trust me, as a musician this is a difficult musical piece to perform but wonderful when performed by skilled musicians.  If you have not seen the movie “West Side Story” I encourage you to please rent or download it and form your own opinion. Meanwhile, I’ve attached one of the dance segments from “West Side Story” to let you see, and more importantly hear the music of the great Leonard Bernstein.

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