Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Henry VIII: The Song

Queen Katharine. 
My soul grows sad with troubles;
Sing, and disperse 'em, if thou canst.

Now that the show has closed, I can write something about the song. I have already written about the pageantry inherent in The Famous History of the Life of King Henry VIII. The stage directions call for the dying Queen Katherine to have a vision of the future wives of King Henry. But they also have her calling for one of her ladies to sing to "disperse" her troubles.

Now, I could have cut that. But I did not wish to lose any opportunity to have something happen, something non-stand-and-talky. We have a party near the beginning, and the Vision closer to the end. A song would be very nice.

The woman sings the following lyrics:

Orpheus with his lute made trees,
And the mountain tops that freeze,
Bow themselves when he did sing:
To his music plants and flowers
Ever sprung; as sun and showers
There had made a lasting spring.
Every thing that heard him play,
Even the billows of the sea,
Hung their heads, and then lay by.
In sweet music is such art,
Killing care and grief of heart
Fall asleep, or hearing, die.  

Okay. Was I going to set that to contemporary music? No, I hate when people do that. I was trying to make this feel as contemporary as possible. So, a substitution. At first I tried to think of songs of heartbreak from my past, and briefly entertained the idea of using Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac. But that seemed silly. What was I going to do, have a guy come out with a guitar and warble a verse, for a laugh, and move on? It didn't seem appropriate.

Then I remembered this song I had been listening to since last November -- yes, I am claiming to have heard it first, so kill me. I wrote this around Thanksgiving:
So. Tuesday. I'm making breakfast for children, packing lunches for everyone, listening to The Current. I am struck by a track that sings to me. Slightly retro, sounds like something I would have been big into during my younger days. There's a vocal refrain reminiscent of Sting. I immediately download the song from iTunes -- I never do that anymore.

I listen to it over and over again on the drive down Chester to work. I never do that anymore. A song about an ended relationship, frank, naked, blunt. Well-crafted song. Stirring production.

It's like that old saying; I do not miss you. I miss the person I was when I was with you.
Yes, I'm talking about Somebody That I Used to Know. What I did not know, because I do not listen to Top 40 stations, is that this had become a number one song everywhere in the world this summer.

Regardless, that was the song. In conversation with my friend Elaine, I was trying to figure out how the hell to stage it. I had already banished any kind of furniture, I wanted a clean, uncluttered look to everything. Did I really want the entire company to join the Queen onstage with guitars, drums, and a toy xylophone? I mean, what the hell?

Elaine asked if I meant what I said when I said every character carried an iPhone. Why not have one of them download a karaoke version?

And there you go. Thanks, Elaine.

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