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UNT College of Music acquires collection of Grammy-winning vocalist and vocal arranger Gene Puerling


Maristella Feustle, Music Librarian (L), Jennifer Barnes, Director of Vocal Jazz (R). Photo by Ahna Hubnik/URCM. Click to view larger image.

Please scroll down on the page to read the "Frequently Asked Questions" section for detailed information about access to and visits to the Collection in Willis Library.

To read the complete press release with details and information about the upcoming concerts on April 16 & 17, follow this link: https://news.unt.edu/news-releases/unt-jazz-singers-one-oclock-lab-band-...

What: The UNT College of Music’s newly acquired Gene Puerling collection will be housed in the Music Library. The collection of music and memorabilia from the Grammy-winning vocal arranger will be available for research by the UNT community and other library guests by special arrangement.
Save the date: At 8 p.m. April 16 and 17, 2015, the UNT Jazz Singers and One O’Clock Lab Band will perform concerts celebrating the music of Gene Puerling in Voertman Hall in the College of Music, 415 Avenue C, Denton. Guest artists for the concerts include Bonnie Herman and Clark Burroughs (lead singers for the Singers Unlimited and The Hi-Lo's!, respectively, and Don Shelton, vocalist with The Hi-Los! and The Singers Unlimited. Tickets may be bought through the link at: https://mpactickets.entausa.com/Webpages/EntaWebPerformance/PERFORMANCEL... (Click on "Jazz Singers" to see the two concert dates and choose your date) and will be $15 for adults; $12 for seniors, non-UNT students, children, UNT faculty, staff and retirees, and groups of 10 or more; and free for UNT students and College of Music faculty.

On Saturday, April 18, Vocal Jazz Director Jennifer Barnes will moderate two Q & A Sessions to highlight Gene Puerling's music and the legacy of the two primary vocal groups for whom he wrote and with whom he sang: The Hi-Lo's! and The Singers Unlimited. From 11 a.m. - 12:15 p.m., the music of the Hi-Lo's! will be discussed, featuring Q & A with Clark Burroughs and Don Shelton. After a lunch break, the topic will move to the music of The Singers Unlimited, from 1:30 - 2:45 p.m., featuring Q & A with Bonnie Herman and Don Shelton. These sessions will be open to the public, free of charge and will take place in Voertman Hall in the College of Music (same venue as the concerts).

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The UNT College of Music has received music written by Grammy-winning vocal arranger and renowned vocalist, the late Gene Puerling, along with musical scores, instrumental arrangements and other memorabilia from Puerling’s widow, Helen. The Gene Puerling Collection will reside in the Special Collections section of UNT’s Music Library, and arrived at UNT on Oct. 27. The collection will be accessible for the entire UNT community and guests by special arrangement. It will be housed in UNT’s Music Library on the fourth floor of Willis Library. Those who would like to access it should give the Music Library staff at least one day’s notice to make the collection readily available. Contact the Music Library staff at musicref@unt.edu or (940) 565-2860.

Included in the collection of the renowned vocalist and vocal arranger for The Hi-Lo’s! and The Singers Unlimited is music written by Puerling from his earliest days, beginning in the 1940s, until his death in 2008. The instrumental arrangements that often accompanied Puerling’s vocal arrangements will also be included in the collection, including music penned by Frank Comstock, Patrick Williams, Roger Kellaway, Rob McConnell, Les Hooper and Clare Fischer. In addition to musical scores, the collection will contain memorabilia related to Puerling’s life and work, including letters of admiration from renowned musicians, scripts from live television programs, and countless recordings made throughout his life.


Photo by Ahna Hubnik/URCM. Click to view larger image.

“Gene Puerling’s vocal arrangements are the gold standard by which all other vocal writing that utilizes jazz harmony is measured,” said UNT Director of Vocal Jazz Jennifer Barnes. “Acquiring this collection is not only beneficial to our students here at UNT, but guarantees that both future generations of vocal musicians and fans of Puerling’s music around the world will have access to his music for years to come.”

Puerling wrote intricate, harmonically complex arrangements and his pieces for The Hi-Lo’s! and The Singers Unlimited influenced countless future vocal groups to this day, including The Beach Boys, The Manhattan Transfer, The Real Group and Take 6. Although it was his vocal writing for The Hi-Lo’s! and The Singers Unlimited that earned Puerling a total of 14 Grammy award nominations, as well as the respect of musicians around the world, it was an arrangement written for The Manhattan Transfer of “A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square” in 1982 that won him the coveted award. In addition to the Manhattan Transfer, Puerling received commissions to write for other professional vocal groups, including The Real Group and Chanticleer, as well as solo artists like Linda Ronstadt and Gloria Estefan.

“This collection will serve multiple purposes for our students: as material for performance, as examples for the study of arranging, and as manuscripts that will be edited for publication,” said John Murphy, chair of UNT’s Division of Jazz Studies.

The Gene Puerling Collection will complement two other collections maintained collaboratively by the UNT Music Library and the Division of Jazz Studies, the Stan Kenton and Maynard Ferguson collections. Kenton, a famed jazz orchestra leader, gave UNT a collection of arrangements in 1962 and bequeathed the remainder of his collection to UNT in 1979, while the Ferguson Collection came to UNT in 2008.

“The Puerling Collection, along with our other 100-plus music special collections, is another avenue by which we can offer our community performance and research experiences which are uniquely ‘UNT,’ and can’t be replicated elsewhere,” said Maristella Feustle, music special collections librarian at the UNT Music Library.

Gala concerts and other events to celebrate the Gene Puerling Collection and feature the music of Gene Puerling are being scheduled for the weekend of April 16-18, 2015. For further information and up-to-date on events related to the collection, see this page, which will be updated regularly.

More information about Gene Puerling
Gene Puerling was the vocal bass-baritone in the highly popular male vocal quartet, The Hi-Lo’s!, from 1953 until 1964, with a period of revival from 1978 until their last performance together in 1992. Garnering three Grammy award nominations during that time, The Hi-Lo’s! appeared in concerts across the U.S. and Mexico as well as appearing on television shows hosted by Nat King Cole, Steve Allen, Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney. When fellow Hi-Lo’s! member Don Shelton moved to Chicago to pursue non-touring studio work, Gene joined him there soon after, and the two of them formed The Singers Unlimited (adding Bonnie Herman as lead vocalist and Len Dresslar as the bass) as an outlet for singing more complex music than the jingles that comprised their livelihood as studio singers. Legendary jazz pianist Oscar Peterson heard their revolutionary multi-track overdubbed recording of Puerling’s arrangement, “Fool on the Hill”, and was so impressed that he shared it with his German record label, MPS, who signed them to a contract immediately. The Singers Unlimited recorded 15 albums, including collaborations with Peterson’s trio, the Rob McConnell and Pat Williams Big Bands and several a cappella albums.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How can I get a copy of one of Gene Puerling’s vocal arrangements to use with my vocal group?

Unfortunately, due to copyright restrictions, we will be unable to provide access (by copying, scanning, e-mailing) to any of Mr. Puerling’s vocal arrangements. However, plans are being made to seek copyright permissions on a limited basis and eventually, we will release new editions of Gene’s music through a new publishing entity, North Texas Jazz Press.

When will North Texas Jazz Press be operational?

We cannot give a date at this time, since there is a significant infrastructure that must be created first, however, we will continually update this website with information, so your best option is to keep this webpage bookmarked and check this webpage for updates. We will also post updates on the UNT Vocal Jazz Facebook page, which you can find at: https://www.facebook.com/UNTVocalJazz. If you “Like” the page (and indicate that you wish to see all updates), you will receive updates in your news feed.
Will all of the vocal arrangements be available at one time?

No. Again, because of copyright restrictions, some vocal arrangements may never be made available at all, in fact! We will be re-creating scores and parts with great care using computer music notation and that will be a lengthy process, so we are estimating that we will not be releasing more than a few arrangements each year once the publishing component is operational.

What about the big band, small horn and rhythm section arrangements? Will I be able to purchase those as well?

Yes! Once we are operational with publishing, we will make a cappella and accompanied vocal charts and their instrumental accompaniments available.

Will the vocal arrangements be published exactly as performed originally or will there be different voicings and difficulty levels (simplified versions) offered as well?

In accordance with our agreement with Mrs. Puerling, the published arrangements will be exactly as Mr. Puerling wrote them, with no modifications except to the physical layout of scores to be made more readable by “traditional” vocal and instrumental score practices.

Will it be possible for me to physically look at or acquire the original scores that Mr. Puerling wrote? Can you scan and send them to me?

Yes and no. Anyone who is interested in viewing items contained in the Gene Puerling Library will be welcome to do so here on the campus of UNT at the Willis Library, under the supervision of library staff. However, no music will be allowed to be photocopied, photographed, or removed from the library under any circumstances.
What about the students at UNT and the vocal jazz ensembles there? Will they be allowed to have access to this music?

Yes. According to our agreement with Mrs. Puerling, the vocal and instrumental jazz ensembles here will be permitted to perform and record Mr. Puerling’s music, and our students will also be involved in assisting in the preparation of scores for publication.