A Fan’s Review: The Trumpet of The Swan (Jason Robert Brown)

I’ve only recently become a Tweet-ophile (Tweeter? Twit? Who knows?) but one of my favorite people that I’m following is Mr Jason Robert Brown…

I’ve only recently become a Tweet-ophile (Tweeter? Twit? Who knows?) but one of my favorite people that I’m following is Mr Jason Robert Brown (@MrJasonRBrown). As of the last few months, JRB has been actively plugging his new recording The Trumpet Of The Swan – A Novel Symphony For Actors & Orchestra. So, I thought I’d jump into iTunes and download myself a copy. Now while I don’t plan for this column of mine to become a review-fest (what is it that they say about critics?), I thought I’d take the opportunity to put down on paper (er … screen) my thoughts on this new recording.

For those who are not aware, Jason Robert Brown is one of America’s top musical theatre composers with shows such as Songs For A New World, 13, Parade and the amazing The Last Five Years in his catalogue. He was also in Australia recently, touring with Rachel Beck and performing songs from his musicals, as well as other bits and pieces. The first time I heard one of his songs was when I had to play a piece from Songs For A New World in an audition. From that moment on, I was captivated by his style of writing, lyrical prowess and way with melody.

I guess you could call me a fan…

The Trumpet of The Swan
Anyway, on to The Trumpet Of The Swan!

To tell you the honest truth, I didn’t really know what to expect from JRB’s newest recording. With the tag of “a novel symphony for actors and orchestra”, it certainly doesn’t fit with his more well-known fare of musicals. However, I was pleasantly surprised and captivated.

Jason Robert Brown has created a masterpiece with The Trumpet Of The Swan, based on the classic E.B. White tale of a trumpeter swan who cannot make a sound. His parents are concerned for his welfare, but the little swan is determined to view his lack of voice not as a plight, but as an opportunity to grow in other areas. He befriends a young boy (the narrator) along the way, and together they develop a friendship that helps the swan through the challenges in his life.

The recording is beautifully narrated by John Lithgoe, and is voiced by an equally talented cast including Kathy Bates, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Martin Short, Mandy Moore and James Naughton. With such a pedigree of talent, JRB has created a truly wondrous orchestral recording. The music soars like a trumpeter swan, ducking and weaving through the storyline. Some composers would miss the opportunities for subtlety and calm, but not here (“Returns”). Robert Brown has an intrinsic understanding of the text he has composed to, and it is obvious through the recording that he has a sincere love for the story, and the entire project.

There are moments when JRB’s musical theatre composer personae creeps through – as you would expect (“The Pond”, “The Eggs and the Fox”, “Philadelphia Swing”), but rather than ever detracting from the piece, it adds dynamic and texture, while also informing any fan that this certainly the work of Jason Robert Brown. You can visualize in your imagination the action as it occurs. The scenes are musically painted and crafted, and the humour of piece remains firmly intact also. There is no sense during The Trumpet Of The Swan of the music being out of step with the text.  Every second of the score floats perfectly in conjunction with the events; the music informing the dialogue and the dialogue responding to or anticipating the musical rise and fall (“Camp”, “Courtship”).
While the story is known to many adults and children alike, this is not just a recording for children (they will love listening to it!), but for any person who appreciates excellent composing, brilliant composers, and a heartwarming love story.

The Trumpet Of The Swan is highly recommended. Congratulations to all involved, and to Jason Robert Brown for this passionate and inspired work of musical art.

Download the Album from iTunes here:

The Trumpet of the Swan - A Novel Symphony for Actors & Orchestra - Various Artists

And of course, if you’d like to follow me on twitter, please do (@drewlanemusical).  And of course, always feel free to leave comments!

Until next time,


Drew Lane

Andrew “Drew” Lane was born in Melbourne, and began playing piano at the age of four. At age 15, he began to write his own material, and was also introduced to musical theatre via shows such as Starlight Express, Les Miserables and Time. From that moment on, Drew was actively involved in musical theatre at a rehearsal pianist, musical director, or on stage performer. In 1992, Drew composed his first musical for high school, Back Streets, and in 1994, Drew was accepted into the Ballarat Academy of Performing Arts, where he honed his skills, not only as a composer, but also as a performer. Gaining valuable experience on stage and behind the scenes helped him to realise his next musical, Atlantis. A workshop production was staged for the Ballarat Opera Festival in 1996 and gained rave reviews. In the following years, Drew took up teaching but was also able to regularly composer and stage his own productions including Eva’s Wish (1997, Anacortes, WA, USA), Revelations (1998, Touring, Victoria, Australia), and Toys (1999, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia). In 2010, Drew's musical Marking Life was chosen to be part of the Festival of Broadway, hosted by the University of Tasmania, and was performed for Steven Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell, Pippin). A prolific composer, Drew hopes to be able to take his musicals to Off-Broadway or the West End, and believes that his best writing is yet to come. He is presently completing his Master’s degree in Performing Arts, and has several new musicals presently in development. Drew is proud to be a regular contributor to AussieTheatre.com and looks forward to hearing from all of his readers!

Drew Lane

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