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Barab, Seymour (9th January 1921-28th June 2014)

Cellist and composer raised in Chicago who started playing the church organ professionally when he was only thirteen years old and studied piano in high school until the conductor of the school orchestra encouraged him to take a crack at the cello. Before long, he was playing cello in the orchestra and was not long out of high school when he was doing the same for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. He went on to perform with the Cleveland Orchestra, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.

While living in Chicago, he helped found the New Music Quartet; Later, in New York City, he was a founder member of Columbia University’s Composer’s Quartet, dedicated to bringing to light contemporary American compositions, and New York Pro Musica, intended to revive the music of the Baroque Era and Renaissance.

He was also a teacher, and has moulded young minds at Black Mountain College, New England Conservatory of Music and Rutgers University.

A WWII veteran, he honed his compositional skills in Paris, where he wrote more than 200 songs.

His songwriting acumen was a perfect fit for the stage, and he drifted toward musical theatre and opera. The Central Opera Service said his operas were performed more than any other composer’s in the 1988-1989 season. He made history when Little Red Riding Hood became the first opera by an American composer to be produced in post-isolationist China. Philip Marshall, an opera about the U.S. Civil War, received a Pulitzer Prize nomination.

His works have been presented at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center, including The Toy Shop and excerpts from The Pied Piper of Hamlin, concomitant with Seymour receiving the National Opera Asscociation’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

One of his later projects was Cosmos Cantata, a work commissioned by the Manhattan Chamber Orchestra, with words by none other than Kurt Vonnegut. A CD is available on the Helicon label.

He remained active as a composer until his death on 28th June 2014 when he was 93 years old.

Frank Sinatra recordings
That’s What God Looks Like To Me (Stan Irvin/Lan O’Kun)
Reprise RPS 49233 (XNY2101S) (US 45)

Theme from “New York, New York” (Fred Ebb/John Kander)
Reprise RPS49233 (XNY 2103 S) (US 45)