“Jerome Moross consciously refused to be swayed by popular trends. He turned away from modernist techniques (such as serialism) early in his career and he never looked back. Instead Moross called on the music he heard around him for inspiration, including popular song … Because his music was inspired by American musical idioms, it was intrinsically American.”
Mariana Whitmer, Executive Director of the Society for American Music

Born on August 1, 1913, in Brooklyn, composer Jerome Moross was an innovator in the musical theater, in ballet, movies and in other musical realms.

He graduated at age 18 from New York University, and in the 1930s was a member of Aaron Copland’s Young Composers Group which included Bernard Herrmann. In his book The Composer in Hollywood, Christopher Palmer wrote that Moross “sought to develop an authentically American nationalist idiom which was not exclusively jazz-orientated but drew nourishment from a great variety of American folk and popular music cultures: musical comedy, vaudeville, folksong of the Appalachian mountain variety, spirituals, blues, rags and stomps.”

During the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s Moross wrote for concerts, radio, theater, and movies. He orchestrated Copland’s scores for the films Our Town and The North Star, as well as Hugo Friedhofer‘s The Best Years of Our Lives.

Starting in 1948 he began getting film composing assignments of his own including the thriller The Sharkfighters, the Cinerama travelogue Seven Wonders of the World and many others culminating in his Oscar-award-nominated masterpiece, The Big Country, a sprawling Western directed by William Wyler starring Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, Carroll Baker and Jean Simmons. Moross’ symphonic score with folk-song-like tunes redefined the sound of the Western and brought more offers to him. His other Westerns included The Proud RebelThe JayhawkersThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and the themes for television’s popular Wagon Train and Lancer.

He scored films in other genres, including the medieval drama The War Lord, the cowboys-versus-dinosaurs fantasy The Valley of Gwangi, Paul Newman’s sensitive drama Rachel, Rachel and his other magnum opus in film, The Cardinal.

Moross regularly challenged the status quo: His ballet Frankie and Johnny drew on folk themes, his Ballet Ballads combined ballet and theater, and his remarkable The Golden Apple (with librettist and lyricist John Latouche) won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Musical. It was a sung-through musical retelling of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey myths set in turn-of-the-century Washington. Its best-known song is “Lazy Afternoon,” introduced by Kaye Ballard and since covered by everyone from Barbra Streisand to Tony Bennett.

His Gentlemen, Be Seated!, a review of events during the Civil War performed as a minstrel show, was too much for critics or audiences to handle as the civil-rights movement was reaching its height in 1963. It played only three performances at New York’s City Center Opera.

Moross also had a vast knowledge and appreciation of classical music. Sir Thomas Beecham conducted the premiere of his first and only symphony in 1943 and he spent much of his last decade writing chamber music. In 1977 he turned Lucille Fletcher’s radio play Sorry, Wrong Number into a one-act opera.

Moross died on July 25, 1983. For more information about Jerome Moross please visit his website (

NOTE: Much of the text accompanying the musical selections below was adapted from the liner notes written by James Fitzpatrick in the booklets accompanying the two indispensable collections of Moross’ music on Silva Screen Records.
– Read more –


Made on a shoestring budget, Close-Up was the first feature film with a Jerome Moross score.

Orchestrated by Nic Raine from the Composer’s original manuscripts
INSTRUMENTATION: 2, 2(II.dbl E.H.), 2(II. dbl BsCl), 2 / 4,3,4,1 / Timp, Perc:[Piatti, Drum Kit, SusCym, SnDr] / Piano / Strings
The Composer took one of the film’s themes—originally played on saxophone—and rescored it, adding some developments of the same material creating an entirely new piece. “Romanza” reveals another side of Moross’ musical character, showing an affinity for jazz.

Arranged and Orchestrated by the Composer
INSTRUMENTATION: 3,3,3,2 / 4,3,3,0 / Perc:[2 Timps, Cymbal, Vibes] / Harp, Celesta
The recording of this score was done in New York, but the dubbing was done in Hollywood, without the Composer’s participation. Much of the score was cut from the film or mixed at very low levels. This short suite has ben adapted from the original scores and uses the original film orchestration.
Americana Miniature

Original scores adapted by James Fitzpatrick
INSTRUMENTATION: 2,2,2,2 / 2,0,1,0 / Timp, Vibes / Celesta, Harp / Strings
Seven Wonders of the World (1956), was a travelogue/documentary created to showcase the then-new Cinerama technology. Wikipedia describes Cinerama as “a widescreen process that originally projected images simultaneously from three synchronized projectors onto a huge, deeply curved screen.” It was one of several processes developed by the movie studios to combat the stiff competition they were facing from television. The soundtrack played on speakers placed all around the auditorium, similar to today’s “surround-sound” experience. There were six sections to the film, Moross composed the music for two of them.
The Holy Land

The Mediterranean

Orchestrated by Nic Raine from the Composer’s original manuscripts
Moross had a particularly joyful experience creating the score for this film, and unlike some of his other Hollywood experiences, nothing was ever messed up in post-production. This suite is a spectacular showpiece for all sections of an orchestra.

Huck’s Escape

The Mississippi

Fight & Finale

Adapted and Orchestrated by Christopher Palmer from the Composer’s original manuscripts
INSTRUMENTATION: 3[III. dbl Picc), 3(III.=CA), 3(III. dbl BsCl), 3(III.=ContraBsn) / 4,3,3,1 / TImp, Perc:[SnDr, GrCassa, Tom-Toms, Glock, Tamb, Vibes, Piatti, SusCym, WoodBlock, Tri], Harp, Piano / Strings
Bernard Herrmann was the first choice composer for this project but when he was informed that the total musical budget for the whole film—composing, orchestrating, copying, musicians and recording—was only $12,000 he declined the offer instead suggesting to the producers that Jerome Moross (his life-long friend) would be the ideal choice. Moross was very keen to work on another film (he scored only two previously) in order to enhance his reputation in Hollywood as a composer

Orchestrated by Nic Raine from the Composer’s original manuscripts
INSTRUMENTATION: 2,2 (II.dbl CA), 2,2 / 4,3,3,1 / Timp, Perc:[Piatti, Tam-Tam] / Harp, Piano / Strings
The Cardinal (1963) was a globe-spanning epic about the Catholic Church that starred Tom Tryon, Carol Lynley, John Huston and Burgess Meredith. The music combined reverent themes, Viennese waltzes and, of course, vintage Americana. The director, Otto Preminger, insisted that Moross be integrated into the production from the early stages. Moross described himself as “the moving music department” as he traveled with the company throughout Europe as the film was shot. The Main Theme became a beautiful song with lyrics by Carolyn Leigh called “Stay With Me,” (not used in the film) with a memorable recording made by Frank Sinatra. Moross was justifiably proud of his score for this film. The “Center for American Music Preservation” included the score for The Cardinal in its list of the “100 Essential Film Scores of the 20th Century.”

Stonebury / The Cardinal’s Faith (Scherzo & Elegy)

The Cardinal in Vienna (Waltz)

The Cardinal’s Decision / Finale

Orchestrated by Christopher Palmer from the Composer’s original manuscripts; “The Cardinal in Vienna” orchestrated by the Composer
INSTRUMENTATION: 3, 3(III=C.A.), 3(III=BsClar), 3(III=ContraBsn) / 4,3,3,1 / Perc:[Timp, Piatti, GranCassa, Glock, Snare Drum, Drum Kit (with TomTom & WoodBlock), LargeCym, Vibes (with pedal), Triangle, Tambourine, Deep “Parsifal” E-flat Chime] / Piano, Harp / Strings
Set in pre-Civil War Kansas, the story tells of a Mexican war hero hired by the U.S. army to catch the leader of the “Jayhawkers,” a vigilante gang trying to take over Kansas. Moross was assigned to this film hard on the heels of his spectacularly successful score for The Big Country. The music is steeped in American folklore with references to different source material mingled with Moross’ own melodies and themes. Interesting side-note: Moross later (inadvertently) adapted one of the secondary melodies into the main theme for the television series Wagon Train.
Main Titles / Cam

The Lynching / The Two Brothers / The Jayhawkers

Attack on Abilene / Death of Darcy / Finale

Orchestrated by Nic Raine from the Composer’s original manuscripts
INSTRUMENTATION: 3(III dbls Picc),3,3,3(III=ContraBsn) / 4,3,3,1 / Timp, 3Perc:[Vibes, Xylo, SideDrum, TenorDrum, GranCassa, SusCym, Piatti] / Harp,Piano / Strings
Moross is in familiar musical territory with The Mountain Road although the location is not the American West but in East China in 1944. He evokes the oriental location by using a few percussive effects: Chinese cymbals, piatti and gong.

Orchestrated by Mike Townend from the Composer’s original manuscripts
INSTRUMENTATION: 3(III.dbl Picc), 2, 2, 3(III.=BsCl), 2(II.=Contra-Bsn) / 4,3,3(III.=BsTbn),1 / Timp, Perc:[Piatti, SusCym, Glock, ChineseCym, Mba, SnDr, Gong] / Piano, Celesta, Harp / Strings
A fairly low-key Western, The Proud Rebel offered Moross every opportunity to flex his Americana musical muscle. Much of the score, except for two fight sequences, shows Moross in a pastoral mood with a collection of dance-like melodies underscoring scenes of buggy rides, life and chores on the farm, the shepherding of flocks of sheep and the burgeoning love between the two stars, Olivia deHavilland and Alan Ladd.
Main Titles

The Wagon Ride / The Dress

Fight in the Alley / The Farm

Night Scene

The Sheep Are Expelled / The Promise / The Final Fight / Finale<

Orchestrated by Tony Bremmer from the Composer’s original manuscripts
INSTRUMENTATION: 3(III.dbl Picc), 2, 2, 3(III.=BsCl), 2(II.=Contra-Bsn) / 4,3,3(III.=BsTbn),1 / Timp, Perc:[SnDr, TenDr, BsDr with attached cymbal, Tam-Tam, Glock, Vibes, Tri, SusCym, Whip] / Harp, Piano(dbl.Celesta) / Strings
This film gave Moross the opportunity to forsake standard symphonic orchestration, employing an extra-large percussion section of 9 players with all manner of exotic instruments including Boobams, Maracas, Bongoes, Timbales, Congas and Gongs. The Cuban setting inspired Moross to an outpouring of Latin American rhythms, tunes and melodies. Christopher Palmer has fashioned all of these disparate elements into an 11-minute orchestral tour-de-force.

Arranged by Christopher Palmer from the Composer’s original manuscripts
INSTRUMENTATION: 3(III.dbl Perc), 2, 3(III.dbl Clar in A), 2(II.dbl ContraBsn) / 4,3,3,1 / Timp, Perc:[Boobams, Maracas, Claves, Vibes, Bongos, SusCym, Piatti, SideDrum, Timbales, Congas, Glock, Large Maracas, GranCassa, Xylo, Gong] / Piano(dbl Celesta), 2 Harps / Strings
The Valley of Gwangi was a film with many traditional Western elements, so hiring Moross because of his particular Western “sound” seemed like a no-brainer. But this was not actually the case. In the composer’s own words: “The producer had done a whole series of fantasy pictures with Bernard Herrmann. Benny had done marvelous things for them, but that’s just not my style. And I just wrote in my own style and he was startled. I said ‘Well if you wanted Bernard Herrmann you shouldn’t have hired me.’” In the final print of the film much of Moross’ music was extensively re-edited, so much so that many sequences in the film make absolutely no sense musically. For this suite, orchestrator Nic Raine was completely faithful to Moross’ original intentions and reconstructed the score per the Composer’s extensive sketches, as it was heard at the original soundtrack recording sessions.
The Landscape / The Forbidden Valley / Pterodactyl Attack

Capture of Gwangi / Gwangi Enchanted

Night in the Valley / Gwangi At the Cathedral / Death of Gwangi / Finale

At the request of the star of the picture, Charlton Heston, the music for The War Lord differs appreciably from the usual Epic film scoring and focuses very firmly around the human dimension. It was Heston’s idea that if the action sequences were scored heavily it would give those scenes a bombastic B-picture quality and detract from the drama and romance. Unfortunately, the studio mutilated the film, cutting it and re-cutting it to bring it down to a 2-hour length. By that time Moross had only a limited amount of time left on his contract, so he scored what he considered were the most important scenes. After his contract expired the studio brought in another composer to score the two major battle sequences using some basic material supplied by Moross. This suite comprises five major Moross cues.
Prelude & Main Title

What of the Future? / Vengeance & Death / Finale

Original scores adapted by James Fitzpatrick
INSTRUMENTATION: 2,2,2,2 / 2,0,1,0 / Timp, Vibes / Celesta, Harp / Strings
Originally the Wagon Train theme was composed as the secondary “Two Brothers Theme” for the feature film The Jayhawkers. According to Moross, “I wrote that theme, which was unimportant in the score, and I forgot about it. Then they hired me to write a new theme for Wagon Train and without thinking of it, the [Jayhawkers] theme was still in my mind and I wrote it down for Wagon Train. Then Paramount [The Jayhawkers studio] called Universal [the Wagon Train studio] and said: ‘Do you know it’s the same theme?’ They brought the matter to me and I said: ‘It can’t be’ but sure enough it was.” To everyone’s relief, Paramount let it pass! Moross never really expanded the Wagon Train theme beyond the limitations of its TV time slot. Mike Townend arranged this 3-minute version based on the original scoring and on his experience in orchestrating other Moross scores.