Songs & Music: American Labor History and Protest Songs

Sung by Full Ensemble Cast with Chorus of Singers-Dancers in Point-Counterpoint

A Solo by Male Lead with Chorus and Cast Sung by the Three Groups

A Raucous Sea-Shanty Song Sung by Dockworkers Celebrating Pride as Longshoremen

A Sinister, Mysterious Tune Sung Gospel-Rock Style By the Dancers Chorus


'Fire on Pier 32' Soundtrack

Six of the 10 songs featured on this webpage are included in the Video DVD of the play, 'Fire on Pier 32.' All 10 of the songs—with further enhanced musical arrangements, instrumentation, and chorus—are performed in the full musical, "1934."

Labor Songs

In either production, the music and lyrics represent an effort to make labor songs more contemporary and relevant. Gone is the simple blue grass-folk style labor songs of the 1930s, and the "Woody Guthrie" sound. Here the emphasis is on mixing old and new, with definite weight given to the new: for example, the musical spoken-word style of the Song of the New Unionism and the song, The Web. The musical hip-hop piece, Rappin' the Old AFL. The gospel rock song, The Hairy Arm of Labor. The soulful ballad solo, Song of Desperation. Or the central theme Song of Solidarity, performed first slow and deliberative, and then reprised later in an upbeat tempo. Then there's the sinister and dark tune, The Song of Treachery, sung by the chorus alone while performing interpretive hip hop choreography. Not all the songs are performed in contemporary styles, however. There is the more traditional sea-shanty song, Lords of the Docks. And the more standard Government Man and the sarcastic tune about management games played in collective bargaining called Moving the Money Around.

Supplementing the ten original scores in both plays, 'Fire' and '1934,' are recorded selections and passages from classical music, including Beethoven's 3rd Symphony, 2nd movement, the famous "funeral march" (which was actually played by the longshore workers' band during the famous funeral march of July 5, 1934, when longshoremen were killed by police). Aaron Copland's 'Fanfare for the Common Man' is also aptly featured as a transition between Acts.

Epic Theater with an Ensemble Cast

In terms of lyrics, all the songs are written more in the tradition of Epic theater than typical musical theater today, in which lyrics are more often than not mere flaccid vehicles for the music itself. There are, of course, musical 'hooks' in all the songs, sung either by the ensemble cast, the dancers-chorus, or both. But the lyrics of every song tell a story as well and, unlike the 'hooks' stanzas sung by ensemble or chorus in the songs, lyrics in the body of the songs are non-repetitive and serve to convey the meaning or conscience of the particular scene, or even the play itself.

The songs are performed by the ensemble cast of actors and by a three person chorus of young singer-dancers. The two elements, cast and chorus, often sing in point-counterpoint to each other. In short, the songs are part of a total picture of sound, movement, and visuals which are intended to convey a dramatic representation of, for lack of a better phrase, a classical Greek tragedy in modern contemporary form.


Purchasing our Audio CDs

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Theme of the Musical: '1934' In Spoken-Word-with-Music Style By Full Ensemble with Solos

A Spoken-Word with Misic Tune Sung by Cast & Chorus

A Soulful Ballad Solo By Female Cast Lead With Full Chorus Backup

An Upbeat Folk Song Sung by Opposing Groups Of Company vs. Workers


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"Fire on Pier 32 is wonderfully entertaining and instructive at a time when we face the Bush-Leaguing and Wal-Marting of America."

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