Stephen Sondheim

I didn’t know a lot about music before I got to college. I listened to Oldies 104.3 on the Chicago airwaves and had a bunch of cassette tapes that I copied from the library. The only Broadyway related tape I had was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and can still sing just about every word of the album.

I didn’t know anything about Stephen Sondheim until I heard The Road You Didn’t Take on a cassette of Mandy Patinkin singing standards and showtunes. It stuck in my head as my mother would play it as we cleaned the house on Saturday mornings.

But when I downloaded Rhapsody, an early streaming music player, in my dorm room, the world of music opened to me for the first time. I had thousands of albums at my finger tips. And I discovered so much. But I got to Broadway in law school.

When I first heard the soundtrack to Company, it was a new production staring Raul Esparza in 2006. The cast played the instruments in the same style as John Doyle’s production of Sweeney Todd. And within the year, I was enraptured by both shows. One appeared on PBS, the other had a touring company. And I never looked back. I found the wordsmith that I dreamed to become. Two of my top five shows.

As a lyricist and song writer, the stories did not come from Mr. Sondheim’s head alone. He generally had a book writer who created the story and the characters. But the songs gave them life. He got into their heads to determine what words they would use, rhyme, and most importantly, sing.

And I loved it.

I also loved thinking of stories or watching people live and wondering what they are thinking, doing, dreaming. Sondheim put that style into a big Broadway show. I wanted to put it into characters in a novel.

For the last two weeks, I have wanted to try to think about how much Stephen Sondheim’s words and music meant to me. It makes me cry to think about how many times I would put on one of his shows or read through one of his books or listen to one of his interviews and feel the power of sadness, aging, love, angst, fear, and creation.

I saw this story below and it really just summed up everything. Thank you for everything.

Sondheim said in the documentary Six by Sondheim, that when he wrote the word “forever” in the song Sunday from Sunday in the Park with George, he cried.

“I thought; these people don’t know that they’re going to be immortal and so I’m going to write a song about that… They’re going to be acknowledging that they are immortal. It all leads to the word forever which when I wrote that word I cried because I thought, that’s what it’s about.”

White. The blank page or canvas.

So many possibilities.

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