Leonard Bernstein and Richard Wilbur: Make Our Garden Grow

Written by Amy Asch

Music Theater Historian

June 26, 2017

I first encountered Candide in a college production that my high school’s Thespian Club attended.  It was exciting and irreverent and the “Make Our Garden Grow” finale had me walking on air.  I talked about the show so much that my mom bought me the double LP (1974 version with the red cover), which I played over and over in my bedroom. Thanks, Mom!

In the context of the story, any utopia is suspect, and the verdant domestic future Candide imagines in the finale is no exception.  As soon as the company has sung it into being, the bubble is burst.  “Ah me, the pox.”

But when the song is unlinked from the story, the audience is allowed to indulge in its lovely sincerity.  As Jamie Bernstein has written, “the soaring chorus seems to be telling us that growing our garden is a metaphor for the flowering of mankind itself.”   I especially love the moment when the orchestra drops out and everyone sings acapella.

I’ve chosen the performance from the PBS Broadcast of “Bernstein at 70,” a birthday concert at Tanglewood on August 25, 1988.  Seiji Ozawa leads Jerry Hadley and Dawn Upshaw. I hope you’ll enjoy seeing who is in the supporting ensemble in front of the orchestra.

“Make Our Garden Grow” from Candide (1956)
Lyric: Richard Wilbur
Music: Leonard Bernstein

If you’re grasping at names, here is the cast list from the BSO’s online archive. Is that Jamie and her siblings at the far left at 3:25?

The New York Times’ report on the event is here.

Amy Asch

Longtime NYFOS subscriber Amy Asch loves the Great American Songbook, and doing research about songs, songwriters, musicals and movies.  She compiled and annotated The Complete Lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II (Knopf, 2008) and is co-editor with Dominic McHugh of The Complete Lyrics of Alan Jay Lerner, to be published by Oxford University Press in February, 2018.  Favorite projects include cataloging Irving Berlin’s office correspondence; and cataloging the working files and audio archive of Jonathan Larson, composer of Rent.  She recently provided research for Rob Fisher and Sheldon Harnick’s Lyrics & Lyricists program “Songbook Classics by Unsung Lyricists.”

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    So glad to see Amy Asch ‘curating’ this week, and what a powerhouse to begin with. Loved the shots of ‘Lenny’…how did gods like him become mortal!

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