As the week comes to an end, I couldn’t help but include fellow baritone of Canadian heritage and a true vocal powerhouse of stage and screen, Robert Goulet. Here he is singing the well known song from Camelot on the Ed Sullivan show, for a segment celebrating the fifth anniversary of My Fair Lady. For the broadcast, instead of featuring songs from that show, they chose instead to perform four highlights from Camelot including “If Ever I Would Leave You”. This performance would remain a favorite of Goulet’s and his many fans and would go on to become his signature song.
As we begin Act II of Camelot, Guinevere and Lancelot are still tormented by their unfulfilled love. She tries to get rid of him, but Lancelot will not leave her, (“If Ever I Would Leave You”). They both believe that Arthur is not aware of it. Nevertheless, she remains faithful to Arthur, and helps him in carrying out the affairs of State.
I have always loved this melody, and in particular this version by superstar baritone Bryn Terfel. “Oh Shenandoah” (also called simply “Shenandoah” or “Across the Wide Missouri”) is a traditional American folk song dating to the early 19th century. The song is thought to have originated with Canadian and American voyagers or fur traders traveling down the Missouri River in canoes, but has developed several different sets of lyrics. Some lyrics refer to the American Indian chief Shenandoah and a canoe-going trader who wants to marry his daughter. By the mid 1800s versions of the song had become a sea shanty heard or sung by sailors in various parts of the world.
There is something truly magical about this song. I first discovered it as a young boy soprano, growing up in Ottawa, Canada. Known to me only as a choral work, I was surprised to see a recent revival by a number of solo artists and YouTubers. The text became even more poignant and personal for me while working abroad and chasing a new adventure, yet missing home.
In her own words, Ms. Keen describes the intentions behind this hauntingly beautiful work: “Finding your true calling in life; knowing that those who love you trust that you will return… I wrote this song for a loved one who was embarking upon a new phase of life’s journey, to express the soul’s yearning to grow and change. It was premiered by a Seattle Irish tenor, but soon after was beautifully arranged by Jay Althouse and published by Alfred Music. It has been performed by choirs of all ages throughout the English speaking world and many Asian countries.”
I hope you enjoy my interpretation and images from Airlie Beach, Australia and the Fiordlands in New Zealand, with cliffs that seem to fall into the ocean. It was a magnificent sight to see.
I grew up with such an eclectic mix of music. From early on, my father would play everything in my basement in Canada, from Saturday Afternoon at the Opera to Roy Orbison, Elton John, Phil Collins and Simon & Garfunkel.
“The Sound of Silence” reminds me of those listening days, weekends at home with my family and though a somewhat reflective, and even sad lyric, the simplicity of its melody and vocal harmonies has stuck with me.
Released in October 1964, the album was initially a commercial failure and led to the duo breaking apart but in the spring of 1965, the song began to attract airplay at radio stations in Boston, Massachusetts, and Florida. The growing airplay led Tom Wilson, the song’s producer, to remix the track with electric instrumentation with the same musicians who backed Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone”. Simon & Garfunkel were not informed of the song’s remix until after its release in September 1965.
The song hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the week ending January 1, 1966, leading the duo to reunite and hastily record their second album, which Columbia titled Sounds of Silence in an attempt to capitalize on the song’s success.
In an interview with Terry Gross of National Public Radio (NPR) Paul Simon said of the lyrics “It wasn’t something that I was experiencing at some deep, profound level—nobody’s listening to me, nobody’s listening to anyone—it was a post-adolescent angst, but it had some level of truth to it and it resonated with millions of people. Largely because it had a simple and singable melody.”
I had the great fortune of attending one of the final performances of The Bridges of Madison County staring Steven Pasquale and the incredible Kelli O’Hara, whom I met while singing for a past NYFOS fundraiser. Based on Robert James Waller’s 1992 novel, with a book by Marsha Norman and music and lyrics by Jason Robert Brown, the musical premiered on Broadway at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on February 20, 2014, and closed on May 18, 2014 after only 137 performances. It was directed by Bartlett Sher.
Without a doubt, it was one of the most magical theatre experiences I have had in a long time, and much of the music has stayed with me ever since. In speaking to Kelli backstage after the performance, she expressed how saddened she was at its closing and how it was one of the most musically rewarding experiences in her career. I couldn’t agree more, with both the music and powerful performances remain etched in my heart and mind.
From the film synopsis: “The Bridges of Madison County is a moving love story about a photographer on assignment to shoot the historic bridges of Madison County. He meets a housewife, whose husband and children are away on a trip, and the film traces a brief affair that is never sordid but instead one of two soul mates who have met too late.”
In this song, Robert, now an older man himself, calls the offices of the National Geographic to inform them that he will no longer be shooting photographs due to an illness of his own. He thanks his secretary for helping him wait for Francesca’s call, which never came. Alone in his home, he packs all of his belongings save one letter, and reminisces about his time with Francesca and the following years that they have spent apart.
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