The National Endowment for the Arts’ American Masterpieces: Choral Music initiative is designed to celebrate our national musical heritage by highlighting significant American choral composers and their works of the past 250 years. Stanton’s Sheet Music is proud to present this series highlighting the composers and their works featured in this groundbreaking project.
The days are gone when association with Hollywood and popular culture was a mark against the “serious” musician: the great Wagnerian soprano Helen Traubel’s career at the Met in the 1950s, for example, was doomed after she dared to sing at a night club on an off night.
Perhaps something of the same was suffered by Norman Luboff (1917-1987), one of America’s great choral directors and arrangers, who dared to make much of his living working in the popular culture media of his era. And maybe that is why today he is being reassessed and newly appreciated for the sterling musician he was, and for his enormous contributions to American choral music.
Luboff was born in Chicago and studied at the University of Chicago and Central College, doing graduate work with Leo Sowerby. He put himself through school by singing and composing for local radio stations. He moved to New York City hoping to make a career in radio music, then was lured to Hollywood to direct choral music for a popular national radio show, The Railroad Hour.
Soon he was scoring for early television programs and for more than 80 Hollywood films. His Norman Luboff Choir recorded more than 75 albums over a period of 25 years, sometimes featuring solos by singers such as Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, and Jo Stafford. He took pains also to record classical choral music from the Renaissance to recent times as well; these recordings, however, did not receive the critical attention they deserved.
One of his most important legacies is his prolific output of engaging and accessible folk song arrangements, which helped preserve these beloved melodies from generation to generation. His vast and invaluable collection of scores and memorabilia was donated to the Library of Congress in 1993.