In the previous scenes, Sylvester has endured a long and solitary sojourn after accidentally transforming himself into a rock. Several seasons have come and gone with no solution to his dilemma in sight. As winter is followed by spring, his parents feel like they should try to get on with their lives, especially Mr. Duncan, who makes his wife a picnic and coaxes her to come for a walk. Without knowing it, they set up their picnic right alongside the rock where their son is trapped, and when Mr. Duncan discovers Sylvester’s magic pebble (unaware of its magical powers), he makes a wish that leads to an unexpected surprise – their son is changed from a rock back into a donkey! The parents can’t believe that a happy accident has restored their beloved son, but the three return home with a new awareness of how important they all are to one another.
Starting with the previous post, I explained how the Enchantment Theatre production of Sylvester and the Magic Pebble takes a detour from Steig’s book in its middle section, trying to dramatize the passage of the seasons and the months that Sylvester spent trapped as a large rock as a result of a magic spell gone awry. After observing a trio of squirrels and a family of pigs, Sylvester falls into a reverie and we get a “dream ballet”-style flashback to his parents’ courtship and his birth and childhood.
The first part of the ballet dramatizes the courtship of the Duncans, and the music builds at the end as the stork (!) brings their baby, Sylvester. The second part of the Dream Ballet, in which the parents spend happy days watching their baby grow up, is a composition called Waltz For Miles, which was posted on Day 145, my grandson’s birthday, but here it is again:
Describing his efforts to compose music for a poignant scene in the film The Sand Castle, composer Alec Wilder wrote, “Man, I wrote my sad ass off for that scene,” and that’s pretty much how I feel about the music I’ve posted today. This sequence evokes all my tender feelings about my wife and family – maybe it’ll conjur up some emotions for you too!
For today’s post, I’m taking a breather from Leading Lady songs to celebrate my grandson’s fourth birthday. Miles Buffalo Gilbert was born on May 25, 2011, and in the spring and summer of the following year, I composed the score for Enchantment Theater Company’s production of Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. The production included a sequence which was not in William Steig’s story, a flashback to Sylvester’s birth and childhood, with tender, happy scenes where he bakes cookies with his mom and builds something with his dad in the back yard. I scored the sequence with a simple but poignant jazz waltz, and decided to name the tune for my grandson. It evokes happy memories of times spent with my own sons, and experiences that await my son Alex as he discovers the joys (and all the many emotions) of fatherhood. The fierce joy of fatherhood was something I never expected to be so powerful!
Today’s post from Leading Lady is a song for a character who disappeared from the show after the 2012 reading. For the first few drafts of the show, Seth and I had included a character called Georgie Callahan, Mary’s brother and Michael’s son. We tried to get some dramaturgical benefit from their sibling rivalry, and initially the idea of Georgie as a ne’er-do-well who was the apple of his father’s eye seemed to have some value. This song was written for Georgie to sing at his father’s wake – the death of Michael Callahan was also part of the plot in those early drafts – and it’s meant to evoke a maudlin barroom ballad style. Tyler Houchins gives a fine effort in this recording from 2012.
This melody, as I mentioned a few days ago, was incorporated into Harold as part of the rocket ship ride music, but began its life in New York City as a song for Francis in Gemini the Musical. Dan Micciche sings it on the track below; after you’ve had a chance to listen, you can go back and hear it in Harold and be eligible for a Ph.D. in Musicology (or Chazzy-ology), especially after reading the analytical commentary that follows the lyric.