Colony Records: A Relevant Dinosaur in an Electronic Age

This blog is a part of The Directory of Contemporary Musical Theatre Writers, found online at www.contemporarymusicaltheatre.com
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Most every New Yorker “in the biz” knows about Colony Records.  Founded in 1948, this family-owned and run business has been New York’s epicenter of sheet music and record sales for over sixty years.  It holds a very special place in my heart, because it is one of the last independent sheet music dealers in the country; a fact that carries increasing weight given so many consumers are turning to the instant gratification of buying music online.

Colony’s staff, which hasn’t changed all that much in the twelve years I’ve been in the city, is incredibly knowledgeable.  They pride themselves on being able to find a song title from a scant lyric (Of course, while there I discovered they have a handy catalogue of all the printed sheet music by title and first line of the lyric).

You can find out more about Colony Records by watching the trailer to a forthcoming documentary by Sara Auze Cross, entitled “Manhattan Lullaby.”

Needless to say, it’s a pretty neat place. One that definitely makes you feel like you’re stepping back more than a couple years in time.

So, with a store so steeped in history, I had severe doubts that I’d find what I was looking for: a solid resource of contemporary musical theatre.

I was wrong.

Colony has an impressive collection of selection books and anthologies that capture about 75% of what’s happening in today’s musical theatre market.  With my fellow sleuth, Lorene Phillips, we found five anthologies dedicated to contemporary work and over 70 selection books from shows written after 2000.  There were also a number of contemporary writers who have their own anthologies.  Some of these I knew about, but most were news to me.

It might not be surprising that Hal Leonard (and their subsidiaries, such as Williamson) takes the lead on publishing most of the contemporary repertoire.  For years, Richard Walters has edited the musical theatre anthologies for all voice types with great care.  I was particularly impressed with their “Contemporary Singing Actor” series, which covers a wide range of Broadway, Off-Broadway and London shows from 1980 to the present.

The music publisher Alfred also plays a small part in printing contemporary work, though they seem more keen on producing composer anthologies, like the recently released Michael John LaChiusa collection.

What Colony doesn’t have is a collection of full scores to contemporary shows, but for good reason: publishers have stopped printing them because the expense is too great.

I asked one of the employees if they people came in looking for songs by Pasek & Paul or Kerrigan & Lowdermilk (contemporary writers who are generally known but not currently published).  “Sometimes,” he said, but that certainly didn’t seem to be the norm.  When asked if he would point customers to other outlets for contemporary work like www.newmusicaltheatre.com, he said, “No.”  Understandable, I suppose.

Below is the list of anthologies and selection books Lorene and I found at Colony.  All of these feature work that was written after 2000.  I’ve put an asterisk by those I feel are particularly worth your while.

All of these are available for purchase on Colony Record’s website. Their prices are a bit higher than if ordered directly from publisher, but worth it, especially if you live and work in NYC.  You can compare prices by visiting Hal LeonardAlfred or Sheet Music Plus.

Contemporary Musical Theatre Anthologies

  1. The BMI Workshop Songbook (BMI)*
  2. Broadway Today (Hal Leonard)
  3. Broadway Pop/Rock (Hal Leonard)*
  4. Contemporary Singing Actor Series (Hal Leonard)*
  5. Off-Broadway Songbook (Hal Leonard)

Composer Anthologies

  1. Jeff Blumenkrantz Songbook (#Blumie Tunes Music)*
  2. The Jason Robert Brown Collection (Hal Leonard)
  3. The William Finn Songbook (Alfred)*
  4. Goldrich & Heisler – Vol 1 & 2. (Hal Leonard)*
  5. The Michael John LuChiusa Songbook (Alfred)*
  6. Ryan Scott Oliver (#Aresso Music Publishing)
  7. This Ordinary Thursday: The Songs of Georgia Stitt (Williamson/HL)

(# – These books were published by the writers. Ryan Scott Oliver has just been picked up by Hal Leonard.)

Shows with Selection Books:

  1. Addams Family (2010)
  2. Adding Machine (2008)
  3. Aida (2000)
  4. All Shook Up (2005)*
  5. Altar Boys (2005)*
  6. American Idiot (2010)
  7. Avenue Q (2003)*
  8. Billy Elliot (2008)
  9. Book of Mormon (2011)
  10. Boy from Oz (2003)
  11. Brooklyn (2004)
  12. Catch Me if You Can (2011)
  13. Class Act (2001)*
  14. The Color Purple (2005)
  15. Come Fly Away (2010)
  16. Curtains (2007)
  17. Death Takes a Holiday (2011)
  18. Dessa Rose (2005)
  19. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (2005)*
  20. Drowsy Chaperone (2006)
  21. Elegies (2003)*
  22. Elf: The Musical (2010)
  23. Full Monty (2000)
  24. The Glorious Ones (2007)
  25. Grey Gardens (2006)*
  26. Hairspray (2002)
  27. In The Heights (2008)*
  28. Jersey Boys (2005)
  29. Legally Blonde (2007)
  30. Light in the Piazza (2005)*
  31. Little Women (2005)
  32. Love Never Dies (2010)
  33. A Man of No Importance (2002)*
  34. Marguerite (2008)
  35. Mary Poppins (2006)
  36. The Marvelous Wonderettes (2001)
  37. Memphis (2009)
  38. Million Dollar Quartet (2010)
  39. Movin’ Out (2002)
  40. Next to Normal (2009)*
  41. 9 to 5 (2009)
  42. Once (2012)
  43. Passing Strange (2008)
  44. Pirate Queen (2007)
  45. The Producers (2001)*
  46. Rain (2010)
  47. Rock of Ages (2009)
  48. See What I Wanna See (2005)
  49. Seussical (2000)
  50. Shrek (2008)
  51. Sister Act (2011)
  52. Spamalot (2005)
  53. Spelling Bee (2005)*
  54. The Last Five Years (2002)
  55. The Story of My Life (2009)
  56. Spring Awakening (2006)*
  57. Striking 12 (2006)
  58. Sweet Smell of Success (2002)*
  59. Tale of Two Cities (2008)
  60. The Thing About Men (2003)
  61. 13: The Musical (2008)
  62. Title of Show (2008)*
  63. Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002)*
  64. Toxic Avenger (2009)
  65. Urinetown (2001)*
  66. Wicked (2003)
  67. Wild Party, LaChiusa (2000)
  68. Wild Party, Lippa (2000)*
  69. Witches of Eastwick (2000)
  70. Wedding Singer (2006)
  71. Woman in White (2005)
  72. Young Frankenstein (2007)

Overwhelmed by the long list of shows?  Don’t be.  In a future blog, we’ll break down these and other shows by type (contemporary musical theatre, jukebox musical, pop/rock score, etc…).  But in the meantime, there’s plenty of information here to whet your appetite!

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Visit www.contemporarymusicaltheatre.com for more information on over 180 contemporary musical theatre writers and 550+ songs, all searchable by voice and song type.

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