The songs I’ve offered up over the last few days shook me by the shoulders and handed me this piece as my last choice. I realized mid-week that the songs I’ve chosen, and the majority of songs throughout history either celebrate our connection with each other, long for that connection, or grieve over its loss. Sondheim’s words sum it all up for me and they do it in both a contemporary and a timeless way. The melody sounds simple, though of course it’s not, and it takes root in your teeth and bones.
I have one more thing to add as I finish my week where No Song Is Safe. I sang a concert with NYFOS years ago that focused on really new songs—some still wet with ink. It was challenging, stimulating, sometimes frustrating and ultimately it was an experience that helped form me as a craftsperson. I cherish every opportunity to breathe a little of myself into each song I sing as a result. Those precious few days that I got to spend with Steve Blier and John Musto at the piano were thoughtful, revelatory and encouraging. I came away with a clearer sense of myself as a story teller and I felt welcomed into a distinctly particular family in the world of song. Since then, that family has become the Royal Family. I’m thrilled to come back in a couple of weeks and share the stage with Steve again. There’s nothing quite like it. For a singer, it doesn’t get any better.
Happy Friday! What a week it has been. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to share my thoughts and some of my favorite songs with you. I’ve learned a lot from the experience and am grateful to you for spending the time with me. Today, I’d like to bring us full circle by returning to Stephen Sondheim and declaring our Song of the Day: “Move On” from Sunday in the Park with George.
With music and lyrics by Sondheim and a beautiful book by James Lapine, Sunday in the Park with George opened on Broadway in 1984 and has been revived several times since (you can currently catch it at the Hudson Theater and I hear it’s fantastic!). The musical was inspired by George Seurat’s pointillist masterpiece, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. The show weaves a fictional tale of Seurat’s life and the process of creating the aforementioned painting, and is a beautiful expression of the artist’s struggle to be relevant and heard. It eloquently captures the all consuming nature of artistic life and the price one pays in pursuit of perfection. It constantly asks the question: What is your Art worth? In truth, one’s art is so connected to one’s self that the subtext of this question (What are You worth?) is equally as difficult to answer. In my mind, the constant conflict of trying to do right by those around you while serving a higher artistic calling is what makes the piece so universally relatable. One does not have to be artistically inclined to understand such a paradox, and perhaps it is this common denominator that makes the musical so timeless.
“Move On” is the eleven o’clock number in which George’s former lover and muse, Dot, appears to him in a vision and offers some much needed guidance. The two lyrics that resonate most deeply with me are:
“Look at what you want,
Not at where you are,
Not at what you’ll be.”
“Anything you do,
Let it come from you
Then it will be new.
Give us more to see.”
Over the years this advice has brought me much courage and comfort. I’ve chosen to share a more mature snapshot of the show’s original actors, Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin, revisiting their roles of George and Dot. The love, wisdom, and nostalgia in their eyes gets me weepy every time and I instantly feel that spark of creation being fanned within my soul after viewing.
Readers, I hope you all had a wonderful week, but for the days when the universe is less than kind I leave you with this Song of the Day “Move On”. May it lift you up and set your eyes on the horizon. Thank you again for being here, my Friends. I hope to see you on April 19th for our Sondheim Celebration! Until then… XO-M
To conclude the week, I offer you one of my favorite songs about children, “Children Will Listen” from Sondheim’s Into the Woods. Even before I had my own little one, the message of this song always went straight to my heart. Such a beautiful way to be reminded of our power and responsibility towards the next generation, here sung by the song’s originator, Bernadette Peters.
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