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 Posted:   Mar 22, 2014 - 1:14 PM   
 By:   edwzoomom   (Member)


I watched an HBO documentary earlier entitled "Six By Sondheim". It features six well known Sondheim songs and goes into their background. The interviews are extensive and the vintage footage is fabulous. It does a wonderful job of mixing the contemporary and the historical. I loved it and recommend it even if you are not a Sondheim fan.

 
 Posted:   Mar 23, 2014 - 5:23 AM   
 By:   spielboy   (Member)

thanks for reminding me to look for it... I finally found it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUN_MTChn5M

 
 Posted:   Mar 23, 2014 - 8:30 PM   
 By:   edwzoomom   (Member)

I watched an HBO documentary earlier entitled "Six By Sondheim". It features six well known Sondheim songs and goes into their background. The interviews are extensive and the vintage footage is fabulous. It does a wonderful job of mixing the contemporary and the historical. I loved it and recommend it even if you are not a Sondheim fan.

You are very welcome. I am sure you will enjoy it as much as I did.

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 24, 2014 - 7:33 AM   
 By:   dan the man   (Member)

I always found ANYONE CAN WHISTLE a nice score. When LEE REMICK sings the title tune it's so touching and says a lot.

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 24, 2014 - 8:24 AM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

Glad you reminded people of this special. I watched it and really enjoyed it. Sondheim was rather adamant that one need not compose a song that can be hummed. Having a discernible melody was, in his opinion, not necessary. I don't disagree with him, but that may be the reason why some of his musicals leave me rather cold. I guess my personal tastes draw me more to other musical composers who love to compose melodies. That is just "different strokes" and doesn't diminish his astounding musical contributions.

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 24, 2014 - 10:43 AM   
 By:   Morricone   (Member)

thanks for reminding me to look for it... I finally found it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUN_MTChn5M


Wow! This obviously was made for people who were putting a production of INTO THE WOODS together. It is NOT for those who have never seen it because there are wall to wall spoilers. But for those who have, we get insight into the work and thought that went into it (and this is a bare bones overall guide to it). This is why I am such a big Sondheim fan, everything is done with such precision that if you play a note wrong you can throw the whole song or idea off. So when it IS done right it has such incredible depth and feeling. Contrast that with Webber where I am usually waiting for the next big number impatiently. CATS is the exception (T.S.Elliot makes a good librettist).

So if the HBO is about single songs, how many musicals are represented?

 
 Posted:   Mar 24, 2014 - 2:36 PM   
 By:   spielboy   (Member)

ouch! I put the wrong link... excuse me!

this is it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LejtDwoY1bY

 
 Posted:   Mar 24, 2014 - 2:59 PM   
 By:   edwzoomom   (Member)

I always found ANYONE CAN WHISTLE a nice score. When LEE REMICK sings the title tune it's so touching and says a lot.


Very nice sample to point out dan. Thanks.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ncyo8EUUCVE

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 25, 2014 - 1:11 PM   
 By:   Preston Neal Jones   (Member)

Hi, Joan! Always a treat to hear from you.

Re: that certain Sondheim coldness... In fairness to yourself, please bear in mind that sometimes it isn't the songwriter's phraseology, sometimes it's simply his content. It's been said of the brilliant, innovative gentleman, "Mr. Sondheim can find the way to make his songs say absolutely anything -- except, 'I love you.'"

 
 Posted:   Mar 25, 2014 - 2:24 PM   
 By:   edwzoomom   (Member)

Hi, Joan! Always a treat to hear from you.

Re: that certain Sondheim coldness... In fairness to yourself, please bear in mind that sometimes it isn't the songwriter's phraseology, sometimes it's simply his content. It's been said of the brilliant, innovative gentleman, "Mr. Sondheim can find the way to make his songs say absolutely anything -- except, 'I love you.'"


To me, the song "Somewhere" from "West Side Story" aches with love. Not sure I agree with the above statement.

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 25, 2014 - 2:39 PM   
 By:   Preston Neal Jones   (Member)

As to the HBO special itself -- and I recommend also reading the article by co-producer Frank Rich in a recent issue of New York Magazine -- I personally enjoyed it very much -- with one major lapse excepted, however. "I'm Still Here" (from FOLLIES) is perhaps my favorite Sondheim soliloquy; certainly, it's my favorite of the SIX songs featured here. I'm sorry, but some songs are simply meant to be sung by people of a certain age and/or a particular gender. If there was a point to assigning this number to a youngish male cabaret singer, I failed to see it, and for my money it completely failed to tell this song's powerful story.

Go figure.

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 25, 2014 - 3:00 PM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

"Somewhere" is a gorgeous song that does ache with love. Lyrics are by Sondheim, but the music, which has a lovely melody, was composed by Leonard Bernstein. Sondheim went on to march to his own drummer, which was fine. His approach showed his individual artistic stamp; however, I'm more in tune personally with the Rogers and Bernstein melodic approach to musicals.

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 25, 2014 - 3:02 PM   
 By:   Preston Neal Jones   (Member)

COLDNESS -

I hear what you're saying about "Somewhere," (music by another composer), but...

I regret I can't source the quote I used, but I think it refers to Sondheim once he was on his own, as opposed to his early blazing years of apprenticeship via collaboration. Also, there are always exceptions to the general rule, but there's a certain truth in that quote, as evidenced by Joan's reactions to Sondheim's oeuvre. She's hardly the first person to have or express them.

Then again, there's always the exception of the unbridled love song Milos Gloriosis sings to himself in A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON MY WAY TO THE FORUM...

Now, that's passion for you!

smile

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 25, 2014 - 4:11 PM   
 By:   Morricone   (Member)

Glad you reminded people of this special. I watched it and really enjoyed it. Sondheim was rather adamant that one need not compose a song that can be hummed. Having a discernible melody was, in his opinion, not necessary. I don't disagree with him, but that may be the reason why some of his musicals leave me rather cold. I guess my personal tastes draw me more to other musical composers who love to compose melodies. That is just "different strokes" and doesn't diminish his astounding musical contributions.

Hi Joan, as Preston says, it is nice to hear from you again.

Now I love hummability. There isn't a Goldsmith theme that I love that I can't hum.


So after watching this wonderful documentary I was trying to find that "Sondheim was rather adamant that one need not compose a song that can be hummed" quote. I didn't find it. But that is pretty much what many people assume about Sondheim. What I did find was a story that was much more telling. Stephen's mentor Oscar Hammerstein recommended he write the lyrics for this new Leonard Bernstein/Jerome Robbins musical WEST SIDE STORY, just for the experience of working with talented people. They all worked hard trying to make a street gang version of ROMEO AND JULIET work. Indeed it gained a critical success, although Stephen was disappointed they heaped most all the praise on Leonard. But he understood Bernstein was a known quantity and Sondheim was a newbie. More disappointing was that it was a bomb. It wasn't the public's cup of tea and they dwindled away. It had a run but did not make it's money back. Everybody told Stephen it was because there were no hummable songs. Indeed only two records were made of WEST SIDE STORY tunes (Dinah Shore and Johnny Mathis) and they didn't sell.

Years pass and a studio decides to make a movie of WEST SIDE STORY. They give it a million dollars of publicity, including the songs being played on the radio. And what happens? It becomes a box office smash, wins a ton of Oscars and (Poof!) the songs somehow become hummable. They were recorded by everybody and their mother.

This all coincided with the advice Oscar Hammerstein gave Stephen. When Oscar did both SHOWBOAT and OKLAHOMA!, both of which turned the American Musical upside down, no one in America wanted to see a musical about racism in the south or the range wars between farmers and cowmen. And particularly with music derived from negro spirituals and western howdowns. But at a certain point Oscar said they had to say "screw the public" and do it for themselves. Actually who they're really telling to screw is those people who "think" they know what the public wants. These productions brought them, particularly with Richard Rodgers, more success then they ever had before. Their musicals, that were different than anything on the stage before, became hummable. They followed these tales with more unwanted stories about; a thug carnival barker who dies in a knife fight and leaves his girlfriend and their baby behind; a clash of cultures with a cruel Siamese king vs. a proper British governess; racism in the south Pacific during the World War II; a modern fable taking place in San Francisco with an all Chinese cast, and a story about an Austrian family fleeing Nazis. All of the people who objected to these tales have dwindled into nothingness and now Rodgers and Hammerstein are considered mainstream, practically old-fashioned (which probably would have made Oscar laugh his ass off).

Indeed it is Sondheim that now has disturbing musicals. But every one of them seem to have one beautiful lyrical song, and usually a lot more. And some of them have songs that remind me of Rodgers & Hammerstein like "A Weekend In The Country". And the new musicals are starting to look like offshoots of COMPANY or SWEENEY TODD. And it seems the tributes look like he has achieved status as a grand old man of the stage.

AND (poof!) he seems surprisingly hummable..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UU4xVacjnWE&list=RDUU4xVacjnWE#t=1

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 25, 2014 - 5:15 PM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

Morricone, love the stories you tell of the "at first" forbidden musicals and their topics that later became mainstream.

I hope I'm not get censured for not loving Sondheim. I respect and admire his artistry. For me to not wholly love his music is just personal taste. Nothing more.

I shall try to find the Six By Sondheim again because I really felt he was diminishing the importance of a song being melodic or hummable. And that is okay. He wanted to take his music in a different direction. Maybe my mind deceives me. I can hum Send In The Clowns. My favorite song of his if sang passionately is Being Alive. I can hum that one too. All I'm saying is that some of his works do not embrace me, but I'm glad others of you love his music.

 
 Posted:   Mar 26, 2014 - 4:37 PM   
 By:   edwzoomom   (Member)

"Somewhere" is a gorgeous song that does ache with love. Lyrics are by Sondheim, but the music, which has a lovely melody, was composed by Leonard Bernstein. Sondheim went on to march to his own drummer, which was fine. His approach showed his individual artistic stamp; however, I'm more in tune personally with the Rogers and Bernstein melodic approach to musicals.


Hi joan,

I am aware that Sondheim wrote the lyrics and Bernstein the music. I was referring to the aching feeling the lyrics emote when the 2 main characters were singing them. This is why I used this song as an example. smile

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 26, 2014 - 6:37 PM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

edw, I agree with you. His lyrics do emote.

 
 Posted:   Mar 27, 2014 - 1:35 AM   
 By:   Ron Hardcastle   (Member)

I had mixed emotions. I saw it when it was first broadcast and kept it on my DVR for months, but eventually deleted it. I found the versions of the songs newly recorded for the documentary to be good to sometimes annoying, but was pleased that they showed some of the thrilling Pennebaker documentary about the recording of the original Broadway cast album of "Company" (which I've long had on VHS and later DVD). "Six By Sondheim" is not perfect, but still worth watching. If it had been better, I would have either kept it in the DVR or sought it out on Blu-ray, but, alas, don't feel that it's good enough for either.

 
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