By Elizabeth Woodhouse
Get ready to sing, dance, and have a great time exploring the music of Broadway! Twenty-seven singers are participating in the six-week program featuring songs from Broadway musicals. They will also learn more about how the song fits into the story and why the character sings it in the show.
The heart of Broadway
Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II are considered one of the best Broadway writers in history. One of their greatest shows they wrote is “The Sound of Music.” Although most people are familiar with the movie that premiered in 1965 starring Julie Andrews, the musical opened on Broadway in 1959 and won the Tony Award for “Best Musical” that year. We are learning “My Favorite Things,” which Maria sings to the Von Trapp singers during a scary thunderstorm to help them take their mind off of the thunder.
Another famous Broadway team is Fred Ebb and John Kander who wrote “Chicago” in 1975. You can head to New York City and see “Chicago” on Broadway today — it holds the record for the longest-running musical revival. In the ragtime tune “Mr. Cellophane,” we sing about feeling invisible. It has a sad message, but it’s really fun to sing!
Also premiering on Broadway in 1975, “The Wiz” is the African-American version of the story “The Wizard of Oz.” Film versions were released in 1977, starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, and in 2015, starring Queen Latifah. We have loved learning “Ease on Down the Road”—you cannot help but dance!
In all of these shows, a film was made after they premiered on Broadway. However, in the next song, the Broadway production was created after the movie: “The Lion King.” In “Circle of Life” we learned two different parts that are sung at the same time to create harmony and get to sing in a foreign language. It happens to be one of our favorites: Zulu!
Learning through experience
Learning about music is done through our experience with every song. No matter the style, there is always something interesting to discover. In “Ease on Down the Road,” we are learning about rests (silence) and add a snap when our voices are quiet. We are learning to be independent and confident singers when we sing in harmony In “Circle of Life.” “My Favorite Things” feels like a waltz (1-2-3, 1-2-3) while “Mr. Cellophane” reminds us of ragtime, which was a popular style in the 1920s when this story takes place. Newport County Youth Chorus guides students to learn and grow together through singing -- and having fun!
Performing is an important element of our learning as well. Members of the “All that Jazz” program will have two opportunities to perform: at the NCYC Song Fest on Saturday, June 1 at 1pm at St. Mary’s Church in Portsmouth and again for our families and friends directly following the last class on June 4 and June 5.