No Song is Safe From Us

No Song Is Safe From Us - The NYFOS Blog
 |  Leann Osterkamp

This particular song portrays the voice of a woman who has broken free of societal roles and expectations. She sings that through her art, she is authentically herself and is not at the ownership or disposal of anyone or anything. Julia de Burgos was a Puerto Rican civil rights activist who lived from 1914-1953. Traveling between Puerto Rico, New York, and Cuba, she was fully involved in the nationalist philosophies that defined her life.




 |  Leann Osterkamp

This terrific remastered original cast recording from the 1953 rendition of Wonderful Town portrays Wreck, a guy who describes his fame and glory days as a student because of his ability to pass the ol’ pigskin. In this hilarious song, Wreck can’t spell, read, or write… but he introduced Albert Einstein, passed the bar exam, had every girl he could ever want, and got every scholarship… because he could pass that football!!




 |  Leann Osterkamp

Perhaps Bernstein’s most well-known work, “Somewhere” has an inherent timeless relevance. It expresses the hope of a world in which conflict is absent and people are able to live without prejudice and hatred. Bernstein spent his entire life being involved in social justice both in the U.S. and abroad. He was famously quoted, “This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”




 |  Leann Osterkamp

“Little Smary” is an example of Bernstein’s art song repertoire outside of the theater. The words are by Jennie Bernstein (Bernstein’s mother). The story depicts a young girl playing with her “wuddit” (rabbit). The story was a common bedtime story told to Bernstein by his mother.




 |  Leann Osterkamp

From the great theater works of Leonard Bernstein, “A Little Bit in Love” is sung by Eileen, a want-to-be New York actress from Ohio. This delightful song comes from the show Wonderful Town, originally on Broadway in 1953. Eileen and her sister Ruth attempt to hit it big in the Big Apple, only to find themselves entangled in a bunch of mishaps. Eileen, unlike her sister Ruth, is a natural romantic who finds herself “a little bit in love” with many men.




 |  Jack Snyder

In the film version of On the Town, NYFOS friends Betty Comden and Adolph Green have the somewhat uptight Ann Miller character lead the gang of on-leave sailors into the Museum of Natural History, where she gets very turned on by the primitive man exhibit. The dancing is fabulous, so is her green dress, and the lyrics are laugh-out-loud funny. But the political incorrectness of everything that happens seems without bound: men are sexy because they are brutish; the sexualized “other” is human but seen as subhuman. If you’ve read the contrarian article entitled “Saviors, Victims, and Savages” on my human rights class syllabus, it is hard watch this silly dance number without your PC antennae up.




 |  Jack Snyder

My dad had a terrific singing voice, appearing as a young man in “light operas” such as the 1926 musical The Desert Song, an entertainingly orientalizing show about dashing Moroccan Berber rebels on horseback and their sexy womenfolk who performed the dance of the seven veils under the male gaze of French officers. Flash forward to ISIS, kidnapped Yazidi brides, and on-going debates over neo-colonial humanitarian intervention, and this all has a decidedly contemporary feel, no matter how cartoonish, culturally stereotyped, and ethically questionable.




 |  Jack Snyder

Last night Steven Blier led off the Bernstein concert with “Something’s Coming,” the quintessential expression of the blindly hopeful anticipation of youth from West Side Story. I wanted to pick this song even before knowing that it would be on Steve’s playlist.




 |  Jack Snyder

Today’s shamelessly pandering selection is the universally beloved Barbara Cook singing the wonderful “Glitter and Be Gay” from Candide, a song so difficult that she was sure she would be utterly incapable of singing it. The video clip includes part of an interview where she describes the horrors of initial rehearsals.