There is a time in one’s life, if they have been loved or felt love for someone, when music speaks truth beyond that of words alone. Holding you in a dark hour, and teaching you where to put your feelings. Lifting you to a higher place, where confusion and doubt are replaced with honesty, solace and joy. I’m blessed to have music as a constant partner in my life; its melodies and poetry dynamically inspiring me to communicate, to learn and ultimately come to understand the delicacy of our time here. “Some Enchanted Evening” is a piece that captures the very essence of what I’m getting at. A song I’ve sung in many settings, for all different kinds of people that always seems to elicit the same result.
This song is said to have been the single biggest popular hit to come out of any Rodgers and Hammerstein show. In this three verse solo, Emile, the main male character from South Pacific, describes seeing a stranger, someone he feels pulled to. He knows that he will see her again, and her laughter will sing in his dreams. He sings that when you find your “true love”, you must “fly to her side, and make her your own”. This is an age-old message, but when mixed with the depth of the human voice and Rodgers’ music, its true message is delivered.
I have been collaborating with Steve Blier for going on ten years now. We met at Juilliard and his coachings were some of the most memorable and informing for my development as a young artist. I asked Steve if he would allow me to sing one of the great Richard Rodgers ballads on our upcoming program Rodgers, Rodgers and Guettel (Nov 1st and 3rd at Merkin). He selected this great song and I’m happy to be sharing its magic with my NYFOS family next week. Remember to bring some tissues and be open to all feelings.
Speaking of ‘legit’ sounds with spin, line etc etc, check out Ezio here, an opera singer who originated the role of Emile with a stunning bass-baritone voice, with a caramel tone, perfectly even vibrato and style.
I felt it necessary to write about the power and magic of “Soliloquy” from Carousel as my first Song of the Day. This epic monologue ends the first act of Carousel, creating suspense and emotion like no other piece I’ve ever performed. Carousel, written in 1945, was the second work by the illustrious creative team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. This story is about a carousel barker Billy Bigelow, who falls in love with a millworker, Julie Jordan. Their love and lives aren’t perfect and together, due to economic strife, they lose their jobs. Billy’s fear of failure and lack of self-worth pushes him to commit a robbery to provide for Julie and their unborn child. After it goes wrong, he’s given a chance to make things right. Richard Rodgers later wrote that Carousel was his favorite of all his musicals. “Soliloquy” describes feelings, dreams and the inner plight of a man who wants to be good, but is hamstrung by his failures and projected self-worth. Singing “Soliloquy” is not only a musical performance, but an entire life’s journey in one song.
My first introduction to this piece was when I was 18 years old. It was my senior year in high school, and my choral director chose me to play the role of Billy. I was afraid to memorize all of the text and did not know how to understand this complex character. Following weeks of rehearsals and deep soul searching, I found it wasn’t so difficult to become Billy. Through Rodgers music and Hammerstein’s words, I experienced the power that true drama and the human voice can have from the stage. “Soliloquy” taught me the depth of my voice, its strength, sensitivity and ability to connect to an audience. It also taught me that I had something more to offer as a singer. I remember the sound team having to turn down the microphones to accommodate my full voice towards the end on the sustained high notes; Clearview Regional High School’s auditorium got a serious dose of opera singing that night.
In much of the ‘Golden Age’ of musical theater, the singers didn’t use microphones. They sang with chest voice, spin and line. When approaching this repertoire, singers should embrace the style of that era, adapting slightly for our current audience’s ear, but not too far off course. “Soliloquy” and the role of Billy Bigelow requires this sound and pathos to be effective. Today opera companies are doing more productions of these great works because they carry such powerful, relatable stories and dramatic, beautiful music.
I’ve chosen a recording of John Raitt as an example of the ‘Golden Age’ sound that I strive for when I sing this repertoire. He was the original Billy Bigelow. He had a ringing baritenor voice that never sounds over covered or manufactured.
I’ve performed this great song dozens of times since high school in recitals. I am hoping to one day have another chance to sing it in its original context; bringing this character back to life and telling his story through my own story and voice.
“Two short years” by Rodgers and Hammerstein. Ted Chapin introduced me to this song, I believe, many years ago. Just the most absolutely perfect, wise and complete lyric I have ever sung:
Two short years
Are not much time
In the age of an infinite world.
Two short years
Are two quick trips
That a small, dizzy planet has twirled.
But the days on a planet
Can be filled with strife
And joy and love and tears,
And a girl on a planet
Lives a lot of life in two short years.
Thrills and cheers
And chills and fears
Overlap in a flying montage.
Crowd each day
Then melt away
In the wake of a waning mirage.
But a dream often lingers
Like a lovely chime
That echoes in your ears,
And a dream on a planet
Lives along, long time
After two short years.
Ed. note: We have not been able to find a recording of this song to share with you. It was originally written for their musical Allegro, but was cut. Clearly, Mary Testa needs to record it! Until that happens, we’ve decided to toss this to you, our Song of the Day readers. Anyone able to send us a link to a recording of “Two Short Years,” wins a pair of tickets to hear Mary Testa in Rodgers, Rodgers & Guettel on November 1 or 3. (Limited to the first 5 people to respond.) Don’t know where to find this song? Buy your tickets today:
Tuesday, November 1 >
Thursday, November 3 >
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