2. Pure Imagination
3. Places to Live
4. The Birthday Song
5. I Whistle a Happy Tune
6. The Green Eyed Dragon
7. Not While I'm Around
8. Goodnight Moon
9. Come In, Mornin'
10. It's You I Like
11. Waiting, Waiting
12. So Pretty
13. Baby Mine
14. The Green Dog
15. Slow March
16. Never Never Land
When John and I met as young artists in Virginia Opera’s education and outreach troupe back in January 2012, neither of us truly realized the particular brand of funky, long-lasting friendship gold we’d lucked into! Fast forward 11 years, we’re still best friends and collaborators, both successful itinerant musicians, but that has often come at the price of missing our home and families. Then the pandemic hit, putting our lives on pause and bringing all that time spent apart from loved ones into laser focus. Yearning for deeper connections and embracing the sing for fun spirit 150%, we set out to create a musical project that our entire family would enjoy, focusing first on the youngest members– no other motive but love and sharing ❤️ Meg Marino
Dedications: “It’s You I Like” the song, album concept and sing for fun spirit for Meg’s first major voice teacher & mentor, the late, great Ellen Chickering; “Baby Mine” for Mike Mayes for being there for us both when it really matters; “Slow March” for our beloved family pets Vito, Pete, Ziggy, Ding, Glad & Buster Scruggs who have crossed the rainbow bridge. And BIG thank yous to: Enzo & Marcelo Marino, Roman Riesen and Lucia Benham for lending your voices to our featured “Do-Re-Mi” kids chorus; John & Jonathan for lending your big kid voices & whistling; Luis Infantas of Sam Ash Manhattan for remedying our melodica debacle; Brady Sansone of the Kurt Weill Foundation; our families (bio & found) for the inspiration, love and support to keep going and engaging in meaningful projects.
NOTES ON THE ALBUM - by Evan L. Snyder
1. Richard Rodgers (and Trude Rittman) — Do-Re-Mi
In his satirical 2002 article, “Unfinished Business of the Century,“ famed sci-fi author Douglas Adams includes an entry on this song, claiming the lyrics are unfinished:
“‘So (sew), a needle pulling thread.’ Yes, good. ‘La, a note to follow so…’ What? Excuse me? ‘La, a note to follow so…’ What kind of lame excuse for a line is that?”
“Well, it’s obvious what kind of line it is. It’s a placeholder… I imagine that Oscar Hammerstein just bunged in a ‘a note to follow so’ and thought he’d have another look at it in the morning.”
Little did Adams know, apparently, Hammerstein wasn’t actually responsible for that lyric at all! Despite co-authoring the rest of the musical, Rodgers and Hammerstein only credit themselves with having written the very end of “Do-Re-Mi,” beginning with the line, “when you know the notes to sing…”—everything before was apparently conceived by Trude Rittmann, who was the choral arranger for the original production.
2. Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley — Pure Imagination
“Pure Imagination” was written by the composing/songwriting duo of Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley for Gene Wilder’s portrayal of the titular character in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). Bricusse later recalled that the song was written very quickly, maybe even in a single day—and seeing as Newley was in Los Angelos and Bricusse in Europe at the time, the two of them actually co-composed the piece over the phone! Despite its seemingly haphazard origins, Bricusse really liked the song, calling it a “lovely tune that carried the mood of the movie.”
3. William Bolcom — Places to Live
Arnold Weinstein, the poet for William Bolcom’s Cabaret Songs (from which “Places to Live” is drawn), writes about the history of cabaret, discussing everything from Shakespeare and Purcell to “Schubert’s pop tunes” (a.k.a. lieder), before reaching Brecht and Weill, who claimed that they wrote for only for “today.” Weinstein points out that their work has flourished ever since, because “today” keeps happening, one day after the next. It seems that for Weinstein, the intended audience—the small but involved crowd, who attends to the performance and enjoys the timely and thoughtful use of language and the music created specifically as a vehicle for it—is really what makes something “cabaret.”
4. John Forster — The Birthday Song
How to Eat Like a Child - And Other Lessons in Not Being a Grown-up is a musical comedy that was first seen as a one-hour NBC television special, starring Dick Van Dyke, in 1981. The show pairs Van Dyke, as the sole adult, with 15 children, and together they perform a series skits and songs, mocking adulthood through the eyes of children. Interestingly, nowhere in the score does it give names to any of the children. So, in the original special, all of the children’s characters were simply referred to by the young actors’ and actresses’ real names, a tradition that has now carried over into the stage adaption as well, with the characters’ names changing to match the performers’ in every production.
5. Richard Rodgers — I Whistle a Happy Tune
“I Whistle a Happy Tune” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The King and I, is the introduction song for Anna Leonowens, a tutor of British descent who has come to Siam (modern Thailand) to work for the King, educating his many wives and children. The song perfectly encapsulates Anna’s “fake it ’til you make it” approach to conquering fear, which one of Rodgers’ biographers praises for simultaneously establishing the character’s fear and also her determination to maintain a stiff upper lip in the face of adversity. Interestingly, recent scholarship suggests that the real Anna Leonowens, on whom the character is based, was not in fact born in Wales (as she claimed during her lifetime), but rather in India, and that she was most likely of mixed-racial descent, a fact that she so successfully hid that it wasn’t rediscovered until the 21st century.
6. Wolseley Charles — The Green-Eyed Dragon
Wolseley Charles was a British composer and pianist, who is mostly remembered for his film collaborations with Stanley Holloway in the 1930s. His imaginative art song, “The Green-Eyed Dragon,” with text by Greatrex Newman, has become somewhat of a recital hall favorite, especially for operatic baritones (from the likes of John Charles Thomas to Gerald Finley)—although it’s possible that this is the first time that either a mezzo-soprano or a soprano has recorded it!
7. Stephen Sondheim — Not While I’m Around
This song has often been called “haunting” and “beautiful”; it’s a hopeful, tender moment in the middle of a musical that is anything but—Sweeney Todd. The song captures Toby’s courage, as he promises to defend Mrs. Lovett from Sweeney, who he thinks is dangerous, while also displaying his naïveté to the audience, because while he trusts her like a mother, Mrs. Lovett is just as dangerous—a fact that she readily reminds the audience of, when she responds to his suspicions with immediate betrayal.
8. Eric Whitacre — Goodnight Moon
A children’s picture book might seem an odd place from which to source song text, but Margaret Wise Brown’s words seem particularly poignant to set to music. Brown wrote stories for children, not focused on plots or archetypes, but rather on sounds—she claimed that if children enjoyed the sounds of words that they would repeat them and make patterns of them, and so good picture book writing necessitated “writing words that [would] be heard.” Many others disagreed with her method, with the New York Public Library even refusing her books and calling Goodnight Moon “unbearably sentimental.” But wonderful sounding and “unbearably sentimental” can make for beautiful, heartfelt music, as Eric Whitacre proves with this setting, closing the first half of this album.
9. Kurt Weill — Come in, Mornin’
The second half of the album opens with Kurt Weill’s “Come in, Mornin’,” a song from an unfinished musical version of Huckleberry Finn, that Weill was working on with lyricist Maxwell Anderson at the time of his death. The work would likely have gone on to become Weill’s most family-friendly show to date, had he been able to finish it—but, as it is, only five songs from it exist, sketches that were arranged and released after his death.
10. Fred Rogers — It’s You I Like
In his 2002 commencement speech at Dartmouth, Fred Rogers said, “When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see, or hear, or touch. That deep part of you, that allows you to stand for those things, without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate. Peace that rises triumphant over war. And justice that proves more powerful than greed.” It’s You I Like is far from a simple children’s song—Rogers’ song addresses us all, both young and old, professing an unconditional love that he thought should be shared among all people.
11. John Forster — Waiting, Waiting
“Waiting, Waiting” is the album’s second tune from How to Eat Like a Child - And Other Lessons in Not Being a Grown-up. While most of the show’s other numbers make fun of adults and satirize the interactions between children and grown-ups, “Waiting, Waiting” expresses a child’s real anxieties and fears about being forgotten and left by themselves. The singer’s concern grows slowly throughout the song, beginning with mild annoyance and a little of the show’s trademark adult ribbing, with the child in question responding to their tough day with, “I need a drink”—before promptly cracking open a chocolate milk! But as the song continues, the singer grows increasingly uncomfortable: needing to use the bathroom, growing concerned about not having water, and even eventually becoming fearful for their safety left all on their own. And while this is all done through comedic exaggeration (fearing an escaped zoo lion might get them and other unlikely scenarios), the song genuinely reminds adults to remember what a scary place the world could be when you were a kid.
12. Leonard Bernstein — So Pretty
Sometimes the honest curiosity of a child can produce questions that adults rarely think to ask, because as adults we’ve simply grown used to way things are. Bernstein wrote “So Pretty,” along with lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green, for a fundraising concert in 1968 called “Broadway for Peace,” an event which supported campaign funds for politicians who opposed the Vietnam War. Bernstein accompanied the premiere himself, with Barbra Streisand singing—asking their audience to approach the war, and the losses that it would bring, with the curiosity of a child, and to refuse to simply “understand” the losses that it would bring as a necessity.
13. Frank Churchill — Baby Mine
In Disney’s Dumbo, “Baby Mine” is sung as a lullaby and a bittersweet farewell from mother to son, as Dumbo is separated from the rest of the circus animals. Frank Churchill’s lovely melodic writing, alongside Ned Washington’s lyrics, garnered them both an Oscar nomination for Best Song, one of two nominations Churchill received for the film—the other was for best Scoring of a Musical Picture, which he went on to win.
14. Herbert Kingsley — The Green Dog
“The Green Dog,” sometimes also called “If My Dog Were Green,” is art song popularly sung by young singers in university programs and high school competitions across the country. Despite its popularity, however, its composer seems to have been almost entirely forgotten. Herbert Kingsley’s biography has been mostly lost to history, with even his birth and death dates being somewhat in question. Some sources claim him as living from 1858-1937, while others list 1882-1961. The first dates are impossible—he was featured in a radio broadcast of his new ballet, Terminal, in 1938. But that broadcast even makes the second dates seem questionable. The host, music critic Irving Deacon, calls Kingsley, “a young American, a native of the Hudson River Valley” and synopsizes his career, listing an education at the Eastman School of Music, travels as a jazz pianist (performing vaudeville around the United States), and “prodigious” experience as a song composer. While Deacon doesn’t give any dates for Kingsley’s activity, referring to him as “young” and focusing in his biographical summary on Kingsley’s education would be odd choices if Kingsley had be born in 1882—that would make him 56 at the time of that recording!
15. Charles Ives — Slow March
“Slow March” was composed in 1887 or 1888, making it the earliest of Ives’ 114 surviving pieces for voice and piano—written when he was only 13 or 14 years old. Ives’ wrote the piece to commemorate the loss and burial of the family cat, using words written by the rest of the family. The songs borrows its introductory material from Handel’s Saul, an early instance of the type of musical quotation that would become commonplace in Ives’ later output.
16. Jule Styne — Never Never Land
“Never Never Land” comes from the 1954 musical Peter Pan, which began its life originally as a play, with a few musical numbers by Moose Charlap, and lyrics by Carolyn Leigh. After the show’s somewhat unsuccessful pre-Broadway tour of the west coast, Jerome Robbins, the director, decided the show should be re-envisioned as a full-scale musical. So, he hired composer Jule Styne, along with lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green, to write several additional songs—including this one for the character of Peter Pan. The show, like both the original 1904 play and Bernstein’s 1950 musical adaption, calls for an adult woman to play Peter Pan, following in the footsteps of the pantomime tradition—where the leading boy was always played by a woman, dressed in boys’ clothes.