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Biography

Biography of Sheldon Harnick

Born: April 30, 1924 – Chicago

Portage Park Grammar School 1930-1938

Started studying violin while in grammar school.

Carl Schurz High School 1938-1942.
(Continued violin studies and music theory at the Boguslawski Musical College).
During junior and senior years at Schurz began to write parodies, sketches and some original songs with collaborator Stanley Orzey.

Drafted 1943. Honorable discharge 1946 (Rank: T-4).
While stationed at Robins Field, Georgia, worked as a performer and wrote songs for shows put on by our volunteer Special Service Group. (I was a technician in the Signal Corps, attached to the Air Force; the entertaining was done on my own time.) Also, entered Yank Magazine’s parody contest and was one of five 2nd prize winners.
After discharge from Army worked as a violinist in Bud Whalen’s dance band around Chicago.

Northwestern University School of Music 1946-1949; Bachelor of Music Degree, majoring in violin.
Contributed to Northwestern’s annual student revue, the Waa-Mu Show: 1947-48-49-50-51-52-53. Also, one year wrote the score for the “water” show, the Dolphin Show.

After graduation worked with Henry Brandon’s dance orchestra around Chicago and the Midwest. (The size of the band had to be trimmed to continue to get engagement: I was one of several musicians let go.) Worked with Xaviar Cugat’s orchestra on a theater date in Minneapolis but was fired after the first show.

Came to New York in 1950 to try to be a theatrical song writer.

First song in a Broadway show: “The Boston Beguine” in “New Faces of 1952”.
In the next few years I contributed songs to the following On and Off-Broadway revues (with music either by myself, David Baker or Lloyd B. Norlin): “Two’s Company”, “John Murray Anderson’s ‘Almanac’”, “The Shoestring Revue”, “Shoestring ‘57”, “Kaleidoscope”, “The Littlest Revue”, “Vintage ‘60”. (Also had songs in several Julius Monk Cabaret shows.)
Did lyrics for first book show, “Horatio” (Book: Ira Wallach, Music: David Baker). Produced at Margo Jone’s theater in Dallas in 1954. (This show was later produced Off-Broadway in 1961 under the title “Smiling the Boy Fell Dead”).
Worked on theater staff of summer resort, Green Mansions, for the full summer season of 1955, half the season of ’56 and several weeks in ’57.
Called in to write lyrics, anonymously, on “The Amazing Adele” (1956 – never came to Broadway); “Shangri-La” (1956). Also “Portofino” (1958) where my lyrics, alas, were not anonymous.

SHOWS WITH JERRY BOCK (whom I met in 1956):
”The Body Beautiful” (1958)
”Ford Tractor Show” (Closed-circuit TV Industrial Show, 1959).
”Fiorello” (1959).
”Tenderloin” (1960).
”Man in the Moon” (1963) for the Bil Baird Marionettes.
”She Loves Me” (1963).
”To Broadway with Love” (1964) (For New York Fair).
”Fiddler on the Roof” (1964).
”Baker Street” (Contributed several songs anonymously: 1965).
”The Apple Tree” (1966).
”The Canterville Ghost” (1966) (TV Musical).
”The Rothschilds” (1970).
Also, wrote material for the then Mayor of New York, John V. Lindsay, for his appearances before the ‘Inner Circle’ (Press Club Show) 1966-70-71-72-73.

INDUSTRIAL SHOWS
From 1958 to 1959 I did Industrial Shows for firms like Buick, Esso Gas, Nabisco, Columbia Phonograph, Milliken, etc., and did one Ballantine Beer TV Commercial (with Jerry Bock) in 1965.

SHOWS (AND SONGS) WITH MARY RODGERS:
”Pinocchio” (1973) for the Bil Baird Marionettes.
Song: “William’s Doll” for Marlo Thomas’s TV Special: “Free To Be You and Me” (1974).

SHOWS/FILMS WITH MICHEL LEGRAND: ”A Song for a King” (Unproduced film).
”A Christmas Carol”. The first production was a Christmas tour in 1981. Stock and Amateur production rights are now handled by the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organziation.
”Aaron’s Magic Village” Animated film released in U.S. in 1997. (Released in Europe as “The World is One Big Chelm” in 1955.)

SHOWS (AND SONGS) WITH JOE RAPOSO
Theme for TV series written by Alan Alda: “We’ll Get By” (1974).
”Alice in Wonderland” (1975) for the Bil Baird Marionettes.
”Sutter’s Gold”, a Cantana. Premiere: Boston Symphony Orchestra (1980).
”A Wonderful Life” – Musical based on the film “It’s a Wonderful Life”. First production: University of Michigan (1986). Stock and Amateur rights now handled by the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization.

OPERAS:
With JACK BEESON:
”Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines”. Premiere: Kansas City Lyric Theatre, Missouri (1975). Originally recorded by RCA, now available on Desto Records.
”Dr. Heidegger’s Foundation of Youth”. Premier: National Arts Club, NYC (1978). Recorded by CRI
”Cyrano”: Premiere: Theater Hagen; Hagen, Germany: September 10, 1994.
With THOMAS Z. SHEPARD: ”Love in Two Countries”: comprising two one-act operas: “That Pig of a Molette” and “A Question of Faith”. Premiere: Musical Theatre Works, Theatre at St. Peter’s Church, NYC (1991).
With HENRY MOLLICONE: “Coyote Tales” – Commissioned by the Lyric Opera of Kansas City (Missouri). Premiere: Kansas City, March 7th, 1998.
By MYSELF: ”Frustration”, a ‘mini-opera’ in one brief act. Premiere: Encompass Theatre, NYC (1979), “Frustration” was one of several short comedic operas included in a presentation called “Fantasies Take Flight”.

ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS/ADAPTATIONS:
Stravinski: “L’Histoire du Soldat”. Premiere: Chamber Symphony of Philadelphia, with Bil Baird’s Marionettes (1967).
”Renard”. (Commissioned by PBS, not yet produced.)
Ravel: “L’Enfant et les Sortileges”. Premiere: The Manhattan Music School (1971). Now the ‘official American translation’.
Mozart: “L’Oca del Cairo” (“The Goose from Cairo”). Premiere: Lyric opera of Kansas City, Missouri (1982).
Lehar: “The Merry Widow”. Premiere: San Diego Opera Company, featuring Beverly Sills, (1977).
Bizet: “Carmen”. Premiere: Houston Grand Opera Company (1981).(they commissioned the translation). An abbreviated version of my translation, slightly revised, became the English version of Peter Brook’s “La Tragedie de Carmen”. Premiere: Vivian Beaumont Theatre, NYC (1984).
Canteloube: “Songs of the Auvergne”. Seven of these had their first performance in a concert given by Marni Nixon, NYC (1982).
J.S. Bach: “The Contest Between Phoebus and Pan” (Cantana).
Commissioned by the Bach Aria Group. Premiere: Stony Brook, NY (1988).
”The Appeasement of Aeolus” (Cantata). Commissioned by the Bach Aria Group. Premiere: Stony Brook, NY (1990).
Chabrier: “Une Education Manquee” (“A Flawed Education”). This, along with “L’Oca del Cairo” was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera’s ‘Mini-Met’. (Not yet produced.)
Jean-Michel Damase: “The Heiress”. Translated from the French libretto by L. Ducreux based on the Ruth and Augustus Goetz play, which was in turn based on Henry James’s novel “Washington Square”. (Not yet produced in English.)
Edouard Pailleron: “Le Monde ou L’on S’Ennuie: (“A World Where Boredom Reigns”). (Not yet produced.)
Eugene Labiche/Edouard Martin: Le Voyage de Monsieur Perrichon” (“Monsieur Perrichon’s Vacation”). (Not yet produced)
Verdi: “Questa o Quella” (aria from “Rigoletto”). Translated for Placido Domingo to perform on his TV Special (1985).
Ives: “Elgie”. Translation used as the final song in Jerome Robbins ballet “Ives Songs”. Premiere: NY State Theatre (1988).
“Ghetto”: Translations of Yiddish songs for use in the play of that name by Joshua Sobol. (Of a dozen songs, I translated half; Jim Friedman translated the other half). Premiere: Mark Taper Forum, L.A. (1986).
Michael Legrand: “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” (text by Jacques Demy). Premiere: NY Shakespeare Festival Theatre (1979).
Michael Legrand: “L’Amour Fantome” (text by Didier van Cauwelaert) (Not yet produced.)
Song: “A Friend Has Gone Away” (French: “Un Ami S’en Est Alle” – lyrics: Jean Drejac)
Ad van Dijk: “Cyrano, the Musical” (text by Koen van Dijk.)
In collaboration with Peter Reeves. Neil Simon Theater (1993).

MISCELLANEOUS FILM/TV SONGS:
Theme (music and lyrics) for DUMONT CAVALCADE OF STARS, weekly TV variety show starring Jackie Gleason. (1952)
Theme for film: “The Heartbreak Kid”. Music: CY COLEMAN (1972).
Theme for film: “Blame it on Rio”. Music: CY COLEMAN (1984).
(We had another song in that film: “I Must Be Doing Something Right”). Theme for TV film: “Marriage Is Alive and Well”. Music: FRED KARLIN (1980).
Theme for Northwestern University TV Special: “The Way They Were”. Music : LARRY GROSSMAN (1981). Our song, “In The Beginning”, was nominated for an Emmy Award.
New lyrics for Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever” (my version: “The Man With the Sign”), for the Norman Lear TV Special: “I Love Liberty” (1982).
Adapted opening number from “A Chorus Line” for use in the 1988 Academy Award Telecast.
Songs for the HBO animated film: “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”.
Music: STEPHEN LAWRENCE (1991).

MISCELLANEOUS MUSICALS:
”Rex”. Music: RICHARD RODGERS (1976).
”The Phantom Tollbooth”. Music: ARNOLD BLACK; Book: Norton Juster and Sheldon Harnick. Premiere: Harwich Junior Theatre, West Harwich, Massachusetts, (2002).
”Dragons”:my book, lyrics and music, based on the Russian play, “The Dragon”, by Yevgeny Schwarz. Premiere: Northwestern University (1984).
”Good Company (Songs That Made It From Shows That Didn’t)”.
I provided the continuity. Premiere: Berkshire Theatre Festival [Stockbridge, MA] (July, 1997).

IMPORTANT AWARDS:
“Fiorello”: Tony Award, Pulitzer Prize, NY Drama Critics Circle Award.
“She Loves Me”: Grammy Award.
”Fiddler On The Roof”: Tony Award, NY Drama Critics Circle Award, Newspaper Guild of NY Page One Award.
”The Merry Widow”: The Angel Album using my translation won the Grammy as Best New Opera Recording of 1978/79.
Gold Records:
RCA Cast Album “Fiddler on the Roof” (stage production).
United Artists Soundtrack Album “Fiddler on the Roof” (film).
Arista Album: “Free to Be You and Me” (on which I was represented by the song “William’s Doll”, music MARY RODGERS, and a poem: “Housework”).
Platinum Record: RCA Cast Album “Fiddler on the Roof” (stage).
The Johnny Mercer Award, presented by the Song Writers Hall of Fame to Jerry Bock and myself.
Spirit of American Creativity Award to Jerry Bock and myself, given by the Foundation for a Creative America.
Jewish Cultural Achievement Award to Jerry Bock and myself in the Performing Arts field, given by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture.
Marc Blitzstein Memorial Award given to me for achievement in the creation of opera librettos by the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
Honorary Degrees Awarded by Illinois Wesleyan University:
Doctor of Humane Letters (October 3rd, 1996) and by Muskingum College, New Concord, Ohio (May 11th, 1997)

Mr. Harnick is a member of The Dramatists Guild and the Songwriters Guild of America.

Shows by Sheldon Harnick

Apple Tree, The
Fiddler On The Roof JR.
Fiddler On The Roof
Fiorello!
Phantom Tollbooth
Rothschilds, The
She Loves Me
Tenderloin
Phantom Tollbooth JR.
Phantom Tollbooth TYA