Give My Regards to Broadway: Tin Pan Alley in Georgetown's Special Collections
The phrase “Great American Songbook” has been coined to describe the profusion of classic songs written in the fleeting decades of the 1920s-1950s and drawn from the musical repertoire of Broadway, Tin Pan Alley and Hollywood. The most often associated composers and lyricists--Berlin, Hammerstein and Kern, Cole Porter, Gershwin and Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, Rodgers and Hammerstein--created songs of an unprecedented breadth and depth of subject matter, ranging from love to loss and even social commentary. This repertoire also displays a remarkable unity of musical structure (thirty-two bar form) and a largely codified body of stylistic features. Given that much of this repertoire was created for the stage and/or screen, the lyrics often make reference to dramatic themes and explore elements of the characters themselves. Among the music holdings in Georgetown’s Special Collections Research Center are several collections featuring the music of this era. With the exception of one item from the Georgetown University Archives--an example of Georgetown-themed sheet music influenced by the Tin Pan Alley style--all the items on display come from the papers of composer Arthur Johnston (1898-1954), who collaborated or corresponded with many of the leading composers, lyricists and performers of the day. The Johnston papers were acquired on the Leon Robbin Endowment Fund, created through the generosity of the late Leon Robbin (L’22).