Case Study 2 - West Side Story

In November 2011 I was contacted by Garth Sunderland at the Leonard Bernstein Office in New York asking If I'd consider a collaboration with him to reconstruct the film score of West Side Story. The 50th Anniversary  of the release of the film was approaching and a digitally remastered Blu-Ray was planned. The original recorded sound track was being remastered for the new release, but they needed a score and parts for a proposed promotional world tour of the film to be accompanied by live orchestra.


At the time the film was made film scores were recorded and then the material was obsolete and often lost. Very little was retained digitally - it was certainly before the time of music software as we know it now. This would be a rebuild from whatever could be found. Of course I agreed, but immediately realised that it seemed an impossible task.


We began with two sources: the Broadway Show material and the DVD. Obviously the show bore very little resemblance to the film, but it was a start. The Broadway parts were in Finale file format, which were combined to make a score. We had the engraved score of the show. This gave us raw material, but it was in different keys, different order, different orchestration, in fact barely usable.


At about this time 509 pges of manuscript scans of early sketches and 541 pages of full score manuscript were located in Columbia University library. These were at the same time both helpful and frustrating. They were early versions and quite different to the final version used in the film in many places. It allowed me to continue piecing the jigsaw together however until the real breakthrough came when Johnny Green's annotated short score of the whole film (minus the 15 minutes of Prologue) was located.


This allowed us to create a skeleton of the remainder of the

score, though much of the detail was missing. By now the

digitally remastered soundtrack was available allowing parts

of the missing detail to be deduced aurally.


Finally we needed to patch a few problem places, especially

in the dance numbers and Prologue where the film had been

trimmed after the sound track was added and the sound cross

faded with patches recorded later.


Finally parts were extracted and we were ready in 6 months.


The first version was not without problems. After the US

performances the whole score and parts were thoroughly

and expertly proofread and the material revised to make

the version that is now still being performed around the world.



London: rehearsal before Royal Albert Hall performances

Early MS      Score used for film      Ramin: Short score

Final version revised after US performances