Nobody claim 2022 as “your year”

please don’t suck

2022 asA friend of mine posted this graphic on their Facebook feed. Nobody claim 2022 as “your year”. And I get it.

I got to sing in my church’s Christmas Eve service for the first time in two years, which was great. Now, I felt rusty but that was OK. In 2020, the church had audio and video of the choir’s prior performances shown on the Facebook feed. Listening to the sounds of our voices was OK; I’d been doing so almost every week for months of the regular service. but watching the film of me, and others, singing made me EXTREMELY melancholy.

The Boston Globe readers commented on the past year. The intro: “If 2020 felt like a year like no other, then 2021 felt like more of the same. One step forward and two steps back, or vice versa? It depended on the day. We saw vaccines rolled out, then resisted. Bitter partisanship kept its grip on our politics.”

I love the word hegemony

If I read this article, The Respite Is Coming to an End. “All around us we can see the forces of white nationalist authoritarianism engaged in a second, far more methodical, far better coordinated, and already more successful attempt to do what they failed to do on January 6, 2021. If matters continue on this path, the Biden administration will prove only a brief respite before those forces snuff out the grand American experiment and secure a permanent, counter-majoritarian chokehold on the erstwhile republic.” And it’s a compelling argument.

And Foreign Affairs had a piece, The Real Crisis of Global Order. Illiberalism on the Rise. It addresses, among other things, the collapse of US hegemony, which Trump’s election helped to create and Biden’s election almost certainly can’t fix. For instance, as the Daily Show illustrated, Why China Is in Africa.

Rodgers and Hammerstein

I’m already exhausted from 2022, like Sinatra or Gordon MacRae singing Soliloquy from Carousel, musing what “my boy Bill” will be like. “Say, why am I carrying on like this? My kid ain’t even been born yet.” And neither has 2022. Well, maybe in New Zealand.

Perhaps I need more humour and a stiff upper lip, like Queen Elizabeth who lost her husband, Prince Philip, in 2021, who she’d only been married to since 1947, before I was born.

So I’m going to decide that 2022 will be great! Of course, I will also retreat to the ‘trust but verify” position about the new year, which is a quote Ronald Reagan cleverly pilfered.

Composer Stephen Sondheim

colonel,and journal

Stephen SondheimAs much as I loved Stephen Sondheim as the composer of some of my favorite songs, I was even more taken by him as a teacher and raconteur.

He came to that first profession because he was fortunate to have as a neighbor Oscar Hammerstein II, as in Rodgers and. Here’s a story I’ve heard him tell. “In 1945, Sondheim presented his first musical, By George, to Hammerstein, who told him: ‘It’s the worst thing I’ve ever read. It was terrible, and if you want to know why it’s terrible, I’ll tell you.’

“Hammerstein taught him how to construct a musical. ‘I dare say, at the risk of hyperbole, that I learned more that afternoon than most people learn about songwriting in a lifetime.” 

Has anyone so talented been so hard on himself? His books Finishing The Hat (2010) and Look, I Made A Hat (2011) collect lyrics with Attendant Comments, Anecdotes, et al. They are very entertaining additions to my book collection. In fact, they reside perhaps a meter away from where I sit in the office. The former was my favorite book that year.

A massive body of work

wrote how Leonard Bernstein,  another of his teachers, kept him from using the obvious profanity at the end of Gee, Officer Krupke. Of course, as I’ve noted repeatedly, West Side Story is my favorite musical. Its creation and evolution from the stage to the movie have long fascinated me.

“The first show for which Sondheim wrote both the music and lyrics was A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” Comedy Night is a grand opening piece. I recall that from seeing a production of it back in the early 1970s. At some point years ago, I’ve actually sung the title tune from Anyone Can Whistle. My daughter was in a variation of his Assassins, which is difficult music indeed. I’ve seen the movie Into The Woods.

And I haven’t even mentioned Gypsy or Company or Follies or A Little Night Music. He received a Pulitzer Prize in 1985 for Sunday in the Park with George. As the Boston Globe asked, “Who else would write a musical about a vengeful barber whose victims are turned into meat pies (‘Sweeney Todd’)?”

Ken Levine notes an even earlier credit, on a television show. 

Words that rhyme

Here’s something I find intriguing. He believed “words that are spelled differently, but sound alike, such as rougher and suffer, engage the listener more than those spelled similarly, rougher and tougher… ‘I have got a rhyme in ‘Passion,’ colonel, and journal. Now, you look at them on paper, they seem to have no relation to each other at all. So, when you rhyme them, it’s, ooh, you know?'” I believe he is correct.

Mark Evanier has linked to Sondheim-related material dozens of times. As he noted: “If you have ever wanted to write songs or plays — or really anything — you will enjoy this conversation between Adam Guettel and Stephen Sondheim. It’s just two guys who write great stuff for the Broadway stage sitting around and yakking…”

Evanier also posted Send In The Clowns, sung by Bernadette Peters, generally considered the greatest interpreter of Sondheim’s work, with the composer on the piano.  And Everybody Wants To Be Sondheim, a “song written by — and performed here by — Alan Chapman.” In fact, just go to Mark’s site and search Stephen’s name.

Stephen Sondheim received nine Tony Awards, an Oscar, eight Grammys, the Laurence Olivier Award, the Kennedy Center Honors (1993), and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2015). He was 91.

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