Yesterday one of the two remaining old maples that stood proudly in front of St. Michael's Episcopal across the street was cut down. There used to be two of them, one vanished a couple of years ago, a victim of disease and storms. Both of the missing were in the direct line of sight of my studio's view.
|The tree that just went missing is on the left.|
During the Spring of 1970, I was 19 years old and in New York City for the day. I went to see a new show that had gotten rave reviews. One reviewer had taken great pains to describe a revolutionary set design that used elevators and moving platforms to simulate the side of a Manhattan high rise apartment house. As I was interested in such things, I went. From the opening notes I was transfixed by the score - this was not the usual show tune kind of composition. It reminded me of Gershwin in that it captured the sound, rhythm, and pulse beat of the city. There was no story line, it was a study of a group of married friends urging the lone bachelor among them to find someone. It was called "Company", and I loved every minute of it.
A year later, I took notice when a full page ad for a new Sondheim show appeared in the New York Times' Arts and Leisure section. It featured what appeared to be a large stone architectural detail of a theatre; the head of a chorus girl. The head was cracked. That page went up on my living room wall. I made it a point to get to the city to see the show as the idea of it seemed to revolve around a theatre which was being town down, and I was already a preservationist type. In the show, a reunion was being held for folks who had performed in the space. Wandering around the stage were memories, in the form of ghosts of their younger selves. The last portion of the show took place in the leading character's minds. I saw that one three times, and count that first viewing as one of the highlights of my years on this planet. I became a Sondheim fan.
This past Sunday, on Sondheim's 85th birthday, I wanted to post something on my personal Facebook page to let my friends and family know how much I appreciated this man's work. Facebook is not a place for writing, one always gets the feeling that anything of more than a paragraph or two will be bypassed. It is mostly reposts of someone else's graphics, expressions of political outrage from every angle imaginable (or just the outrage of your friends), people's photographs of their meals, posts of videos (especially if they contain cute cats), and so on and so forth. For that post, as words failed, I decided I needed a video clip from one of Sondheim's shows. After two hours of searching out what was available, I used the following clip from "Sunday in the Park With George". It was the last Sondheim show produced before I left New York for Boston. It won a Pulitzer Prize. During the first act, painter Georges Seurat sketches moments he observes, and puts those moments into a painting. Just before his work comes together, he has a moment in the park with his mother, who has never really understood him.
During last week's radio show, just before the first break, I was startled out of deep concentration by the ringing of the telephone. My Sondheim tribute was coming up, and I still had no idea what I was going to play. Most of Sondheim's songs are woven tightly into the story, and I wanted to give a couple of examples of his work that wouldn't need explanation. When I listened to the recording, I heard myself, a couple of minutes after the phone call, refer to a piece by Coleman Hawkins, when I should have said Erskine Hawkins. I also slightly messed up the name of an orchestral arrangement of one of Sondheim's songs I talked over. I now refer to such moments as "the Joys of Aging".
Last Saturday's radio show played a few for Spring (as I write - my third time working on this one post - it is a lovely Saturday morning in early Spring; it is snowing), played a few for Sondheim, and visited March of 1944 for a 15 minute broadcast of 'Uncle Sam Presents', culled for overseas use from "I Sustain the Wings", a weekly half hour with the Army Air Force Band of the Training Command, overseen by Captain Glenn Miller. To set the mood of the time, from our local paper:
As always, I hope anyone who listens enjoys the show.