To continue the fest, this is a Christmas recording that blends two worlds -- totally unknown, yet hugely-well-known and wonderful. How can that be, you ask??! I'll explain.
The main song here is from the musical, Here's Love, by Meredith Willson, who of course wrote The Music Man. It's based on the classic film, Miracle on 34th Street. The show wasn't terribly successful, though didn't flop and had a respectable run of 334 performances -- just under a year -- in 1964. The score is inconsistent, but half of it is quite wonderful. (I've actually tried, half-heartedly, I must admit, to get a TV production of it made for several years. I think it would be a terrific Christmas special. Hey, who knows, maybe one year NBC will do it live...)
The song is called "Pine Cones and Holly Berries," sung by Laurence Naismith who plays Kris Kringle. It's very charming and a lovely Christmas holiday song, though is pretty much unknown.
Now, as you may recall, Meredith Willson likes counterpoint. He used it a great deal, to much good effect in The Music Man, most notably with "Lida Rose" sung counter to "Will I Ever Tell You?", but also famously with "Pick-a-Little, Talk-a Little," sung in counterpoint with an already-existing song, "Goodnight, Ladies."
Well, he used the technique again in Here's Love. He created "Pine Cones and Holly Berries" to be sung counter to an already-existing, very famous Christmas song -- one which (I am sure most people will be shocked to learn) he himself wrote. When I say it's very famous and completely well-known -- trust me on this. It's very famous. And yes, it's actually written by, of all people, Meredith Willson. I won't tell you want it is, but let you have the fun of discovering it when it comes in halfway through. (Though if you've read this pages during past Holiday Music Fests, you likely know it by now...)
The counterpoint, very famous song is performed here by Janis Paige and -- are you ready? -- Fred Gwynne! Though he hated being typecast in his famous TV role, since it almost ruined his career (I worked with him on the movie, Pet Sematary, and we briefly talked about it), I feel compelled to identify him in this context for the sheer incongruity of it, as yes, 'Herman Munster,' whose TV series came along soon thereafter. He comes in the song here most-clearly at the 1:14 mark, singing (and really well) "Christmas, Christmas. Christmas Day. Bells ring, and hearts sing, every day..."
So, here then is a lovely, sweet Christmas song you don't know, sung in counterpoint to an extremely famous one you absolutely do, both by Meredith Willson.
As a bonus, we'll throw in a couple of other good -- and lesser-known -- Christmas songs from the show. This first (with video from a community production) is during the courtroom scene and W.H. Macy is called to the stand and has to say under oath whether he believes that there is actually a Santa Claus.
And we'll conclude things with an absolutely lovely song that the lawyer (the fellow who ends up defending Kris at the end, played by Craig Stevens) sings to the daughter of his neighbor, the cynic who hired Kris but sees it all as just business (played by the aforementioned Janis Paige). The young daughter has picked up much of her mother's cynicism, but their neighbor Fred slowly starts to bring some holiday cheer into the girl's life.
We have a longer version of the Fest today. Bear with me a bit and let me explain. I've posted this all before and I find it a fun story of sorts to repeat.
When the movie musical Scrooge was released in 1970, I remember reading an article about the film's composer-lyricist-screenwriter (and executive producer) Leslie Bricusse (who earlier had teamed with Anthony Newley to write the stage musicals Stop the World - I Want to Get Off and The Roar of the Greasepaint - the Smell of the Crowd, and the next year would write the score to the movie musical Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory). In the piece, Bricusse said that they'd done research and discovered that among all the Christmas carols written, there had never been one actually titled, "A Christmas Carol." So, he wrote one, which begins the film over the wonderful opening credits by the great artist, Ronald Searle (who also did the credits for, among other films, Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines.)
I mention all this, though, for a specific reason. Bear with me.
Here's that song first, however, and those wonderful opening credits.
As I said, I mentioned all of that above for another reason entirely.
It's that as good a film as Scrooge is, Bricusse's research staff was lousy. Because 14 years before, in 1956, there was a live TV musical version of A Christmas Carol that was called The Stingiest Man in Town and starred the legendary film actor, best known as playing Sherlock Holmes, Basil Rathbone as Scrooge. And the very first song in the show was called -- yes, you guessed it -- "A Christmas Carol."
The music for the show was written by Fred Spielman, with lyrics by Janice Torre. It's not remotely distinguished or memorable, but has quite a few very nice things in it. And there, right at the top, first thing, is a song, "A Christmas Carol." A live musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol on American television doesn't seem like a terribly challenging thing to track down for a research staff working on a movie musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol.
So, continuing our holiday theme of unknown Christmas songs from musicals, here is the earlier song, "A Christmas Carol," sung by The Four Lads. It's short, less than a minute, but whatever its length the name of the song is "A Christmas Carol." That the researchers couldn't find. But we think you fine folks deserve better... Which is why this also isn't the end of the post here. Because there's another one coming. And it's a joy. But here's that other song first --
Note: Though the person posting this put up a screen shot that say's "A Christmas Carol," it is from The Stingiest Man in Town.
And yes, there's more...
In 1959, which is only 11 years before the movie musical Scrooge was made (and three years after the TV musical above), the wonderful Tom Lehrer released his classic comedy album, An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer -- which included a song titled...yes, you guessed it -- "A Christmas Carol."
And again, Tom Lehrer was not remotely an unknown entertainer and songwriter. It fact, as popular as An Evening Wasted with Tom Lehrer was when it was released, he was probably around the height of his popularity in 1970 when the film Scrooge hit the theaters. His huge hit album, That Was the Year That Was had been released in 1965, only five years before Scrooge. So, how on earth those researchers missed these two songs -- and for all I know there are more, and even high-profile ones -- I have no idea.
Happily, we have this song to enjoy, as well...
Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse are known for their two stage musicals, Stop the World I Want to Get Off,and The Roar of the Greasepaint the Smell of the Crowd. Together, they also wrote the scores to several movies, most notably Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Bricusse alone wrote the scores to several movie musicals (including Doctor Doolittle, Goodbye Mr. Chips, and the aforementioned Scrooge, which I posted from this morning), as well as collaborating on some other stage musicals -- like the lyrics for the beloved Pickwick.
But less known is that Newley and Bricusse actually wrote a third stage musical together, after the first two, The Good Old Bad Old Days. It played in London in 1974, but never came to Broadway. As in their other shows, in addition to the score they also wrote the book, and Newley directed, as well as starred.
The score has a few very good things in it, most notably the terrific title song (which Jimmy Durante, of all people, recorded, and did a wonderful job with) and "It's a Musical World," that had a bit of a life thanks to Newly performing it outside the show. A few others are pretty nice, though it's not a particularly memorable score. I'll play some of them later on.
This song today (sung by Julia Sutton, it appears to be from the album, and chorus) isn't especially distinguished, but it's quite nice -- and most thoroughly appropriate. That's because it's title is..."Thanksgiving Day."
It's that time o' year, and so today, we'll have our annual festival of sorts of Thanksgiving related pieces -- from songs to videos to old radio shows. And this is a good place to start.
And I think it's near-impossible on Thanksgiving to not celebrate with this classic by Stan Freberg, from his great Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America.
Here is his version of how Thanksgiving actually came about.
It begins with the local mayor decided a bit of self-promotion would help him if he threw a big gala and invited some Indians to show what a great guy he was. Which leads to a Freberg gem, "Take an Indian to Lunch."
And once the holiday event was decided upon, things didn't go as smoothly as plans would hope.
We'll finish our brief tribute to the new musical Harmony which opens on Monday -- finally, 26 years after I saw its premiere tryout production in San Diego. The show's writers Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman have shown remarkable determination getting it here. I have no idea how it will do with critics and the public. It had a highly-successful off-Broadway run a couple years ago at the acclaimed Yiddish National Theatre Folksbienne with very respectable reviews. But Broadway is another animal.
Tonight, we'll end things with three songs from the show. This first is the opening title song, performed by the main characters, the Comedian Harmonists, a real-life mixed-religion troupe that was hugely popular in Germany and around the world in the early 1930s...until Hitler came to power. Joining them is Chip Zien, who plays one of the group, known as "Rabbi", but from decades later, a character who looks back at their experience, narrating and commenting on it all. This comes from a Press Day, which presented highlights of the show.
Here, next, also from the Press Day, is the song "Where You Go." It's performed by Sierra Boggess (for whom I've posted a lot of videos on this site, and who starred on Broadway in The Little Mermaid), along with Julie Benko, who recently had a lot of acclaim as the replacement 'Fanny Brice' in the revival of Funny Girl.
And finally, this is the breakout song from the show, "Every Single Day." This performance comes from a cabaret night by performers in the National Yiddish Theatre Folkbienne production, lead here by Shayne Kennon.
Continuing our to honor the musical Harmony -- which I saw in its premiere tryout in San Diego back in 1997 and which is finally opening on Broadway this coming Monday, after 26 years -- here are a couple of a nice features about the show.
This first from last week is from the AP.
And here is a story from three weeks ago that CBS Sunday Morning did on Barry Manilow and the journey of the musical getting to Braoadway.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor