It is 1846 in America.

There was no hip-hop, no rap music, no jazz, no Broadway music of any kind.

There were no ‘great American songbook writers; no Cole Porter, no Gershwin, no Rodgers & Hart (or Hammerstein); no Irving Berlin.

So, what was there?

When you write the score for a musical that takes place in 1846 mid America,you need to know the music they were listening to then-the popular music of the time.

Besides classical music, of course, the popular song was the folk song.

Folk music was the rage-and Stephen Foster was the Irving Berlin of his time.

The songs were sweet, heartfelt, and, above all, melodic.

I took the basic elements of these songs-the simple but beautiful melodies, the heartfelt lyrics that sung of home, sweetness and love, and the simple chordal structure of the music-no surprises of any kind. I took these 3 elements and dramatized them-made them more ‘theatrical’ by adding a touch of Elmer Bernstein, Alex North and Max Steiner. Anotherwords, I feel I was right in the pocket of the music of the time.

This is what I felt I needed and wanted to capture in all its melodic beauty and sentiment and, at the same time, keep a theatricality about it and highlight the drama aspects of it.

I am very proud of my score for Forlorn Hope and feel it’s the best thing I’ve ever done as a composer and lyricist.

I didn’t want the characters to sound smart and clever because, for the most part, they weren’t. They were simple real people who lived in a real town and some were farmers and some were shop keepers but they all shared a dream of leaving their home and heading off to a land that they not only didn’t know much about, but wasn’t even an official part of this country yet.

These were not experienced explorers or adventurors or anything of the like. They were simple people who shared a dream to go to a better land. A land that’s healthier, where you can live longer and, FREE LAND! Imagine that! Wouldn't so many of us leave where we live now to go to a healthier, happier place and get free land on top of it?

Who knew their journey would lead to the worst snowstorm ever in California history? Trapping them for several months, with no food, no heat. Can you imagine it? What would you do? How would you eat? What would you do if you had to tostay alive?

I hope I was able to bring these characters to life and, at the same time, be true to them.

Michael Bitterman