Friday, January 17, 2020

Music Hall!

Music Director Eric Schmiedl
Music Hall is a form of entertainment which was extremely popular in England during the Victorian Era, featuring comedy performances and rousing, boisterous songs.

Subject matter for music hall songs could be thought unsuitable for “respectable” audiences, focusing on and making light, as they often did, on subjects such as poverty, crime and inappropriate social behavior.

Each of the songs that I selected for inclusion in the play script for Sherlock Holmes Meets the Bully of Baker Street were written in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, though some of the lyrics have been adapted to suit the plot of the play, and the age of its intended audience.

For example, we use the song “Oh my! How the Money Rolls In!” which uses the traditional Scottish melody for “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,” which allows Miss Barnaby to describe the illegal activities committed by her young charges:
Young Annie steals fruit from the corner
Which Sylvia sells in the square
Then brings all the pennies she’s made up
I’ll give her back one as her share!

Young Darla she sneaks into houses
Takes all of the silver and plate
Her talents have grown exponentially
And the darling sweet robin’s just eight
Those are my original lyrics, suitable for an elementary school audience. The original song (titled “My God! How the Money Rolls In!”) is much more lascivious. Over the years a variety performers created increasingly obscene lyrics describing how each member of the family turns tricks; it was “The Aristocrats” of its day. For example:
My mother's a bawdy house keeper
Every night when the evening grows dim
She hangs a red light in the window
My God, how the money rolls in!

My grandma makes cheap prophylactics
She pierces the end with a pin
And grandpa does quickie abortions
My God, how the money rolls in!
"The Mystery of Edwin Drood"
(Great Lakes Theater, 2009)
Ten years ago, Great Lakes Theater produced The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’s final, unfinished novel of the same name, with music, book and lyrics by Rupert Holmes (no relation) the creator of "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)".

Utilizing the fast-paced and ribald style of the music hall, Holmes was able to tell Dickens’s sordid tale of opium, prostitution and murder with humor and audience interaction. The murderer, in fact, is chosen each performance by the audience!

Now, any casual consumer of Holmesian mythos (and here I am referring to the detective, and not the composer of "Him") knows that Sherlock plays the violin. Yet as I plunged into writing the plot for the Bully of Baker Street, I knew it would be more sprightly and fun for the company to sing their stories to our proposed child audience rather than subject them to a recital. And so we return to the Music Hall.

Note: I love violin recitals. Here is a really good one.

Rehearsals began this week, and our musical director is none other than the masterful Eric Schmiedl. Eric penned the last two "Classics On Tour" productions for Great Lakes (Huck Finn and Treasure Island) in which he was also a performer, and the arranger and lead musical performer. Including period music has now become a trademark of these touring performances for children, and I didn’t see why a Sherlock Holmes mystery should be any different.

The songs include "The Artist" by A.J. Mills and B. Scott, in which a painter describes her bohemian pose, and "Broken Down" by Harry Clifton, a woeful tale of loss of status. Eric has arranged the former to be in the style of Gilbert & Sullivan, the latter as bluesy yet ironically upbeat. Each is a showcase for one of the characters, with supporting vocals provided by the rest of the company.

Great Lakes Theater presents "Sherlock Holmes Meets the Bully of Baker Street" at fifteen locations around Northeast Ohio, February 4 - March 8, 2020 

Source: Traditional Music Library

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