Give my commentary to Broadway

Hagerstown native wrote guidelines for singers in new songbook

Hagerstown native wrote guidelines for singers in new songbook

February 17, 2008

Songbooks are great for helping families gather around the piano to sing some tunes, but Hagerstown native Barbara Irvine has used her experience in New York City's musical theater industry to make descriptive information about the songs more useful for auditions.

Irvine, 61, wrote the introduction and commentary for the first volume of Alfred Publishing Co.'s "Singer's Library of Musical Theatre." The volume is available for soprano, mezzo soprano/alto, tenor and baritone/bass.

Irvine used her 15 years in New York City's music industry as a vocal coach, music transcriber and music director to create descriptions for Broadway songs that would be useful to professionals, as well as informative for the average fan.

The commentaries include a synopsis of the show and setting for that particular song, the song type (i.e. uptempo, ballad, comedy, etc.) and a suggested 16-bar cut to sing for auditions.


Songs include "I Could Have Danced All Night" from "My Fair Lady" for soprano, "Johanna" from "Sweeney Todd" for tenor, and "If Ever I Would Leave You," from "Camelot" for baritone/bass.

Most of the songs were selected by Alfred Publishing, but Irvine got to pick a few, including "Princess" from "A Man of No Importance" and "Forty Days" from Stephen Sondheim's "Passion."

Bill Galliford, Alfred's arranging manager for popular sheet music, initially asked Irvine to write the introduction and commentary for the Singer songbooks in 2000. But it wasn't until summer 2007 that she was given the go-ahead to finally start work. The volume one editions were released last October.

Irvine is in discussions with Alfred's to work on the third volume in the series. Someone else wrote the commentary, to go with Irvine's introduction, for volume two because Alfred officials wanted the first two volumes released close together, Irvine said.

Irvine, who grew up in Hagerstown and graduated from North Hagerstown High School in 1964, returned to Hagerstown in 2006 to care for her mother, Ethel Irvine, who was ill at the time. Her mother now lives at Homewood Retirement Centers' Assisted Living and Barbara Irvine has remained in Hagerstown, living at her mother's house with bookcases of songbooks and photos of herself with composer Charles Strouse and other industry notables.

Irvine performed the world premiere of Strouse's "Concerto for Piano and Orchestra" in 1995 at The Maryland Theatre with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra. Strouse, who was in attendance, composed the Tony Award-winning shows "Bye, Bye Birdie" and "Annie," and the theme song "Those Were the Days" from the TV show "All in the Family."

In the late 1998, Irvine started The Other Side of Broadway, a project to promote the performance of classical music written by theater composers. She has been taking a break from that project since 2003, when she left New York for Texas to "chill out" following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Irvine's New York home gave her a direct view of the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.

Irvine still transcribes music, taking composers' recordings and notes and turning them into sheet music.

She also is serving as rehearsal pianist and substitute conductor for "A Little Night Music," which opens March 19 at Centerstage in Baltimore. She will be conducting the April 1 through 4 performances.

The volume one editions of "Singer's Library of Musical Theatre" are available at or through Music & Arts Center (at 1337 Pennsylvania Ave., but moving to Garland Groh Boulevard by the end of February) and at for $19.95.each.

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