Objectively, Les Misérables stands as a genuine cultural phenomenon of 3 different centuries: it was originally a hugely popular novel by Victor Hugo, first published in 1862; it was adapted into a French language musical by composer Claude-Michel Schönberg and lyricists Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel in 1980, then translated into English by Herbert Kretzmer for a still-running London production in 1985, followed by a 1987 Broadway production that won 8 Tony Awards and set records for the length of its run; in 2012 that musical was adapted into a film, which won 3 Oscars, including Best Supporting Actress for Anne Hathaway as Fantine.
It tells the story of Jean Valjean, who is about to be released from prison as the story opens. Valjean violates his parole and starts his life anew as a good man, only to be pursued for by Javert, a justice-obsessed police inspector. These two and the many other characters are set against the backdrop of the French Revolution, culminating in the last stand of a band of young revolutionaries (one of whom is in love with Valjean’s adopted daughter) at a street barricade during the 1832 Paris Uprising, 17 years after the story begins.
The music from Les Misérables has become well known all over the world, and has been arranged for band many times. The arrangement we are playing was done by Warren Barker in 1987, right when the musical first hit Broadway. Here it is, played by the Acadian Wind Symphony:
One note: I am not a fan of drum set parts in symphonic music, even semi-pop tunes like this, so we will leave them out of our performance.
To go to the source, here are some performances of the songs in the arrangement. It starts with “At the End of the Day”, a primarily choral number which depicts the misery of the lower classes in early 19th-century Paris. This performance comes from the musical’s 10th anniversary concert staging at London’s Royal Albert Hall:
“I Dreamed a Dream” is Fantine’s solo about her unfulfilled dreams, sung as she faces the darkest days of her life, having lost her job and her daughter and been forced into prostitution. This is Anne Hathaway’s Oscar-winning performance, intercut with other scenes from the film:
“Master of the House” is our introduction to the Thénardiers, a corrupt innkeeper and his wife who have been caring for Fantine’s daughter, Cosette (and taking her money) while neglecting her and showering gifts on their own daughter, Éponine. This performance comes from the 2006 Broadway revival. The meat of the song starts around 1:00:
“Do You Hear the People Sing” is the big choral number in which the young revolutionaries rally the people of Paris to their cause. Here it is as sung by 17 different Valjeans from around the world: