Friday, July 25, 2008

The Music Man

Till There Was You

There were bells on the hill
But I never heard them ringing,
No, I never heard them at all
Till there was you.

There were birds in the sky
But I never saw them winging,
No, I never saw them at all
Till there was you.

And there was music,
And there were wonderful roses,
They tell me,
In sweet fragrant meadows of dawn, and dew.

There was love all around
But I never heard it singing
No, I never heard it at all
Till there was you!

This is one of the best songs from one of the best musicals ever, The Music Man, lyrics and music by Meredith Willson. The scene in which this song appears, below, is the key to the whole story. Taken literally, Robert Preston's music man character is a charlatan. He says he can teach children to play music, and the citizens of the town pay him to do so. But he cannot actually teach music at all. The people do not get what they paid for.

But they get something else, at least as valuable. For the Music Man brings the town and its people to life. He makes them happy and excited, he makes them sing and dance, he even brings love, if only fleetingly, to one who had never known it before. He instills in them the courage to do what they never dared to do before. He makes their lives worth living. And that is an enormous gift to bring to anyone, let alone a whole town.

Only one person, the mayor, is so dour as to take the Music Man literally, and see him as simply the charlatan that he appears to be on the surface. He suggests the people tar and feather the Music Man. But everyone else in town - even the mayor's wife - supports the Music Man against the mayor. In spite of having been conned about his music teaching ability.

In addition to Till There Was You, there are several other wonderful songs in The Music Man. Lida Rose, Marian the Librarian, Seventy-Six Trombones, just to name a few. Robert Preston and the lovely Shirley Jones give magnificent performances, and the Buffalo Bills quartet will make you understand the beauty of the barbarshop quartet.

Watch the YouTube clip below for a taste, then buy or rent the DVD and enjoy the whole wonderful story. We need more Music Men in the world.

Till There Was You

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Renee Olstead - Merry Christmas In Love

Merry Christmas in Love

Lyrics by Marva Jan Marrow, music by Tony Renis, performed by Rene Olstead

Things that tremble tingle like a bubble full of rainbows . . . then crack
Sizzle, sing and whisper, when the shadows lace the moonlight with black
Things with silver linings, sparkling tinsel, twinkle shining with . . .
Waving wispy willow wings that breathe a song of Christmastime dreams . . .

Things that glow and glisten, eyes of children when they listen . . . then burst
Things that touch the wistful wish of watching someone else succeed first
Days that dingle dangle with a million parts untangle to
Satin stars that spangle and those Christmas bells that clangle out . . . dreams . .

I'm dreaming of Christmas
To you, Merry Christmas

Dreaming . . . of a Merry Christmas
To you, Merry Christmas

Galloping and gliding, Santa Claus' sleigh we're riding and
Bringing joyful tidings to the dreamers who are lying below . . .

I'm talking of daydreams
Wishes and moonbeams

Then I tremble tingle like a bubble full of rainbows and light
When you came to wake me and to wish me Merry Christmas in love . . .

Christmas in love . . .

I can tremble tingle like a bubble full of rainbows and light
When you came to wake me and to wish me Merry Christmas in love . . .

Merry Christmas in love . . .

Friday, July 4, 2008

It's a Good Life

Over the Fourth of July weekend the Sci Fi channel was having one of their periodic Twilight Zone marathons. One of the episodes I watched was "It's a Good Life," (season 3, episode 8 of that season) starring the child actor Bill Mumy, who plays Anthony Fremont, a boy with the power to turn people into anything he wanted, or send them "to the cornfield," meaning kill them off. He could do pretty much anything he wanted, and could read people's minds.

So everyone had to think happy thoughts, especially about Anthony himself, or it was off to the cornfield with them. Anthony didn't like singing, so no one could sing, or play any records with singing. Once Anthony decided to make it snow, thereby ruining much of that season's crops, it being the growing season. Anthony's father was initially horrified, but quickly recovered his senses, and admitted that it was good that Anthony made it snow. "That's a good thing you did, Anthony."

Anthony had turned the little town of Peaksville, Ohio into his own little kingdom, of which he was the absolute monarch and God. No one could leave the town, no one else could come in. The rest of the world had, for all practical purposes, ceased to exist. The population was shrinking, since he occasionally got angry with some of the residents and sent them to the cornfield, whence no one returned. The crops suffered from his whims, as did the livestock and other domestic animals, like dogs.

I've seen this episode before. But this time it struck me as an excellent description of life under an absolute ruler, whether a modern dictator, or a traditional monarch. Historically, such rulers had, and the modern ones continue to have, absolute power, including the power of life and death over all of his or her subjects, which could be, and often was, exercised at whim. So the subjects must all live in fear of the ruler, and pretend to be happy and agree with any whim of the ruler, lest they be sent to the cornfield.

So, for example, if a King wanted to levy a huge new tax on "his" people, in order to build a colossal new luxury palace, what could the hapless subject say? "That's a good thing you did, your Majesty."

And if a dictator wants his farmers to stop farming and melt their "extra" pots and pans, and anything else they can find that is made of iron, to increase the country's steel production statistics? And this will cause thousands to die of starvation, since the crops are being neglected? Students, too, and their teachers, must spend all their time searching for scrap metal to melt down, and forget about classes? "That's a good thing you did, Chairman Mao. I'm very happy!"

That last example was something that actually happened in China under Mao, circa 1957. In describing it, Chinese author Jung Chang wrote:

This absurd situation reflected not only Mao's ignorance of how an economy worked, but also an almost metaphysical disregard for reality, which might have been interesting in a poet, but in a political leader with absolute power was quite another matter. One of its main components was a deep-seated contempt for human life. (from Wild Swans, by Jung Chang)

That's a perfect description of Anthony, absolute ruler of Peaksville, Ohio. And also of Kim Jong-il. And it represents everything Hugo Chavez aspires to be, as well.

The episode also shows one character who refuses to submit to this pathetic slave existence. He starts singing in Anthony's face, and telling him exactly what a monster he is. Anthony begins threatening him with the cornfield. The rebel then pleads with the other victims to take advantage of Anthony while he is distracted by this rebellion, and attack him. But no one else does, and the rebel is sent to the cornfield. This also is similar to life under a dictatorship. The bravest ones are the first to die, or end up in prison, because they agree with Patrick Henry. But most people simply submit like sheep, and go on living as slaves.