Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Always Something There to Remind Me

This is one of those prompts at The Daily Post at Word Press, which reads, "A song comes on the radio and instantly, you’re transported to a different time and place. Which song(s) bring back memories for you and why? Be sure to mention the song, and describe the memory it evokes."

There are a handful of pieces of music which instantly catapult me back to a certain time and a certain place.  They aren't necessarily my favorites, but the memories embedded with them are very strong.

1.  I'll start with the opening chorus to the second act of Die Fledermaus.  Alison and I were doing research for Book I of the Lamplighters history and decided we needed to see a real rehearsal.  Later, rehearsals would become ho-hum, but this was the very first time that we would be kind of backstage, watching how a show is put together and we were feeling very privileged indeed.

We arrived at the Presentation Theater when rehearsal was in progress.  They were rehearsing that opening chorus (What a JOY to be here at this wonderful occasion... went the lyrics in the Ruth and Thomas Martin translation).  We quietly slid into seats in the middle of the theater and watched the chorus being rehearsed over and over again until the blocking was perfect.  To this day, I can't hear that chorus without remembering how special we felt on that night.

2.  A song that transports me back to a place and time is "You Are My Sunshine."  Every summer I spent two weeks visiting with Peach at her house in Citrus Heights and then she came and spent two weeks visiting me in San Francisco.  This particular year, I guess she had been singing in a school chorus or something, but she taught me the alto part to "You Are My Sunshine."  I discovered that I loved singing harmony to her soprano and we would sit out in front her house, under the beautiful weeping willow tree growing there, and we would sing.   I actually drive her nuts with it to the point where she finally refused to sing it with me any more.

3.  People would think that a Judy Garland song that would bring back vivid memories of a place and time would be something like "Over the Rainbow," but people would be wrong.  The Judy Garland song that always transports me to a place is "Stormy Weather."  It's on her Carnegie Hall album.  I was living by myself in the apartment I lived in before Walt and I got married.  I loved to put the album on, lie on the floor as close to the speaker as I could, and play "Stormy Weather" over and over again.  (Thinking about it now, I'll bet I drove some neighbors crazy doing that!)

4.  "Scarlet Ribbons" always reminds me of when Jeri was a little girl.  I would put her to bed, sit by her side and sing that song to her.  It was her "good night" song and if I could not for whatever reason sing the song, Walt would sing it to her.  She probably doesn't remember it, but there were lots and lots and lots of parental performances of "Scarlet Ribbons" sung to her, starting when she was a toddler, before Ned was born.

5.  There is a part at the beginning of the first movement of Beethoven's 8th symphony where I am transported instantly to the classroom where I was taking a class in the 9 symphonies.  Maestro Josef Kripps was the guest lecturer who gave the talk on the 8th symphony, where he demonstrated to us that this symphony was "Beethoven's Joke."   I have not heard that symphony since when I have not thought of Krips and that class.

6.  The old song "There's a Long, Long Trail a-Winding" takes me back to 1953, when my mother was taking instructions to become a Catholic.  She was meeting with Father Joe O'Looney (henceforth always called nothing but "Father Joe"), at Old St. Mary's Church in San Francisco. Fr, Joe had a group that got together for parties frequently (often at our house) and, as he had a wonderful singing voice. he would always choose the songs and invariably they sang "Long, Long Trail" before the night was over.  Whether Karen and I were allowed to stay up for the singing or lay in our beds listening to it, I loved hearing that song.

7.  Johnny Mathis' "Chances Are" reminds me of a party I attended in high school.  All I remember is that the lights were dim and some of us were dancing (I don't think I was one of them).  I don't really remember anything else about it, but all I know is that when that song comes on, I'm back at that party again.

8.  Finally I'll mention one by John Denver.  It's a song called "The Flower that Shattered the Stone."  I had never heard it before, but Peggy and I were driving around Lake Tahoe and it came on the radio and she mentioned how much she liked it.  I can still picture exactly where we were, turning onto Hwy 89 on our way to Emerald Lake.  To this day, whenever I play a Denver CD that has that song on it, I am instantly again in the car driving past the place where they carve tree trunks into bear statues and sell them to tourists.
Music, of all kinds, has been a part of my life since birth, since I grew up in a home where there was always music playing.  I love that I have so many happy memories connected with so many pieces of music, whether popular or classical.  

(Of course, I still get teary eyed when I hear Melissa Manchester's version of "In the Arms of the Angel," which Marta and Audra sang at Paul's memorial service.)

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