April 30, 1998
The Music of Irving Berlin is Back at the National Archives
Washington, DC. . . The National Archives and Records Administration will present four live performances of the music of Irving Berlin at 7:30 P.M. on Monday and Tuesday, June 8 and 9, in the downtown building, and at 7:30 P.M. on Wednesday and Thursday, June 10 and 11, in its College Park facility. These performances are free and open to the public. The downtown building is located at Pennsylvania Avenue, between 7th and 9th Streets, NW, and the College Park facility is located at 8601 Adelphi Road. Free parking is available at College Park. The public may call (202) 501-5000 for recorded information about this and other programs.
The National Archives brings back to the stage You Keep Coming Back Like a Song: The Music of Irving Berlin for four evening performances, lasting approximately 90 minutes. The show was originally commissioned in 1988 by the National Archives in celebration of the 100th birthday of Irving Berlin, an immigrant from Russia and one of America’s most prolific and beloved songwriters. The performances, starring the original cast of vocalists Cindy Hutchins and Ann Johnson and pianist Howard Breitbart, will recapture the spirit of Berlin’s times through a fast-paced cabaret-style revue. The show includes such favorites as "Let’s Take an Old Fashioned Walk," "Alexander’s Ragtime Band," "Cheek to Cheek," "Easter Parade," "There’s No Business Like Show Business," and a medley of Berlin’s best known songs. Archival film footage from the National Archives motion picture holdings opens the second half of the show.
Born Israel Baline in Russia, Berlin immigrated to the United States in 1893 and received his first music lessons from his father, a cantor. His music, totaling more than 1,500 songs by most estimates, has been consistently popular with the American public for more than three-quarters of this century. In addition to their public appeal, Irving Berlin’s songs reflect cultural and historical changes. In the early decades of this century, for example, ragtime music was the rage; although Irving Berlin did not write rags, he told us about ragtime in such enduring songs as "Alexander’s Ragtime Band" and "International Rag." In the 1920's, his songs reflect the influence and popularity of jazz and dance forms. As motion pictures became the dominant form of national entertainment, he came to be recognized as the most successful composer of film scores. During wartime, he gave us "Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning," "Any Bonds Today," and the anthem "God Bless America."
The holdings of the National Archives, which reflect both the cultural and historical heritage of our nation and its people, help us understand Berlin’s unique ability to capture the changing social and political attitudes and manners of various eras. Newsreels offer an especially rich resource. Between 1929 and 1967, Universal News produced weekly filmed reports on current events. Through these and other newsreels and films we can trace the events of the day, including Irving Berlin’s involvement in both world wars, the Berlin Airlift, and the Freedom Train, the mobile museum that toured the country and drew millions of Americans to exhibits on the origins and development of democracy.
In addition to motion pictures, the National Archives has still photographs and textual documents relating to Berlin, including correspondence with President Eisenhower, who used "I Like Ike" from Berlin’s musical Call Me Madam as his campaign song, and the congressional act authorizing President Eisenhower to present a gold medal to Irving Berlin. The Gerald Ford Library has material relating to the Presidential Medal of Freedom presented to Berlin on January 10, 1977, in recognition of his long career and contribution to popular culture of the United States. Together, these materials help us to understand Irving Berlin’s rich contribution to American cultural and social history.
For additional PRESS information, please contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (301) 837-1700 or by e-mail.