323 FRIDAY 15 MAY 2015
NYC – Alicia Morton, Audra McDonald, Victor Garber, Andrea McArdle
You would think that this is a song I would have placed on the list sooner. The thing is that I have five or six versions of this song in my iTunes Library. I’ve settled for this one, from the 1999 TV movie because it features Victor Garber, an actor who is so easy to watch, and Audra McDonald – I haven’t included enough of her on the list.
On an earlier entry, I wrote about how despite Annie being a very popular show since the 1970s, it was only in 2011 that I discovered the musical. I always thought it was a kid’s show, but I was very surprised to find out how smart it was.
I love how optimistic NYC is. If you compare it to the other New York song that came out in 1977 – “Theme From New York, New York” by Kander and Ebb; NYC is perhaps more free and hopeful. While “Theme From New York, New York” may be about someone who’s coming to New York with a plan on how to make it there, NYC is about someone coming to live in the big city without any plans. Who needs plans? The newcomer offers herself up as a blank canvas for NYC to brush its own strokes of vibrancy. She’s a piece of clay waiting to be sculpted by the City. She’ll be happy and content with whatever New York City makes out of her. She’s property of NYC.
The song offers one of my favourite lyrics of all the songs I’ve picked so far. NYC! Tomorrow a penthouse, that’s way up high. Tonight, the “Y”. Why not? It’s NYC
Song Title: NYC – 1977 Artist: Alicia Morton, Audra McDonald, Victor Garber, Andrea McArdle Genre: Musical Composer: Charles Strouse Lyrics: Martin Charnin Album: Annie (TV Original Soundtrack)
Favourite Lyrics: Tomorrow a penthouse / That’s way up high / Tonight / The “Y” / Why not? / It’s NYC
324 SATURDAY 16 MAY 2015
Popule Meus – O. Corredor Zerpa & Banda Marcial
Have you heard the one about the alcoholic composer who paid for his last drink with the music sheet of his greatest composition? After the writer had died indigent on the streets of Caracas in the early 1800s, the barkeeper who had received the music sheet in payment showed it to a musician who marvelled at how superb the composition was. Eventually, it became one of the best-known classical pieces from Venezuela’s Colonial period. However, if you do your research, you’ll find that the story is only partially true.
Ever since I was a kid, I remember Palm Sunday as also being “Nazarene Day”. On that day, to celebrate Jesus of Nazareth entrance to Jerusalem, the Saint Francis of Assisi Convent in downtown Maracaibo would organise a procession of a Jesus of Nazarene effigy. Right after 6:00 PM mass, six men in white suits would lift a sort of plank holding a statue of Jesus of Nazarene dressed in a purple tunic. The men would follow the priest and carry the plank on their shoulders down the aisle, and to the church’s door, where a small band waited. The band would start marching down the street, followed by the priest and the six men carrying the Nazarene. Behind them, a group of people, from small kids to seniors, wearing purple tunics, would follow.
The people wearing purple were usually paying a promise. At some moment in their recent lives, these devoted Catholic had prayed and asked Jesus of Nazarene for help, even for a miracle. “Jesus, heal my baby.” “Oh Lord, I ask you that my surgery goes well.” “Oh Jesus, do stay with me through day and night.” Jesus of Nazarene had heard them and looked upon them with eyes of mercy. He had healed their babies, guided their surgeons’ hands, and stayed with them through day and night. To show their appreciation, they would wear purple and follow the Nazarene effigy through the narrow downtown streets. Behind the group, others would follow carrying palms or small tree branches. As the procession moved through the streets, people on the sidewalks would lift branches and palms, saluting the Nazarene, just as the Jesus was welcome into Jerusalem 2000 years ago.
It was always quite a picturesque scene to see all that purple floating down the streets. The tunics would bathe and shimmer for a few minutes during the short twilight of the tropics. The small marching band, mostly wind instruments and drums, would play sacred music, and among them, Popule Meus, the piece the aforementioned alcoholic composer had used to pay for his last drink.
When I was nine or ten, I remember asking Mum why the band played a tango-like song as the Nazarene travelled through the downtown streets. She told me it wasn’t a tango. It was sacred music. The particular piece the band played, Popule Meus, Latin for “My People”, represented Jesus carrying the cross through the streets of Jerusalem on his way to being crucified.
During a drunken stupor, the author – a devout Catholic no doubt, had composed the magnificent orchestral piece. Such was the battle with the demons brought out by his alcoholism that through divine intervention, he was able to feel and illustrate with his music, Jesus’ own Calvary.
One day when his weak and shivering body craved for alcohol, he had no other option but to offer his own Calvary as payment. He entered the bar he used to visit and asked for a drink. He handed the barkeeper the music sheet and told him it was his best piece ever. The barkeeper must have pitied him, and accepted the payment. It was a dying man’s wish.
Days later, the barkeeper showed the music sheet to a musician friend of his. He was curious to know if it was any good. His friend was intrigued and played it on the bar’s piano, by the end they both knew they were in the presence of a masterpiece created by a drunken man. When the barkeeper went out looking for him to return it, he found out that the destitute man had died on the night he had visited the bar.
It was quite a story. I remember thinking of the poor man roaming the streets of Caracas, desperate and drunk, but probably at peace with himself. He had sacrificed his own self, he had gone to hell and back, only to be able to feel the same pain Jesus had felt on his way to his crucifixion and tell the world about it through his music. What a true Christian, I thought.
Well, not so fast. Hold the canonization application.
In 1991, as I was looking for a subject for my final master’s project, I thought I wanted to do a short movie about the origin of this composition. I could see the composer on his knees, looking up to the heavens, arms up, and crying out: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It didn’t get more cinematic than that. It would have been a spectacular shot, but I decided not to do it for one simple reason. It was all a myth.
How José Ángel Lamas, the author, went from a prolific composer of classical music to an impoverished alcoholic musician who died penniless in the streets of Caracas, escapes me. There was nothing dramatic about the origin of Popule Meus, its author composed it in 1801 and premiered it in the Caracas Cathedral.
I’m not sure where my mother got that story. I don’t think I’ve ever told her the whole story is a myth. The piece still remains one of my favourite classical pieces, though.
Song Title: Popule Meus – 1801 Artist: O. Corredor Zerpa & Banda Marcial Genre: Classical Composer: José Ángel Lamas Album: Concierto Sacro
325 SUNDAY 17 MAY 2015
It’s De-Lovely – Robbie Williams
Well, we have arrived at the last Cole Porter song of the list. I have featured 14 of his compositions.
It is a nice coincidence that a present day singer, Robbie Williams, is the interpreter of It’s De-Lovely. It shows the trans-generational appeal of Cole Porter.
Song Title: It’s De-Lovely – 1936 Artist: Robbie Williams Genre: Musical Composer: Cole Porter Lyrics: Cole Porter Album: De-Lovely [Soundtrack]
Favourite Lyrics: So please be sweet, my chickadee, / And when I kiss you, just say to me, / “It’s delightful, it’s delicious, / It’s…It’s de-lovely”
326 MONDAY 18 MAY 2015 (-40)
Evergreen (Love Theme from “A Star Is Born”) – Barbra Streisand
I’ve always thought this to be one of the prettiest songs from the 1970s. Apparently, many people seem to think so too. I read someplace that this is one of the most popular songs at wedding receptions.
Evergreen, also composed by La Streisand, was the love theme of the 1976 remake of “A Star Is Born”. The film was one of those movies that I couldn’t see because I was too young to be allowed into the theatre, but at the same time, I was old enough to know it was a movie I had to see. I was so pissed off I couldn’t see it. It didn’t help matters that my brother and sister had been able to see it, and would talk about it in front of me, only to make me envious. Although I may not have seen it, I sure knew everything about it. I bought a magazine that had the entire story illustrated with photos. In my head, I could see the pictures morphing into one another, telling a story that captivated me. I lost count of the number of times I read that magazine.
I believe I ended up seeing “A Star Is Born” in the early 1980s, and although I thought it was a cool movie, my memories aren’t from the film, but from the magazine photo-story.
It’s worth noting that when Barbra Streisand won an Academy Award for this song, she became the first woman to win an Oscar for composing an original song for a movie.
Song Title: Evergreen (Love Theme from “A Star Is Born”) – 1976 Artist: Barbra Streisand Genre: Soundtrack Composer: Barbra Streisand Lyrics: Paul WIlliams Album: The Essential Barbra Streisand
Favourite Lyrics: Like a rose under the April snow / I was always certain love would grow
327 TUESDAY 19 MAY 2015
Who Are You Now? – Barbra Streisand
It’s time to bid adieu to Barbra Streisand. I have included 13 songs from her repertoire. This one from “Funny Girl”, the play, is one of my favourites.
Often, all you need to do is change the perspective of something you’re looking at, for that event to render unrecognisable. This song also echoes one of my earlier entries, “A Quiet Thing/There Won’t Be Trumpets”. (See Week 14, Number 93) Occasionally, the things that we desperately desire for a long time don’t live to their expectations. Often, they can turn out to be disappointing.
As I approach the end of this project, at times I have asked myself who I am now. Has this project shed any light in who I’ve been for 50 years and the person I’ll be for the next 50? I’d like to think so. It almost feels as if I see myself under a different light now.
Song Title: Who Are You Now? – 1964 Artist: Barbra Streisand Genre: Musical Composer: Jule Styne Lyrics: Bob Merrill Album: Funny Girl
Favourite Lyrics: How is the view, / Sunny and green? / How do you compare it to / The views you’ve seen?
328 WEDNESDAY 20 MAY 2015
Snake In The Grass – Bob Fosse
This song is for anyone who still wonders what the fuzz with Bob Fosse is all about.
The sequence comes from the 1974 adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic, “The Little Prince”. Directed by Stanley Donen, the film casts Bob Fosse as the snake. For those unfamiliar with the book, the snake offers the travelling Little Prince a one-way ticket back to his planet. However, the trip is only for his soul. His body is too heavy to carry.
The number is pure Fosse. From the black shirt and trousers with the bowler hat and to the cigarette dangling from his mouth, this is perhaps the only number where Fosse himself performs most of the dancing techniques he developed through the years. The snap of the fingers, the pigeon-toed walk and the swaying of the arms behind his back, are just a few of the steps that have come to be identified as ‘Fosse movements’. It is impossible not to see his influence on Michael Jackson’s moonwalking, and even on Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” music video. Fosse’s artistry keeps inspiring dancers and choreographers to this day.
The movie was a flop, and today it is mostly remembered because of this Fosse’s number. The movie got such bad reviews that some have argued the negative write-ups contributed to Fosse’s heart attack in 1975 while in rehearsals for “Chicago”. Such incident is featured in “All That Jazz”, Fosse’s non-official biopic, in the form of the bad reviews Joe Gideon, the lead character, gets on his latest film.
I didn’t know much about Bob Fosse as a dancer when I first saw this movie in the early 1980s. Needless to say, his dancing blew me away. That’s when I started to get interested in his work.
Song Title: Snake In The Grass – 1974 Artist: Bob Fosse Genre: Soundtrack Composer: Frederick Loewe Lyricist: Alan Jay Lerner Album: Little Prince
Favourite Lyrics: And while you’re wandering / Through the heavenly blue / If you should see the Lord / Come strolling in view / Go up and say / You bring Him best wishes / From his fallen old chum / A snake in the grass
329 THURSDAY 21 MAY 2015
Overture – Mack & Mabel – Orchestra
Along with “Damn Yankees” and “My One and Only”, I think this is one of my favourite’s Overtures to a musical. I still can’t understand why “Mack & Mabel” was a flop. It’s one of Jerry Herman’s finest scores.
Song Title: Overture – Mack & Mabel – 1974 Artist: Orchestra Genre: Musical Composer: Jerry Herman Lyricist: Jerry Herman Album: Mack & Mabel