MUSIC AS MEMORIES – BY ELLIN CURLEY

When I hear songs from the past, I always remember them in context. I think about where I was when I first heard them or when I most often heard them. “Oldies” from the 60’s bring back images of doing homework in my bedroom with the radio on. Some songs conjure scenes of riding to or from school with friends and singing along with the radio.

I have always loved Broadway musicals and have been going to see them since childhood. Every show is frozen in time in my mind. My first musical was “Peter Pan” with Mary Martin. I was six and my five-year old friend had to be taken out of the theater because she was so terrified by Captain Hook.

Me (on the left) with the friend who went to “Peter Pan” with me, one or two years later

I saw “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum” as a teenager with my parents, the night before my father had major cancer surgery (he survived and lived for many years).

baby-playbill

My favorite Broadway memory is seeing the show “Baby” when I was pregnant with my second child. The show follows several women who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, who just had a baby or who just found out they can’t have children. I swear to God my daughter kicked for the first time in the middle of the show about pregnancy and babies! She has always loved musicals too, so maybe her connection to them started in utero!

Today, when we listen to our favorite radio channel, The Broadway channel on Sirius Radio, my daughter and I reminisce about when we saw each show. We often argue about how old she was or what was going on in our lives when we saw this show or that show. She’s usually right.

kertcompany

One of my all time favorite shows has followed me through the different stages of my life. I first saw Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” when it opened in 1970. I was in college and saw it with my parents. It was revived in 1990 and I saw it again as a young mother with my first husband. Another revival was produced in 2010. This time I was a middle-aged empty-nester and saw it with my second (and current) husband. I hope I’m around for the next 20-year anniversary production.

sound-of-music

Another show, “The Sound Of Music” has spanned the generations for me. I saw the original 1959 production, again starring Mary Martin when I was 10 years old. I became obsessed with the show and the music. I played the album endlessly. I can still sing all the songs. I read everything about the show and the cast and anxiously waited for the 1965 movie, with Julie Andrews as Maria Von Trapp. I became obsessed all over again.

Fast forward to the 1990’s. My daughter was around eight when I first played the movie for her at home. It was magical to see it through a child’s eyes again. She loved it so much we had to watch it over and over on the VCR. She too became obsessed with everything “Sound Of Music.” We even visited the real Von Trapp family resort in Vermont while we were skiing with the family. It is a love we still share. Someday I hope to share the same music with my grandchildren.

So when I listen to the Broadway radio channel, I’m not just listening to good music, or even familiar music. I’m taking a trip down memory lane. I’m reliving the wonderful time I’ve spent in Broadway and off-Broadway theaters over the years.

I don’t go to musical theater as often any more, in part because ticket prices have become so outrageously expensive. But my memories of songs, shows and theatrical experiences are as strong and happy as ever.

10 thoughts on “MUSIC AS MEMORIES – BY ELLIN CURLEY”

    1. You’re right. Music is something I share with both my kids. It’s even better when some of that music conjures happy memories from their childhoods. I really don’t listen to contemporary music these days – except for some broadway musicals. I haven’t really liked the popular styles for years. My daughter got me to listen to Adele, who she adored. I liked her but wouldn’t go back to listen to her on my own.

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    2. Showing my age, I think of family gathered by the radio and listening to big bands and vocals by Crosby, Como, Nat Cole, Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald and their ilk. Mom and Dad ocassionally would wow us and dance to some of the big band tunes. One of their favorites was “We’ll Meet Again”.

      I chose “For Sentimental Reasons” as our wedding song for Marilyn and me. When I had a cold and a hoarse throat, I imagined I sounded like Nat Cole. Only in the showers, Garry.

      I can still hear Bing Crosby singing “When the blue of the night meets the gold of the day….someone waits for me.” It opened his show.

      A thousand years ago.

      “Sound of Music” — Saw movie at the Cohasset Theater (Long Island) in ’65 with an old college radio station friend. She loved it. I was in heaven. I still love “Sound of Music”, all the songs, especially,
      “I must’ve done something good”. Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer in that sublime moonlight. Magic time.

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      1. whistle while you work.

        I “croon” in the bathroom and think I’m ready for Broadway/Hollywood. Later, Marilyn tells me she heard me. I turn bright red.

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        1. Apparently the acoustics in the shower make you think that your singing is great. Everyone in the shower is a rock star! it’s not just you, so don’t be embarassed!

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  1. Thank you for sharing the wonderful experience that music takes us on when we journey down Memory Lane. Loved your stories about musicals. I love them too. Especially through the 60’s to the 80’s.
    Chuck

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    1. The first music I memorized were musicals from Broadway. We had a “hi fi” … which at the time was the essence of fine musical reproduction. I can still do every song from at least four different musicals.

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