Posts Tagged ‘ Cole Porter ’

Questions are asked and answered


There is a meme going around, as I’m sure you’ll have noticed, where bloggers interview one another, and end up giving really quite interesting (or in my case, really quite long) answers.  I think the beauty of this meme is in the nature of who is doing the interviewing.  It’s not people that the bloggers know in their day to day life, who would most likely be fishing for particular bits of information that they already know.  It’s also not people completely disconnected from them, who would end up asking entirely generic questions.  These are people who know their interviewees through the blogosphere, a curious form of social interaction which is simultaneously very open and very reserved, as each word can be chosen, pondered and held back.  All of us leave a whole number of gaps in the narrative of our lives as we blog away, and many of the questions and answers I’ve seen have been filling in some of these gaps, which the blog authors may have been entirely unaware of.

So the meme has been floating around, and I’ve seen it whiz through the periphery of  both the comics blogosphere and the theatre blogosphere, and now it has entered the realm of the blogs that I read more regularly.  I finally decided to be brave and ask for some questions following the questions that Aphra posed to Reed.  Reed, or possibly her ever-present Editor, posed five questions, and warned me that they “are all prompted by the fact I am a NOSY woman”.   As a result, this is probably one of my longest posts ever.  If you really don’t want to know about the real Singing Librarian, look away now and come back in a few days when I start wittering about something less personal.

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Music to shed tears to


I have mentioned before that certain songs can make me cry.  Of course, with my mental wobbliness factor, I don’t necesarily need any songs to accomplish this goal, as at my worst somebody saying hello or a black cloud or nothing at all can open the floodgates, but there are definitely songs which can cause me to well up even when I am in a stable mental state.

I have expressed my tearful admiration for ‘Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye’ before, and it sits alongside other songs written for Broadway shows before the Second World War which have stood the test of time in both singability and the power to move listeners to tears.  The Gershwin brothers’ ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ and Jerome Kern’s ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’ (lyrics by Otto Harbach) are the greatest examples of this for me.  Songs of love either lost or never found in the first place, expressed with simplicity, directness and a velvety melody.  From the other side of the coin, Irving Berlin’s ‘How Deep is the Ocean?’ (not from a show as far as I know), which speaks of a love of incredible depth and fortitude can make me start to well up, as can ‘All the Things You Are’ by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein.

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After the show


Nearly six months of rehearsals, several false starts, numerous sleepless nights over administrative problems, thirty-nine cast members, dozens of crew and musicians dressed in black, six performances, one visit from the Lord Mayor and a very subdued after-show party, and it’s all over.  There is now a Kiss Me, Kate-shaped hole in my life, and I have the potential to study, or perhaps even relax, on Tuesday evenings and Sunday afternoons.  Since I am young, male, and now on the radar of the local performing groups, this doesn’t mean a quiet life (I’m already back in rehearsals for The Sound of Gershwin at the Whitstable Playhouse and have a July concert to work towards), but I really am going to miss this show.

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Another Op’nin’, Another Show


You know, Kiss Me, Kate really doesn’t have the most musically-advanced opening number in the world, and the lyrics are pretty simplistic, but it has a power and appropriateness which is hard to match.  As I have been rehearsing the number over the past few weeks, I’ve been struck by this again and again.  Sometimes less really is more, even in musical theatre.

The tune is simple and catchy, though the revised version of the show currently doing the rounds adds some tough harmonies to the number.  It drives  along, expressing the combination of dread and elation that performing a show brings with it.  I sincerely doubt that a musical analysis of the song would provide much insight even if I had the skills to do such a thing, so let’s look at the lyrics…

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What’s so great about Kiss Me, Kate?


Musical theatre is my passion.  Hardly a surprising admission, but it is definitely true.  There are many musicals which I like, many songs which I love to sing, hum or hear, many writers, composers, directors and performers I admire.  And of course, there are the shows that I love.  The cream of the crop, and Kiss Me, Kate is one of those.  Convenient, really, as it’s going to be part of my life for the next few months!  But what’s so great about it?  What makes me rank it almost as highly as Cabaret, Sweeney Todd and West Side Story?

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Four songs


I’ve been trying to organise my thoughts on a topic close to my heart – the defence of musical theatre, a medium which comes in for more than its fair share of (snooty) criticism. Yes, the musical can be blooming silly and rather pointless, but it can also achieve an astonishing level of power and artistry.  CabaretWest Side StorySweeney Todd.  Incredible works of art by any standard, surely.  However, try as I might, I cannot write something without ranting or babbling incoherently.  Perhaps one day I’ll manage it, but for now, I’ll simply mention just four songs written for musicals which never cease to amaze me.

  • ‘Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye’ from Seven Lively Arts, by Cole Porter.  I’ve never been in love, but this song speaks so eloquently of loss and longing, of the highs and lows of parting and reuniting.  It is one of a very small number of songs that can make me cry.
  • ‘Night and Day’ from The Gay Divorcee, also by Cole Porter.  This is a searing song of yearning and desire with powerful lyrics.  But pay attention to the music as well, and the song reveals just how good Cole Porter was.  The staccato opening verse contrasts brilliantly with the soaring, swooping liquid melody it leads to.  It’s simply gorgeous.
  • ‘(I Wonder Why) You’re Just in Love’ from Call Me Madam by Irving Berlin.  This one just makes me smile – it’s a duet between a young man experiencing love for the first time, and an older woman who is touched by this.  His verse is very sweet and simple, while hers is more bouncy and belty (it was written for the very scary Ethel Merman, so it’s hardly a surprise).  And then they sing them together!  I have never understood counterpoint, but I love it.  It makes me very excited, whether it’s in a mass or a love song.  I really do wonder how they write them like that.
  • The ‘Quintet’ from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.  This is surely the pinnacle of theatre music, with counterpoint taken to extremes.  Only ‘One Day More’ from Les Mis comes close for this sort of thing – disparate groups of people anticipating a specific time, and putting their hopes and fears into words and music.  The rival street gangs anticipate their rumble, the two lovers look forward to meeting, and Anita adds a sexual frisson.  And they all come together into something that is greater than the sum of its already-incredible parts. 

I could go on, and make the longest blog post ever, but I won’t.  I don’t wake up and launch into ‘Oh, What a Beautiful Morning’.  I don’t automatically sing ‘My Time of Day’ if I wander the city streets at night.  I don’t (thank goodness) drag out ‘The Sun Has Got His Hat On’ every time the clouds part.  But I’m glad to have a body of songs from a supposedly inferior source to draw on, to sing and to listen to.  As Abba said in ‘Thank You For the Music’ from the mini-musical The Girl With the Golden Hair, ‘without a song or a dance, what are we?’  I don’t know, and I hope I never have to find out.

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