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"Seventy-Six Trombones" is the signature song from the 1957 musical play The Music Man (1957), written by Meredith Willson. The song also appeared in the 1962 film and in the made-for-TV movie adaptation in 2003. It is also a piece commonly played by marching and military bands. The song's opening lines are:
Seventy-six trombones led the big parade
With a hundred and ten cornets close at hand ...
Leroy Anderson wrote a popular arrangement of the piece that integrates other popular marches including Stars and Stripes Forever and The Washington Post March by John Philip Sousa (in whose band Willson had played), the National Emblem march by Edwin Eugene Bagley, the Swedish march "Under blågul fana" ("Under the Blue and Yellow Flag") by Viktor Widqvist, and the Second Regiment, Connecticut National Guard march by D. W. Reeves.
In The Music Man
In the musical, "Professor" Harold Hill uses the song to help the townspeople of River City, Iowa visualize their children playing in a marching band by recalling a time when he saw several famous bandleaders' bands in a combined performance. While an average-sized high school marching band might have about 10 musicians playing the trombone, and a large college marching band seldom has more than 30 trombonists, the band that Harold Hill describes to the villagers includes 76 trombones, 110 cornets, "more than a thousand reeds", double bell euphoniums, and "fifty mounted cannon" (which were popular in bands of the late 19th century).
- On the first of three Meredith Willson Variety Show specials for CBS (airing April 6, 1964), Sergio Franchi performed this song backed by four military marching bands.
- In 1971, for the grand opening of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, the parade included a 1,076 piece marching band made up of high school band students from around Central Florida. This band marched down main street at Disney World playing "76 Trombones". Meredith Willson was the guest conductor for this event. The band, which had 1,076 members altogether, included 76 trombones.
- The 2009 Barbershop Harmony Society International Chorus Champions Ambassadors of Harmony performed this song a cappella in their championship performance.
- Violinist and conductor André Rieu uses this piece as his intro song to the majority of his shows.
In film and television
- In Chile, the instrumental march version (with Leroy Anderson's orchestration) was used as a theme song for the radio news show La Revista de Portales.
- In the Netherlands, the tune was used for theme song of the popular radio and television show Dik Voormekaarshow.
- Jack Black sings the song in the 2011 film Bernie.
In Willson's hometown of Mason City, Iowa, the song is honored (along with the whole plot of The Music Man) in a building called "Music Man Square", which is located next to Willson's boyhood home. In one large room, there are 76 donated trombones hanging from the ceiling.
References and parodies
- In the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in the (musical) episode "Once More with Feeling", the character Spike refers to "seventy-six bloody trombones".
- In one episode of Arthur, Buster erroneously refers to the song as "Seventy-Six Tubas". When called out on his mistake, he declares, "Then I'll adapt it".
- The talk radio host Dave Ross parodied the song during the California governor's recall election of 2003 with the opening lyrics "76 unknowns led the big charade/ With 110 like them close at hand".
- Author E.B. White referenced the song when writing to a friend of his opinion of the 1973 musical adaptation of his book Charlotte's Web, unfavorably likening the film's depiction of the county fair from the story to "a Disney World, with 76 trombones".
- Hopper, Hedda (May 25, 1964). "Looking at Hollywood." The Times-Picayune, New Orleans
- Fickley-Baker, Jennifer. "Step in Time: A Grand Opening (Parade) For Magic Kingdom Park, 1971". Disney Parks Blog. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
- "Official Scoring Summary: International, Chorus Finals, Anaheim, California, July 3, 2009" (PDF). The Harmonet Reporter. Barbershop Harmony Society. July 3, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-12.
- Burr, Ty. "Bard of the barn". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 19 October 2017.