10 Takeaways from Singing Rodgers and Hammerstein at Carnegie Hall

Friday night, October 12, the choir I sing in, Essential Voices USA, sang in the New York Pops concert, Some Enchanted Evening: The Music of Rodgers and Hammerstein, with soloists Kelli O’Hara, Paulo Szot, and Aaron Lazar. The experience was wonderful and a bit surreal. The following day I watched the film The Sound of Music with my four-year-old babysitting charge and wondered if I really sang those songs on the stage of Carnegie Hall the night before. Here are ten takeaways from this experience:

1. The prologue to The Sound of Music film is a beautiful piece of music. I never really listen to it because when it’s playing I’m distracted by Salzburg and the Alps. Listening to it without the visuals allowed me to really hear the shimmering music.

2. Whenever you can, sit near a harpist. I had that opportunity once before in the first row at the Met for Lucia di Lammermoor (which has an exquisite harp solo), and Friday night I was close enough to the harpist to watch her pluck the strings and hear her part.

3. Speaking of individual instrumental parts, I was behind the clarinetist and could clearly hear all his parts. As a former violist, it was great to be so close to an orchestra again. In the audience it’s difficult to pick out the parts–you hear the whole–but sitting where we were it was easier to focus on different parts.

4. Funny line I never much thought of: “There are no books like a dame.” from “There is Nothing Like a Dame” from South Pacific.
Nope, there aren’t.

5. “This Nearly Was Mine.” I know I’ve heard this song before, but sometimes it takes a few times to really understand how beautiful something is.

6. To a kid, “Surrey with a Fringe on Top” is a silly song about animals running away from a surrey. When one grows older, one realizes that it’s actually a love song.

7. Singing along with Paulo Szot to “Edelweiss” made me feel as though I were actually at the Music Festival the characters sing at toward the end of The Sound of Music. For a moment, I thought we were all going to quickly exit the stage to escape the Nazis.

8. Some songs I never thought much about but now kinda like: “June is Busting Out All Over“, “Whistle a Happy Tune“. I’ve always liked “Whistle a Happy Tune” in theory (even though I can’t whistle), but until singing it in this concert I never considered it a fun song to sing.

9. “I Have Dreamed.” Have I heard this song before? It’s quite possible I haven’t because when I was kid–the last time I watched The King and I–I had a habit of only watching the first half of musicals over and over, never getting to the end. I really must see The King and I on stage.  From what I could hear of the soloists (which is not much because we were behind them), this was my favorite song for Kelli O’Hara because she leaned into the “glow of evening” line in the most wonderful way.

10. Friday night I sang “Do Re Mi” on stage at Carnegie Hall in a rousing encore w/ Kelli O’Hara, Paulo Szot, and the Rodgers and Hammerstein families in the audience. The following night I was watching it on a TV and singing it with a 4-year-old at babysitting. That gives you an idea of the breath and reach of Rodgers and Hammerstein: from the thrill on the grandest of stages to the intimate in small living rooms.

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