program notes by composition > W > White Christmas

White Christmas

Irving Berlin/arr. Robert Russell Bennett

Irving Berlin (1888-1989) was a prolific and famous American composer and songwriter. Born Israel Isidore Baline, the son of a rabbi immigrated from what is now Belarus to New York City at the age of 5. In the classic rags-to-riches story he began as a lyricist and also worked as a busker, singing waiter, vaudevillian and Army sergeant. He was self-taught and never learned how to play or read music beyond a rudimentary level. His special piano mechanically transposed pitches so he could always play on the black keys. He wrote over 3,000 songs and produced 17 film scores and 21 Broadway scores. He was known for writing music and lyrics in the American vernacular: uncomplicated, simple and direct, with his aim being to “reach the heart of the average American.” He became his own publisher and owned a Broadway theater, the Music Box. He died in 1989 at the age of 101.

Last updated on July 17, 2013 by Palatine Concert Band