Forgotten musical by the composer of White Christmas rediscovered by University researcher

  • Irving Berlin’s Miss Liberty tells a fictional story about the installation of the Statue of Liberty
  • Audiences will have the opportunity to hear world premiere performances of four songs that were cut before the musical opened on Broadway in 1949
  • Lost manuscripts were uncovered by University of Sheffield researcher in US Library of Congress
  • Performances in Sheffield are believed to be the UK premiere of Berlin’s musical

For over 60 years, the airwaves have been alive at this time of year with the sounds of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas – by far the most enduring and popular festive song ever written.

But researchers from the University of Sheffield have been preparing to celebrate Berlin’s legacy by exhuming one of his lesser-known works.

Rarely heard since its premiere, Miss Liberty was written in 1949, directly between his two biggest successes, Annie Get Your Gun (1946) and Call Me Madam (1950), and tells a fictionalised version of the events leading to the mounting of the Statue of Liberty on its plinth.

When the statue arrived in New York there was no money to put it together, so a newspaper campaign was mounted in order to pay for it. In the musical, this becomes a war between two rival newspapers. The script also explores the inspiration behind the statue and what it means to everyday Americans.

The musical will be performed in Sheffield’s Firth Hall on Wednesday 9 and Thursday 10 December 2015 in a production researched and produced by Dr Dominic McHugh, Senior Lecturer in Musicology, and Matthew Malone, who holds the Frederick Loewe Doctoral Scholarship in the University’s Department of Music.

The complete original score will be heard in the original orchestrations, which have been supplied by the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organisation.

Miss Liberty’s script has been adapted into a concert version by Dr McHugh and will be narrated by Howard Middleton of the BBC’s Great British Bake-Off.

Additionally, on Thursday 10 December 2015 audiences will have the opportunity to hear world premiere performances of four songs that were cut before the musical opened on Broadway in 1949. They were discovered by McHugh and Malone in Berlin’s papers at the Library of Congress and special permission has been given to perform them for one night only by the Berlin estate.

It is believed that these performances of the musical mark its UK premiere. The show will be performed by a cast and orchestra of over 60 students from the University.

Dr McHugh said: “Irving Berlin remains one of the most important American songwriters, with a legacy that includes Let’s Face the Music and Dance, Cheek to Cheek and There’s No Business Like Show Business. But many of his 900 songs have been overlooked and are ripe for rediscovery.

“We are privileged to be bringing this wonderful score from Berlin’s mature period to the UK for the first time – and with its celebration of America’s symbol of freedom, Miss Liberty has never had a more timely message.”

For more information about the concert, or to buy tickets, visit http://concerts.sheffield.ac.uk/whats-on/miss-liberty-ii

Listen to an excerpt of 'Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor' from Miss Liberty: 

Additional information

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