Go down to Kew in lilac-time, in lilac-time, in lilac-time;
Go down to Kew in lilac-time (it isn’t far from London).
And you shall wander hand in hand with love in summer’s wonderland;
Go down to Kew in lilac-time (it isn’t far from London).
– Alfred Noyes, The Barrel Organ
I received an email from my sister in Los Angeles asking if I remembered the day that a neighbour’s lilac tree fell down. She went on to say how she remembered the neighbour commenting that she was unaware how dark her kitchen was – over the years, the bush had completely covered the window, and suddenly there was sunlight in the room.
This set me off on thinking about lilacs and immediately I remembered the song “On the street where you live” from My Fair Lady. This was a great hit in the late 1950s (Oh I know that was long before most of you were born but bear with me).
“Are there lilac trees in the heart of town
Can you hear a lark in any other part of town
Does enchantment pour out of every door?
No, it’s just on the street where you live”
click here to see the video from the original movie
Then I was off thinking about other musicals that I saw in those dim dark off days.
A particular favourite was “Carousel”. This is the story of Billy Bigelow, a carousel barker and his romance with Julie Jordan, a millworker. They marry and when he discovers that Julie is pregnant and his is about to become a father he sings the famous soliloquy “My boy Bill. Then when “realises that he can’t provide for Julie and the baby he attempts a robbery to do so; it goes wrong and he kills himself rather than spend the rest of his life jail.
Some fifteen years later he has the opportunity to return to earth and sees his Julie and her daughter one time.
A secondary story line has Julie’s friend Carrie falling in love with and marrying Mr Snow a fisherman.
Carousel was made into a movie in about 1956. So of course, I went to see it too.
Other well known (and remembered by some of us)songs include:
- “When the Children Are Asleep””
- “(When I Marry) Mister Snow”
- “If I Loved You” – Listen here to this song
- “June Is Bustin’ Out All Over”
- “What’s the Use of Wond’rin’?”
- “You’ll Never Walk Alone”
Then I thought of “The Pajama Game“. Great memories of this musical. My dashing-young-Scotsman and I had just announced our engagement (August 1957) and to celebrate he took my parents and me to the St James Theatre (in London of course) to see this musical. We had a box at the theatre, one of the only times for me and I thought us very grand.
A memory of that night has surfaced. We all arrived home to find that my young sister had been carted off to hospital having had an accident on her bicycle. No cell phones to call with the news then; we had to wait to get home when my grandparents (or was it my older sister) gave us the news. Note here – we all have hard heads and she was discharged into Mother’s care that night.
The story is set in a factory producing pajamas. The employees want a rise of 7.5 cents an hour and a strike is imminent led by Babe. Sid, a new superintendent comes to the factory and these two are on opposite sides of the story.
Yes, you’ve guessed it. After several false starts and hiccups, they fall in love.
So many great songs came from that one including the very popular “Hey There” sung by Canadian, Edmund Hockridge. Here’s a version of the song sung by Harry Connick jr – sorry I couldn’t find a YouTube version by Edmund Hockridge. This one is great too.
Other songs included :
- “I’m Not At All in Love”
- “Hey there
- “Her Is” – Prez and Gladys
- “Once a Year Day”
- “Steam Heat”
- “There Once Was a Man”
- “Small Talk”
- “Hernando’s Hideaway”
I saw Kismet – meaning fate or predestined course – the story of a poet and his daughter. The poet enters the mosque to sell his verses but without success.
His beautiful daughter Marsinah is then sent to steal oranges in the Bazaar for their breakfast, while her father sits down to beg with three others. When the beggars object the poet claims to be a cousin of Hajj a beggar who has travelled to Mecca. However, Hassen-Ben, a man from the desert, mistakes him for Hajj and kidnaps him. The poet (who is referred to as Hajj thereafter) is taken to a notorious brigand. It appears that some years before the real Hajj had placed a curse on the brigand that resulted in the disappearance of the brigand’s little son. Now he wants the curse removed.
Of course, there are stories within stories. Wazir a merchant must have the Caliph marry one of the princesses of Ababu or he will be ruined. But the Caliph, masquerading as a commoner, has seen Marsinah and is determined to marry her. As you can imagine, all turns out well in the end for the couple.
Two great songs from this one are :
- “Baubles, Bangles and Beads”
- “Stranger in Paradise”. Click here for Tony Bennet’s version of this wonderful song. Note – after posting this blog I found this lovely version of Tony Bennet singing with Hedy Lamarr’s pictures. Just fantastic.
We all know the story, based on the book “Anna and the King of Siam”. Anna goes to Siam to be the Governess to the King’s children.
The well known scene of Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr dancing to “Shall We Dance” was supposed to be the governess’s way of describing western love to this eastern potentate.
Anna and the King disagree over the fact that she and her small son are expected to stay in the palace while her contract stipulates a separate house. This is the ongoing conflict between the two. He also objects to the way in which she is teaching the children.
Their attraction to each other is evident throughout but of course, nothing can come of it. We later see that after various other trials and tribulations Anna is packed and ready to board a ship leaving Siam forever when a letter is brought from the King who is dying. Anna hurries to his bedside and forgives him.
So all works out well once again!
And the songs from this musical:
- Hello Young Lovers
- Shall we Dance?
- I Whistle a Happy Tune
- We Kiss in the Shadow
- Something Wonderful
- I Have Dreamed
- Getting to Know You – Julie Andrews sings here.
How innocent the story lines and the music in all of these musicals! But what great memories they invoke.
And back to the original thoughts for this post – Lilacs
“I am thinking of the lilac-trees,
That shook their purple plumes,
And when the sash was open,
Shed fragrance through the room.”
– Mrs. Anna S. Stephens, The Old Apple-Tree
Special thanks to my sister in Los Angeles for the inspiration for this post.
“We each hear different drummers,
but still find music to dance together.”
Judith Baxter, Sister, friend and confidante