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Posts Tagged ‘Knickerbocker Holiday’

Kurt Weill. Who Wrote “September Song” with Maxwell Anderson


 

The summer ended. Day by day, and taking its time, the summer ended. The noises in the street began to change, diminish, voices became fewer, the music sparse. Daily, blocks and blocks of children were spirited away. Grownups retreated from the streets, into the houses. Adolescents moved from the sidewalk to the stoop to the hallway to the stairs, and rooftops were abandoned. Such trees as there were allowed their leaves to fall – they fell unnoticed – seeming to promise, not without bitterness, to endure another year. At night, from a distance, the parks and playgrounds seemed inhabited by fireflies, and the night came sooner, inched in closer, fell with a greater weight. The sound of the alarm clock conquered the sound of the tambourine, the houses put on their winter faces. The houses stared down a bitter landscape, seeming, not without bitterness, to have resolved to endure another year.”

― James Baldwin, Just Above My Head


In this strangest of years, September has crept in without barely any notice for me. Much in the way August departed. I barely noticed the comings and goings, even though time seems to drag in these days of waiting for what might come next.

In doing so, I have neglected playing what might be my favorite song as I do every year at this time. The son is September Song, written by Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson for the 1938 Broadway show Knickerbocker Holiday. It was written in just a few hours after the show’s star, Walter Huston, requested that he have a solo  song in the show.

Of course, in doing so, the composers had to account for Huston’s limited vocal range. The result though is a song that has become one of the great standards, covered by an incredibly wide range of artists. I have played versions from Willie Nelson, Bryan Ferry and Lou Reed along with the more well known jazz vocalists.

The song is just lovely in a most wistful way and these days we can all use something lovely and even wistful. Here’s such a version from the great Sarah Vaughan.

Have a good day.

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GC Myers- Where the Winds Gather smAugust has been vanquished, mercifully.

I could feel it yesterday as though just getting rid of that word August from the dateline lifted a huge weight off my shoulders.  The same concerns are there and little has changed but there was just a subtle and perceptible psychic shift.  Maybe the cooler temperatures and the slight breeze that hung around for much of the day added to the perception as well.

Whatever the case, it was good to see August depart and September enter the picture.  The days and months ahead always seem to better fit my natural mood and demeanor.

I like to start the month by playing some version of the great old classic September Song, long one of my favorites.  Written by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Maxwell Anderson, it was first sung, surprisingly, by Walter Huston in the stage production of Knickerbocker Holiday back in 1938.  Since then it has been covered by literally many hundreds of musicians and singers throughout the world and most of them are pretty damn good versions.  It’s just that good a song.

It’s a bittersweet and slightly melancholy reflection on the passing of time, that inevitable march to old age symbolized in the turning of leaves and the shortening of the days.  These precious days, as the song says.

It’s a great pleasure going through the many versions online but I thought I’d share the Bryan Ferry version this year.  I was never a huge Bryan Ferry fan but I did like some his work with Roxy Music as well as some of his solo work.  His voice works well in this delicately sung version.  Enjoy and remember to take some pleasure in these precious days.

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GC Myers- September Song sm

GC Myers- September Song 2014

August has finally and thankfully passed.  You would think as one gets older you would want to hold on to every moment–every day, week and month– but August never passes quickly enough for me.  This distaste for August has given September an almost magical appeal.  The very sound of the word feels cool and easy in my mind.

Relieved from the hard edges and sharpness of August, September brings cooler air and falling leaves.  Time passes just as quickly but there is a calmness which allows for reflection.  In September, I often find myself stopping and just standing,  looking into the sky and absorbing the moment, glad to just be where I am.

Maybe that’s why I love the old song September Song.  It’s a wistful reflection on the passing of time and aging.  Composed by Kurt Weill, it was written for  and  first recorded by Walter Huston for the Broadway play Knickerbocker Holiday in which he plays Peter Stuyvesant, the governor of New Amsterdam (present day New York) in the 1600’s.

The play didn’t have much success but the song, written for Huston’s limited vocal range and rough voice, has lived on as one of the great standards of modern music, recorded by scores of artists over the years. Today I thought I would play a beautiful version from the one and only Ella Fitzgerald.  As I look out of my studio window, it is cool and foggy and the words and sound of this song just feel so right for the first day of September.

Have a great day.

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