SLS: Clear

Clear is a song by Needtobreathe, which perfectly suits the Song Lyrics Sunday prompt of Clear/Dark/Light.

You are the moonlight in the sky that I’m pursuing
You are the reason for what I’m doing
You are the crystalline that keeps me from my ruin
You are the movement
You’re the true north pointing back home
You are the constant, my constellation
You’re the steady hands of a ticking clock that I’ll come to rely on
Oh, it’s so clear come a little closer all of my love is right here
I just want to hear you whispering you still trust
You’re the only thing that I have ever been sure of
I just wanna be where you are
I promise I won’t let you down
Honey, it’s so clear now
You are the four winds
You’re the catalyst of high hopes
You are the beauty
The sparks revival
You are the oxygen inside these lungs that’s giving life to my bones
Oh, it’s so clear
Come a little closer all of my love is right here
I just want to hear you whispering you still trust
You’re the only thing that I have ever been sure of
I just wanna be where you are I promise I won’t let you down
Honey, it’s so clear now
Oh, it’s so clear come a little closer
All of my love is right here
I just want to hear you whispering you still trust
You’re the only thing that I have ever been sure of
I just wanna be where you are I promise I won’t let you down
Honey, it’s so clear now
Honey, it’s so clear now
It’s so clear now
I promise I won’t let you down
Honey, it’s so clear now
Honey, it’s so clear now
Honey, it’s so clear now
It feels like heaven is coming down
It’s right here with me its all around
I once was so lost but I am found
When I’m with you
No ones watching the way you move
Your body’s dancing under the moon
You always know just what to do
When I’m with you
When I’m with you
When I’m with you
When I’m with you

Before I started looking for a song with this prompt, I had never heard of this song or the band, either, but I liked the song immediately. Clear is on the band’s album Hard Love, which was released on July 15, 2016. Atwood Magazine: For the Love of Music describes the song as being about a man who is following a guiding light, most likely a person. The lyrics explain that because of that guide, he will be there for others and will not let them down. His love has affected him in the most positive ways. With the addition of the background chorus, the song becomes inspirational.

Needtobreathe’s bass guitarist Seth Bolt wrote this song for his wife, Tori, just before their marriage in 2016. Seth Bolt told iHeartRadio, “I just got married a month ago, so it was really personal for me. It was really cool to get to surprise my wife and have it be the song we dance to as our first dance at our wedding. It’s a long song just about the depth and the beauty love can have. I was working on this with the guys literally two weeks before I got married. So never have I had the opportunity to craft a song that I knew was going to be played at my wedding.” (Source)

Faith is a frequent topic for Needtobreathe, who convey a message that is easy to relate to. Hard Love was the band’s sixth studio album and dealt with the hardships of being on the road day in and day out and tells of the band’s efforts to maintain their relationships while on the road. It illuminates the power of getting through adversity and the ability to rise above it.

According to Southern Living, Needtobreathe’s music is usually classified as “Christian Rock” because there is a hint of spirituality in their music and they were inspired by gospel music when they were growing up in South Carolina. Band leaders Bo and Bear Rinehart said they grew up playing music in their dad’s church – their father was a pastor. However, Needtobreathe believes their music has a wider appeal and want to break out of the “Christian Rock” genre label.

Clear is truly a beautiful love song, which should appeal anyone who has ever had a “great love.”

Song Lyrics Sunday: It’s Getting Better


This week in Jim Adams’ Song Lyrics Sunday, we were to post a song with Good/Better/Best/Great. Yes, it was the Beatles song that first made me type in the words “It’s Getting Better” on YouTube. Being a longtime Beatles fan, I thought, yeah, this is one of the theme songs of my generation, of my life. It often comes into my head in the car or whenever someone says anything resembling the title.  But then I found another song with the same title – and I liked it, a lot! So I decided to choose this little known gem sung by Cass Elliot (“Mama Cass” of the Mamas and the Papas). The person who posted it on YouTube with the moniker “wearyoldman” says that the song was recorded in 1969. The Mamas and the Papas were not involved in this recording, although they are shown on the video. Cass Elliot died a tragic death in 1974 and Michelle Phillips is the only surviving member of the band. 

By the way, she never liked the name “Mama Cass.” (Would you, if it was associated with a line in one of their songs And no one’s gettin’ fat except Mama Cass??)

It’s Getting Better
Composed by Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil
Sung by Cass Elliot

Once I believed that when love came to me
It would come with rockets, bells and poetry
But with me and you
it just started quietly and grew
And believe it or not
Now there’s something groovy and good
‘Bout whatever we got

And it’s gettin’ better
Growing stronger warm and wilder
Gettin’ better everyday, better everyday

I don’t feel all turned on and starry eyed
I just feel a sweet contentment deep inside
Holding you at night
just seems kind of natural and right
And it’s not hard to see
That it isn’t half of what it’s gonna turn out to be

‘Cause it’s gettin’ better
Growing stronger, warm and wilder
Gettin’ better everyday, better everyday
Ba da da da da da da da da da da da

And I don’t mind waitin’,
I don’t mind waitin’
‘Cause no matter how long it takes
The two of us know

That it’s gettin better
Growing stronger, warm and wilder
Gettin better everyday, better everyday…

This song contains so much of the “pop song” spirit of the late 1960s, and as I listen to it, it makes me think of those days when I was a teenager longing for love, even though I don’t remember ever hearing this song before. Maybe it’s the familiarity of her great pop song voice.

The song was written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil and was included on Cass Elliot’s solo album Bubblegum, Lemonade and… Something for Mama, released in June 1969. The Wrecking Crew, a regular back-up band for the Mamas and the Papas, were among the instrumentalists for this album.

It’s Getting Better, however, was not a new song. The first known recording was by the Vogues on their Reprise Records release, Turn Around, Look at Me in August of 1968. Also in 1968, it was featured on an album by Leonard Nimoy (I never knew he sang!), The Way I Feel, released in October. A New York based trio that recorded many Mann-Weil songs, called The Will-o-Bees, had a singles release of It’s Getting Better on the SGC label. However, Cass Elliot was the only artist with top name recognition that had recorded the song, and it was her version that became well-known.

Since then, though, it has been covered by a number of well-known artists around the world. It’s just a happy, feel-good song, which is how I would like to remember “Mama” Cass Elliot.

Background information was obtained from a Wikipedia article.

See also 50 years ago, July 5, 1969… in Rock & Roll Globe.

Song Lyrics Sunday: Spices

Jim Adams’ topic for this week’s Song Lyrics Sunday is spices/seasonings.

Thanks you, Jim! I get to report about one of my favorite songs as well as many of my favorite spices which are in the song!

I grew up with the Beatles, Rolling Stones, the Doors, and Simon and Garfunkel. While I love many of the latter’s songs, my favorite is Scarborough Fair/Canticle. It conjures up memories, emotions, places – it gives me goosebumps! I like the juxtaposition of the two songs and how they work so well together.

Lyrics:

Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine.

Tell her to make me a cambric shirt (On the side of a hill in the deep forest green).
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (Tracing a sparrow on snow-crested ground).
Without no seams nor needlework (Blankets and bedclothes the child of the mountain).
Then she’ll be a true love of mine (Sleeps unaware of the clarion call).

Tell her to find me an acre of land (On the side of a hill, a sprinkling of leaves).
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (Washes the ground with so many tears).
Between the salt water and the sea strand (A soldier cleans and polishes a gun).
Then she’ll be a true love of mine. (Sleeps unaware of the clarion call).

Tell her to reap it in a sickle of leather (War bellows, blazing in scarlet battalions).
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (Generals order their soldiers to kill).
And to gather it all in a bunch of heather (And to fight for a cause they’ve long ago forgotten).
Then she’ll be a true love of mine.

Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
Remember me to one who lives there, she once was a true love of mine.

Known by its refrain of spices “parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme,” Scarborough Fair is actually a traditional English ballad dating from the 18th century. Its based on an old Scottish folk song The Elfin King. It was performed or recorded by a number of musicians, including British folk song collector and singer A.L. Lloyd in 1955 on his album The English and Scottish Popular Ballads. Paul Simon learned it from Martin Carthy, an English folksinger, in 1965. Carthy had learned the melody from a songbook by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger and included it in his 1965 album Martin Carthy. Also, Bob Dylan borrowed some of the melody and lyrics from Carthy’s version for his song Girl From the North Country, which appeared on four of his albums.

Canticle is a reworking of the lyrics of an anti-war song called The Side of a Hill, written by Simon, and set to a new melody by his partner, Art Garfunkel. They then brilliantly weave the two songs together.

Scarborough Fair/Canticle was the lead track on Simon and Garfunkel’s 1966 album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme and was released as a single after appearing on the soundtrack to the movie The Graduate. The copyright for the song was listed on the album only as Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel, which was resented by Carthy, who thought the “traditional” source should have been credited. The rift remained until 2000, when Simon invited Carthy to perform a duet with him at a concert in London. Simon performed the song with the Muppets when he was guest star on The Muppets Show.

For more details about the history of Scarborough Fair, see the Wikipedia article of the same name.
For a discussion of the musical structure of Scarborough Fair/Canticle and its place in popular music of the 1960s, see William Hume’s 2018 article.

Song Lyrics Sunday: Isolation

This is a John Lennon song that I never heard before, and it fits this week’s theme for Song Lyrics Sunday with the prompts Alone/Confined/Depressed/Isolated/Restless/Solo .
After listening to several other songs that fit the prompt, I chose this one because I have always been a big fan of the Beatles and John’s solo career.

Isolation
Words and Music by John Lennon

People say we got it made
Don’t they know we’re so afraid
Isolation
We’re afraid to be alone
Everybody got to have a home
Isolation
Just a boy and a little girl
Trying to change the whole wide world
Isolation
The world is just a little town
Everybody trying to put us down
Isolation
I don’t expect you, to understand
After you caused so much pain
But then again, you’re not to blame
You’re just a human, a victim of the insane
We’re afraid of everyone
Afraid of the sun
Isolation
The sun will never disappear
But the world may not have many years
Isolation

Isolation was included on Lennon’s first solo album in 1970, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, released on the Apple label. It is the last song on Side One. The song is about Lennon’s feelings of vulnerability, dissatisfied with the way his life was going. The Beatles had broken up and he was feeling disillusioned with fame, especially because he and his wife Yoko Ono were the subjects of attacks. At the time, he was full of insecurity and self-doubt, feelings brought on by his extensive drug use.  In Isolation he found release, inspired by Primal Therapy which he experienced in the summer of 1970, guided by Dr. Arthur Janov. The song was recorded in September-October 1970.

In the first verse, he is saying that even though he and Yoko have everything, they feel as lonely and isolated as everyone else. The second verse alludes to the couple’s political activism and the way people reacted to it caused even more isolation. The third verse is more generalized to include all those who have caused his pain; he absolves them because they are only human, and all of humanity is victim of insanity at times. The fourth verse generalizes even more, putting people’s fears of each other and even the sun into the context of a universe which may be permanent, but our planet may not be, this last concept illustrated by the song’s abrupt ending.

The pain the song addresses is enhanced by musical dissonance, especially the use of semitone, or half step, intervals. Musicologist Wilfred Mellers called Isolation an “Anglicized version of Negro piano blues.” The instrumentation starts with just drums, played by Ringo Starr, and piano, played by Lennon, as back up to his vocals. As the song becomes louder and more emotional, an organ, also played by John, is added. There is also a bass guitar played by Klaus Voorman, a German artist and musician who designed the covers of albums of the Beatles and many other bands. The mood of isolation is enhanced by silences incorporated into the sad melody.

Several covers were made of the song, including by Marianne Faithfull and Snow Patrol (a northern Irish-Scottish indie rock band) in 2005. Harry Nilssen, Joe Cocker, and Matthew Sweet, among others, also recorded the song. Johnny Depp and Jeff Beck have released the newest version, in April 2020.

Sources:
Wikipedia: Isolation (a John Lennon song)

The Beatles Bible: Isolation

 

 

 

Song Lyrics Sunday

I found so many good songs featuring the precious gems that are the theme of Jim Adams’ Song Lyrics Sunday this week! But I love Joan Baez and this an “oldie but goodie” from her 1975 album entitled Diamonds and Rust. The title song is one she wrote herself, in November 1974, about her relationship with Bob Dylan. Listening to it conjures up so many memories! It is considered one of her best songs, and the album sold gold – 1,000,000 copies.

DIAMONDS AND RUST
Composed & performed by Joan Baez

Well, I’ll be damned
Here comes your ghost again
But that’s not unusual
It’s just that the moon is full
And you happened to call
And here I sit
Hand on the telephone
Hearing a voice I’d known
A couple of light years ago
Heading straight for a fall
As I remember your eyes
Were bluer than robin’s eggs
My poetry was lousy you said
Where are you calling from?
A booth in the midwest
Ten years ago
I bought you some cufflinks
You brought me something
We both know what memories can bring
They bring diamonds and rust
Well, you burst on the scene
Already a legend
The unwashed phenomenon
The original vagabond
You strayed into my arms
And there you stayed
Temporarily lost at sea
The Madonna was yours for free
Yes, the girl on the half-shell
Could keep…
Now I see you standing
With brown leaves falling all around
And snow in your hair
Now you’re smiling out the window
Of that crummy hotel
Over Washington Square
Our breath comes out white clouds
Mingles and hangs in the air
Speaking strictly for me
We both could have died then and there
Now you’re telling me
You’re not nostalgic
Then give me another word for it
You who are so good with words
And at keeping things vague
‘Cause I need some of that vagueness now
It’s all come back too clearly
Yes, I loved you dearly
And if you’re offering me diamonds and rust
I’ve already paid.

Diamonds_&_Rust_(Joan_Baez_album_-_cover_art)

In the song, she recalls an out-of-the-blue phone call from an old lover, which sends her back 10 years to a “crummy” hotel in Greenwich Village. She says that memories bring “diamonds and rust.” Baez claims the lyrics refer to her relationship with Bob Dylan ten years earlier.

She reprised the song, with a few lyric changes, in her 1995 live performance recording   Ring Them Bells as a duet with Mary Chapin Carpenter, in 2010 as a duet with Judy Collins on Collins’ album Paradise, and on her 2018 Fare Thee Well Tour.

She has made no secret of the fact that the relationship with Dylan was the inspiration for the song, although she originally told Dylan that it was about her ex-husband, David Harris. Here is a excerpt from an interview with music writer Mike Ragogna for the Huffington Post in 2012, in which Baez admits the song is about Dylan:

MR: “Diamonds and Rust” was another magic moment. You’ve said when you began writing the song, it started as something else until Dylan phoned you. Then it became about him. That must have been one helluva call.
JB: He read me the entire lyrics to “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” that he’d just finished from a phone booth in the Midwest.
MR: What was the song about originally?
JB: I don’t remember what I’d been writing about, but it had nothing to do with what it ended up as.

Judas Priest covered the song on their album Sin After Sin, and it is still a staple at their live concert performances. Joan Baez commented about Judas Priest’s version, “I love that!…I thought it was wonderful! It’s very rare for people to cover my songs…but it’s always flattering when somebody does.” Other artists who have covered Diamonds and Rust include Blackmore’s Night, S.O.D., Great White, Taylor Mitchell, and Thunderstone.

Information for this post was obtained on Wikipedia Diamond and Rust (song).

Song Lyrics Sunday: Happy Birthday

The ubiquitous classic, Happy Birthday to You, actually has a rather interesting history.*

I’ve chosen this song for Jim Adams’ Song Lyrics Sunday  with the theme Birthday/Cake/Gift/Party/Surprise   first, because I was able to find a fun version of it and second, because it’s the song we’re all singing in our bathrooms as we wash our hands 20 times a day during this Covid-19 crisis! If you sing the happy birthday song twice through, you’ve taken up about 20 seconds, which is how long you are supposed to lather and scrub your hands to totally rid them of any lurking malicious germs and viruses.
How to wash your hands properly, according to doctors

According to the 1998 Guinness Book of World Records, Happy Birthday to You is the most recognized song in the English language, and it has been translated into about 20 other languages.

Here’s a sort of cute “theme and variations” of this classic folk song, all parts sung by Charles Cornell (alone and practicing social distancing, I’m sure! 😉 ), who apparently does a lot of these variations on common ditties on YouTube:

Charles Cornell has also recorded similar versions of Jingle Bells and Row, Row, Row Your Boat, among others, which you can watch on YouTube.

And now the lyrics (just in case you’re checking in from another planet and have never heard this song before)!!
Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday, dear Jimmy
(or whoever’s birthday it is)
Happy Birthday to you!

OK, we all sing it but does anyone know the history of this song? Neither did I until I did research for this post. It all started in a kindergarten class…

Patty Hill was a kindergarten principal in 1893 in Louisville, Kentucky and her sister Mildred was a pianist and composer. The sisters used Good Morning to All as an easy song that kindergartners could sing and remember, and it was sung every morning at the beginning of class. When it was a child’s birthday, they used the same melody, but made it into a birthday song.

The song was attributed to the Hill sisters, but like many folk songs, no one really knows for sure who composed it. The combination of the melody with the birthday lyrics first appeared in print in 1912.  It did not have a copyright until 1935, when the Summy Company registered a copyright attributing the song to different authors. The Hills did, however, copyright Good Morning to All.

As the birthday song’s popularity expanded, the Hill sisters began to file suits against its unlicensed use, including  Irving Berlin and Moss Hart, who allegedly used the song in a Broadway musical, The Band Wagon.

In 1988, Warner/Chappell purchased the Summy Company and with it, the copyright, for $25 million. The song’s value was estimated at $5 million! Warner Bros. claimed that the United States copyright would not expire until 2030, and that unauthorized public performances of the song are illegal unless royalties are paid. (Who knew??) In February 2010, the royalty for a single use was US$700. (Wow, a very expensive birthday party for your kid if you had to pay royalties for using the song  in the privacy of your own home!) Still, by one estimate, Happy Birthday is the highest-earning song in history. In one example, Disney had to pay Warner Bros. $5,000 to use the song in a parade.

The copyright status of the song began to get more notice with the passage of the Copyright Term Extension Act in 1998. In 2003, the Supreme Court upheld the act in its decision Eldred vs. Ashcroft. Justice Stephen Breyer specifically mentioned the birthday song in his dissenting opinion.

Filmmakers and lawyers began to organize in opposition to Warner’s copyright, claiming that the song should be in the public domain. In 2010, a law professor named Robert Brauneis extensively researched the song and came to the conclusion that it almost certainly was not under copyright. In 2015, a federal judge declared that the Warner/Chappell copyright claim was invalid, ruling that the copyright registration applied only to a specific piano arrangement of the song and not to its lyrics and melody. In 2016, Warner/Chappell settled for $14 million, and the court ruled that Happy Birthday was now in the public domain. (Whew!!! I’m so relieved we’re finally off the hook when we celebrate the birthdays of our friends and family!)

I used two sources for this post:
Wikipedia, Happy Birthday to You
The Contentious History of the Happy Birthday Song

*I was going to choose Birthday by the Beatles but its history wasn’t interesting and I figured other people would choose it.

Song Lyric Sunday: Touch

Jim Adams’ Song Lyric Sunday this week has the theme Touch/Feel – something we don’t get to do much of these days! No one wants to touch anything without cleaning first and we can’t touch other people unless we have 6-ft. long arms! So this theme is something that we currently miss.

However, I heard on TV a doctor saying that we do not have to practice physical distancing with our significant other, and that sex is fine as long as it is with the partner you live with!

I selected “Touch” by the Josh Abbott Band, a song about love and sexual desire. I had never heard of either the song nor the band before, having done a search on YouTube with “touch” and “feel.” I listened to it and found it pleasant, although not spectacular. I don’t generally listen to country music, but  for this challenge I like to learn something new.

Touch
Josh Abbott Band
A little longer, baby stay with me a little longer
I just want your touch again, to feel your body giving in
It’s pulling at me, my desire to make you happy
I want to feel your touch again
Let’s just lie here together chasing forever
I can’t get enough of your love
Brave and relentless, sweet and defenseless,
I can never get enough every time we touch
Can’t stop staring, my eyes keep taking off what you’re wearing
I just want your touch again, to feel your body giving in
You’re a bad liar, that smile gives away what you desire,
You wanna feel my touch again
Let’s just lie here together, chasing forever
I can’t get enough of your love, brave and relentless,
Sweet and defenseless
I can never get enough every time we touch
Yeah let’s lie here together chasing forever,
I can’t get enough of your love
Brave and relentless, sweet and defenseless,
I can never get enough every time we touch, every time we touch

Josh Abbott founded his country band while living in Lubbock, Texas where he attended Texas Tech University. In grad school, he formed the band with fraternity brothers Austin Davis, Neel Huey, and Andrew Hurt. They recorded a four-song demo, then Huey and Hurt dropped out to pursue careers and were replaced with Preston Wait and Eddie Villanueva. In 2008, they recorded their debut album Scapegoat. Caleb Keeter and James Hertless joined in 2010, and Hertless eventually left the band in 2018.

Their second album, She’s Like Texas, was released in 2010 and made the Top Country Albums Chart.

They released their third CD, Small Town Family Dream, in 2012. It was their highest charting album, debuting at #5 on Top Country Albums and sold 21,000 copies in the U.S. its first week. The second single from the album, “Touch”, was released in February and came out digitally on February 14. On the music video is the reality TV star Melissa Rycroft and her husband Tye Strickland, who was also one of Abbott’s fraternity brothers. “Touch” was also featured in the motion picture The Longest Ride, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks. Small Town Family Dream was their most successful album and “Touch” has been their most successful single, reaching #41 on the U.S. Country chart and #8 on U.S. Bubbling.
small town family dream

Since then, they have released two more albums, both of which met with moderate success. Abbott’s themes are taken from his life experiences, such as his divorce (on the 4th album) and the birth of his daughter and the sudden death of his father one month into the making of the 5th album.

In 2017, they performed at Route 91 Harvest,  the scene of the Las Vegas mass shooting later that year.

 

Song Lyric Sunday: The Promise of Living

Jim’s Song Lyric Sunday this week has the theme Promise/Vow/Oath.

This is a song from The Tender Land by Aaron Copland, “The Promise of Living.” Our church choir sang it a couple of years ago for the funeral of the grandfather of one of our members. The fact that I have this personal connection to the piece is the reason I chose it. This recording is by one of my favorite choirs, Angel City Chorale, with full orchestration, although it is often performed with piano accompaniment, which is what our choir had.

Lyrics:

The promise of living with hope and thanksgiving
Is born of our loving our friends and our labor.

The promise of growing with faith and with knowing
Is born of our sharing our love with our neighbor.

The promise of loving, the promise of growing
Is born of our singing in joy and thanksgiving.

For many a year we’ve know these fields
And know all the work that makes them yield.
We’re ready to work, we’re ready to lend a hand.
By working together we’ll bring in the blessings of harvest.

We plant each row with seeds of grain,
And Providence sends us the sun and the rain.
By lending a hand, by lending an arm
Bring out the blessings of harvest.

Give thanks there was sunshine, give thanks there was rain,
Give thanks we have hands to deliver the grain.

O let us be joyful, O let us be grateful to the Lord for his blessing.

The promise of living, the promise of growing
The promise of ending is labor and sharing and loving.

Copland’s 1954 opera, The Tender Land, evokes the dignity and meaningfulness of labor. The librettist was Horace Everett, a pseudonym for Erik Johns. Farming – cultivating the soil of America’s heartland and reaping the benefits of its harvest for a balanced and fulfilling life are central to the opera’s theme. It tells the story of a farm family in the Midwest in the 1930s during the spring harvest and the protagonist’s graduation from high school. Copland was inspired to write the opera after seeing Walker Evans’ photographs of the Depression era and reading James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.

Unfortunately, the opera was not a success. It was written for NBC’s Television Opera Workshop and rejected by network producers, perhaps because of the weakness of its characters and plot. It premiered at New York City Opera on April 1, 1954, but the work was intended for the intimacy of television and didn’t translate well to the stage.

In spite of its lack of success, it’s kind of amazing that television networks at one time commissioned composers to write operas for TV. At the time, both CBS and NBC had their own in-house orchestras. It was the time when an operetta written for the Christmas season, Amahl and the Night Visitors by Gian Carlo Menotti, enjoyed tremendous success and was shown every Christmas season throughout the 1950s and early 1960s to the great enjoyment of the TV viewing public. (I remember watching Amahl every year on TV – it was a tradition in our house – and my siblings and I can still sing much of it by heart!) NBC Television Opera produced several other operas for TV in the period between 1949 and 1964.

Copland and Johns made revisions to the opera, including expanding Act II. The composer agreed to let Murry Sidlin rescore the work for fewer instruments for a production in New Haven in 1987, a staging that ran for 50 performances. Two of Copland’s Old American Songs were added to the central party scene.  A 1965 concert version of the work (i.e. unstaged) was released by Sony on CD.

In 1958, Copland turned the opera’s music into an orchestral suite. Here is the link to the orchestral version of The Promise of Living: https://youtu.be/uyDljV1-BSc.

The music starts softly, like the awakening of early morning with the birds singing, and unfolds into a majestic hymn of thanksgiving. The final chord encompasses the full range of the orchestra, just as the final chord in the vocal version ends dramatically with the entire choir singing fortissimo.

 

The information above was obtained from The Promise of Living: Copland for Labor Day by Timothy Judd and Wikipedia, The Tender Land.

 

 

Song Lyrics Sunday: Send In the Clowns

Jim Adams’ Song Lyric Sunday this week asks for songs with one (or more) of these prompt words:
Give/Get/Take/Receive/Send

song-lyric-sunday-1

This doesn’t fit in exactly with the “cash and flowers” idea that Jim talks about, but Send in the Clowns is such a beautiful song, although sad. My favorite version is sung by Barbra Streisand, a singer whose voice I’ve always loved. (When my son was a baby, he heard a Barbra Streisand song and was captivated!)

Send in the Clowns lyrics:
Isn’t it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air,
Where are the clowns?
Isn’t it bliss?
Don’t you approve?
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can’t move,
Where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns?
Just when I’d stopped opening doors,
Finally knowing the one that I wanted was yours
Making my entrance again with my usual flair
Sure of my lines
No one is there
Don’t you love farce?
My fault, I fear
I thought that you’d want what I want
Sorry, my dear!
But where are the clowns
Send in the clowns
Don’t bother, they’re here
Isn’t it rich?
Isn’t it queer?
Losing my timing this late in my career
But where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns
Well, maybe next year

The song was written by Stephen Sondheim for the musical A Little Night Music (1973), which was an adaptation of Ingmar Bergman’s film Smiles of a Summer Night. The song is sung by the character Desirée, who is reflecting on the disappointments and ironies of her life. Many years before, during a period where her passions were theater and men, she flitted from man to man. She met Fredrik, who fell deeply in love with her, but she rejected his marriage proposal. Years later, when they meet again, she introduces him to her adolescent daughter, “Fredrika” (he doesn’t know yet that Fredrika is his daughter). By this time, she has become more mature and has realized she is in love with him, but this time Fredrik rejects her. He has married a much younger woman, and although their marriage is unconsummated, when Desirée suggests marriage to get him out of the situation, he rejects her due to his loyalty to his young bride. Desirée sings Send In the Clowns in reaction to his rejection. Later the young bride runs off with Fredrik’s son and he is finally free to accept Desirée’s offer, and the song is reprised.

A-Little-Night-Music-at-Signature-Theatre-Photo-by-Paul-Tate-DePoo-III
Holly Twyford as Desiree in the Signature Theatre production of A Little Night Music.

Sondheim wrote this song especially for Glynis Johns, who played the role of Desirée on Broadway. Johns had a nice voice but was not good at long, sustaining notes, so Sondheim wrote the song with short phrases in the form of questions. It became his most popular song after it was recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1973 and Judy Collins’ version made the charts in 1975 and 1977. It was covered by many other artists after that, including Barbra Streisand on her LP The Broadway Album.

The clowns in the title do not refer to circus clowns. It is a theater term – Desirée is an actress – which means “if the show’s not going well, let’s send in the clowns,” i.e. “let’s tell some jokes.” Clowns, then, takes the meaning “fools.”  In a 2008 interview, Sondheim clarified: “As I think of it now, the song could have been called ‘Send in the Fools’. I knew I was writing a song in which Desirée is saying, ‘aren’t we foolish’ or ‘aren’t we fools?’ Well, a synonym for fools is clowns, but ‘Send in the Fools’ doesn’t have the same ring to it.”

Judi Dench, who played the role in London (and YouTube has a concert recording of Dench singing the song) commented in an interview that A Little Night Music is “a dark play about people who, at the beginning, are with wrong partners and in the end it is hopefully going to become right, and she (Desirée) mistimes her life in a way and realizes when she re-meets the man she had an affair with and had a child by (though he does not know that), that she loves him and he is the man she wants.”

Information about Send In the Clowns obtained from Wikpedia.

 

Song Lyric Sunday: Christmassy Music

I found this song on YouTube and really liked it. In doing research on it, I found out that it was composed and sung by British composer Leigh Haggerwood in 2010. He wanted to bring back the spirit of Christmas that he felt was lacking from the UK charts for decades. He was disappointed by the annual non-festive songs and when he was writing My Favourite Time of Year, he recollected his own childhood in the early 1980s. The melody is catchy and upbeat, which “weaves up and down the major scales of Eb and Bb.” It also has traditional Christmas sounds such as chimes and harmonies.

The video is set in Victorian England, filmed in Shropshire which gave it an authentic recreation of the period. In the video the street becomes “Florin Street.” Haggerwood had trouble promoting the song at first because it wasn’t coming from a major label. It gained prominence through social media. After its release in December 2010, in August 2011 the United States Army Band asked for permission to arrange the song for their Christmas concert at the DAR Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. After that, it was requested for TV and radio shows, and Haggerwood  received requests to perform it in schools, churches, choirs, orchestras, theatres and youth groups.

You can listen to the entire album Christmas Songs by the Florin Street Band on YouTube.

My Favourite Time of Year lyrics: 

Lanterns lighting up the town,
Peace on earth is all around,
Everything is calm on Christmas Eve.
There’s goodwill in the air tonight,
Angels sing by candle light,
Their voices carried on the wind.
When carol singers gather round,
When I hear that festive sound,
I wanna join with them and sing!
Chorus
They sing a merry song and we all sing along,
A festive melody that tells us Christmas time is here.
See the stars tonight; they’re shining bright,
‘Cause it’s Christmas time
and it’s my favourite time of year.

Deck the halls with boughs of holly,
Give me mistletoe; it’s the season to be jolly,
Wrapping presents, writing cards,
helping decorate the tree,
But there’s one thing that makes it all for me.
When carol singers gather round,
Angel voices fill the town,
It’s like the world is joining in
(Noel, Noel, Noel)
Chours
They sing a merry song and we all sing along,
A festive melody that tells us Christmas time is here.
See the stars tonight; they’re shining bright,
‘Cause it’s Christmas time and it’s my favourite time of year.

Christmas Eve,
Still believe,
So excited,
Can’t sleep,
When the morning comes,
Church bells ring,
And he’s been
Chorus
They sing a merry song and we all sing along,
A festive melody that tells us Christmas time is here.
See the stars tonight; they’re shining bright,
‘Cause it’s Christmas time and it’s my favourite time of year.
And it’s my favourite time of year
(Noel, Noel)

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Song Lyric Sunday
Dec. 22, 2019