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R.I.P. Stephen Sondheim

Kelly of Water's Edge
Rohan

Nov 26 2021, 11:59pm

Post #1 of 10 (525 views)
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R.I.P. Stephen Sondheim Can't Post

The sad news has just broken that Stephen Sondheim passed away earlier today at 91.

He was one of the greatest musical composers of all time, and was certainly the greatest living American musical composer alive at the time of his death. Before composing himself, he was the lyricist of musicals like West Side Story and Gypsy, before he also composed his own works, which included Into the Woods and, Sanctum Sanctorum, Sweeney Todd.

His musicals were known for their powerful emotion. We won't hear his likes again. Send In The Clowns.


squire
Half-elven


Nov 27 2021, 1:22am

Post #2 of 10 (508 views)
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How sad! But we'll always have his shows. [In reply to] Can't Post

Here's one of my favs - 'Finishing the Hat',* in which Georges Seurat (played by Mandy Patinkin, who originated the role) muses about what it is to be an artist, in the 1983 musical, Sunday in the Park with George. (*Note on the YouTube link: the song proper starts about 1 minute in, following a monologue.)

I've always though that Sondheim was channeling his own experience as a musical artist, translated into painting terms, when he wrote this one.

Rest in peace indeed, Mr. Sondheim, and thanks for finishing so many hats!



squire online:
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grammaboodawg
Immortal


Nov 28 2021, 1:49pm

Post #3 of 10 (485 views)
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Such sad news. [In reply to] Can't Post

His work will forever live... especially in theater. I heard that he loved live theater so much that he went to a live performance 3 days before his death. *bows to a master* Rest in Peace.



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cats16
Valinor


Nov 28 2021, 10:35pm

Post #4 of 10 (478 views)
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The likes of which we won't see again [In reply to] Can't Post

I've grown to cherish the music from Company the past few months.

May his memory be a blessing.

Join us every weekend in the Hobbit movie forum for this week's CHOW (Chapter of the Week) discussion!




Lissuin
Valinor


Nov 28 2021, 11:54pm

Post #5 of 10 (477 views)
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As we here know, [In reply to] Can't Post

tales of fantasy can be full of lessons. So, thank you, Mr. Sondheim.

Into the Woods

Video with the original Broadway cast:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqCsQCsinK4

Finale:
2:27:30 -
The light is getting dimmer..
I think I see a glimmer--

Into the woods--you have to grope,
But that's the way you learn to cope.
Into the woods to find there's hope
Of getting through the journey.
Into the woods, each time you go,
There's more to learn of what you know.
Into the woods, but not too slow--
Into the woods, it's nearing midnight--
Into the woods to mind the wolf,
To heed the witch, to honor the giant,
To mind, to heed, to find, to think, to teach, to join,
To go to the Festival!
Into the woods,
Into the woods,
Into the woods,
Then out of the woods--
And happy ever after!

I wish...

'No One Is Alone'
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITBjbdKetRE


Annael
Immortal


Nov 29 2021, 5:28pm

Post #6 of 10 (473 views)
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well . . . [In reply to] Can't Post

I would not call him one of the greatest composers. His songs rarely have actual melodies; they're just a series of remarks sung instead of spoken. Leonard Bernstein wrote the music for "West Side Story," Sondheim was the lyricist, and I consider that his best work. Definitely he was good with the words. Makes me wonder what Gilbert would have got up to without Sullivan.

I am a dreamer of words, of written words.
-- Gaston Bachelard

* * * * * * * * * *

NARF and member of Deplorable Cultus since 1967


(This post was edited by Annael on Nov 29 2021, 5:30pm)


squire
Half-elven


Dec 1 2021, 2:58am

Post #7 of 10 (441 views)
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I know what you mean, but... [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm not sure "actual melodies" are the best marker for judging the greatness of a composer, even a composer of music dramas.

Sondheim's musical numbers focus more on driving the story forward or on revealing a character's conflicts than on providing songs for a greatest hits collection. I don't think that makes their music less complex, interesting, new for their time, and fun to listen to.

One comparison might be to Wagner vs. the great Italian opera composers like Verdi or Rossetti. The latter provided their shows with arias at the end of which the show paused to allow for applause; and those arias, brimming with actual melodies, then populated the piano scores and music boxes of the middle class for decades to come.

Wagner rejected that approach, preferring to write in a "through" style wherein the arias were simply more sung continuations of the musical dialogue in recitative. The singers never pause for applause, and not too many Wagner "songs" made it to the music boxes and hurdy-gurdies. But Wagner is considered one of the towering composers of opera; and I suspect that is the way in which Sondheim is being remembered this week as one of the greatest composers of the Broadway stage.

Wagner was, also and by the way, one of the few opera composers who wrote his own lyrics - so maybe that's another connection to your point about how an overly lyric-oriented musician may not be as focused on producing numbers that are purely tuneful? I do think I remember reading this week that Sondheim once confessed that he enjoyed the lyrics part of the job ever so slightly more than the composing part of the job!

Sullivan often grumped that Gilbert's lyrics required so much attention that he had to squelch his musical instincts in order to ensure that every word was hearable. Gilbert grumped back that Sullivan tended to get too operatic for what were meant to be light comedic pieces. But Gilbert tried once or twice to find another composer he could work with, and failed utterly. And Sullivan's stand-alone classical music and grand opera are now more or less forgotten.



squire online:
RR Discussions: The Valaquenta, A Shortcut to Mushrooms, and Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Lights! Action! Discuss on the Movie board!: 'A Journey in the Dark'. and 'Designing The Two Towers'.
Archive: All the TORn Reading Room Book Discussions (including the 1st BotR Discussion!) and Footerama: "Tolkien would have LOVED it!"
Dr. Squire introduces the J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia: A Reader's Diary


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Annael
Immortal


Dec 1 2021, 6:16am

Post #8 of 10 (425 views)
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good points [In reply to] Can't Post

I'm speaking primarily as a singer. I've done some Sondheim songs in recital because my teacher wanted me to. I found them . . . unchallenging. Like singing only the recitatif part of an aria.

I have also sung Gilbert's "The Lost Chord" and liked it!

I am a dreamer of words, of written words.
-- Gaston Bachelard

* * * * * * * * * *

NARF and member of Deplorable Cultus since 1967


(This post was edited by Annael on Dec 1 2021, 6:17am)


Dame Ioreth
Tol Eressea


Dec 2 2021, 7:07am

Post #9 of 10 (376 views)
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What is fascinating to me about his songs [In reply to] Can't Post

is how they reveal character, not just in the lyrics by the rhythm, melody, and even the key chosen. Music is a character trait.

_


Heed WBA when building blanket forts.
ITLs don't get enough FAS. :)

Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings






Dame Ioreth
Tol Eressea


Dec 2 2021, 7:45am

Post #10 of 10 (375 views)
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A message on an answering machine [In reply to] Can't Post

It was a coincidence that I was watching Tick TIck Boom the day Stephen Sondheim passed away. I'd read some of the background for the movie and decided to give myself a treat and watch it before I had to go back to work full time. I'd started the movie and was flipping quickly through my very eclectic Twitter feed and saw the announcement. Sondheim contacted Lin Manuel-Miranda after seeing a screening and asked to rewrite the answering machine message that he was supposed to have left to Jonathan Larson. He thought the message in the script wasn't what he would have said and asked to rewrite it and even offered to record the new message, since they couldn't get Bradley Whitford back to rerecord. So there I was, crying for Jonathan and Stephen's voice comes from the machine.

He started Young Playwrights in 1981 as a formal way of teaching and mentoring new playwrights, something he'd been doing all along. To me, his teaching and mentorship are his best work. I love his music. I love his lyrics. I love his shows. But what he left behind was so much more, and that is why I think he is one of the greatest of all time. Someone on Twitter stated it so well - Without Sondheim there might not have been a Jonathan Larson and without Jonathan Larson there might not have been a Lin Manuel-Miranda. Three composers that pushed the envelope of musical theater in this country. Who knows what other young composers are on the cusp of his big breakthrough because of him.

Thank you, Stephen Sondheim.

_


Heed WBA when building blanket forts.
ITLs don't get enough FAS. :)

Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings





 
 

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