Sunday, September 29, 2013

UWM Summer: Music

     The Music in Tennessee Williams' Summer and Smoke:

"La Golondrina," or "The Swallow": The adult Alma Winemiller is first heard in Act I, Scene 1 singing this popular Mexican ballad:

Whither so swiftly the timid swallow?
What distant bourne seeks her untiring wing?
To reach it safe, what needle does she follow
When darkness wraps the poor wee storm tossed thing?

To build her nest near to my couch
I'll call her;
Why go so far skies bright and warm to keep;
Safe would she be;

No evil should befall her,
For I'm an exile sad, too sad to weep
My fatherland is dear but I too have left it;
Far am I from the spot where I was born;

Cheerless in life, fierce storms joy bereft it;
Made me an exile life-long and forlorn
Come then to me, sweet feathered pilgrim stranger;
Oh! let me clasp you to my loving breast

And lest your warbling safe from danger,
Unwanted tears bring relief and rest.

However, in Norma Saldivar's production of Summer and Smoke, this song has been replaced by Tennessee Williams' poem, "Heavenly Grass," which composer Paul Bowles put to music in 1946.

"Heavenly Grass"

by Tennessee Williams

My feet took a walk in heavenly grass.
All day while the sky shone clear as glass.
My feet took a walk in heavenly grass,
All night while the lonesome stars rolled past.
Then my feet come down to walk on earth,
And my mother cried when she give me birth.
Now my feet walk far and my feet walk fast,
But they still got an itch for heavenly grass.
But they still got an itch for heavenly grass.

The song is sung by young John Buchanan (played by Trevor Rees).

Following Alma's rendition of "La Golondrina," the Glorious Hill band "strikes up the "Santiago Waltz."

"The Voice That Breathed o'er Eden": A once popular wedding hymn, particularly in Anglican/ Episcopalian marriage services. This, rather than "La Golondrina," appears to be Alma's signature song, as she is known to sing it frequently at local weddings. The tension between the two songs becomes relavent after Nellie Ewell asks Alma to sing it when she marries John Buchanan, Jr. The song is also referenced in William Faulkner's novel, The Sound and the Fury.

       "The Voice that Breathed o'er Eden"by John Keble, 1792-1866
1. The voice that breathed o'er Eden,
That earliest wedding-day,
The primal marriage blessing,--
It hath not passed away.
Still in the pure espousal
Of Christian man and maid
The Triune God is with us,
The threefold grace is said.

2. Be present, loving Father,
To give away this bride
As Thou gav'st Eve to Adam,
A helpmeet at his side.
Be present, Son of Mary,
To join their loving hands
As Thou didst bind two natures
In Thine eternal bands.

3. Be present, Holiest Spirit,
To bless them as they kneel,
As Thou for Christ, the Bridegroom,
The heavenly Spouse dost seal.
Oh, spread Thy pure wing o'er them,
Let no ill power find place
When onward to Thine altar
Their hallowed path they trace.

4. To cast their crowns before Thee
In humble sacrifice,
Till to the home of gladness
With Christ's own Bride they rise.
To Father, Son, and Spirit,
Eternal One and Three,
As was and is forever,
All praise and glory be.


"From the Land of the Sky-Blue Water":   From Wikipedia: "a popular song published in 1909. Charles Wakefield Cadman Charles Wakefield composed the music based on an Omaha love song collected by Alice C. Fletcher. "Sky-blue water" is a translation of the name "Minnesota" from Dakota into English. Eberhart wrote the poem that goes with the music:

From the Land of Sky-blue Water,
They brought a captive maid,
And her eyes they are lit with lightnings,
Her heart is not afraid!
But I steal to her lodge at dawning,
I woo her with my flute;
She is sick for the Sky-blue Water,
The captive maid is mute.
 A snatch is sung by Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams in Scene Two while she is in the bathroom." The music comes up in Act I, Scene 5 of Summer and Smoke as Alma waits for the arrival of John in his car to take her to the Moon Lake Casino.

Yellow Dog Blues: Late Ragtime song (1915) by W.C. Handy, made famous by singer Bessie Smith. In Act I, Scene 2 John orders the song to be played while he woos Alma at the Moon Lake Casino:

Miss Susie Johnson is a crazy as can be
About that easy riding kid they call Jockey Lee.
Now don't you think it's funny, only bets her money
In the race friend jockey's goin' to be.
There was a race down at the track the other day,
And Susie got an inside tip right away
She bet a "hundred to one" that her little "Hon"
Would bring home all the "mon".
When she found out "Jockey" was not there,
Miss Susie cried out in despair
I wonder where my easy rider's gone today
He never told me he was goin' away.
If he was here he'd win the race
If not first he'd get a "place"
Cash in our winnings, on a "joy-ride" we'd go, right away
I'm losing my money that's why I am blue.
To win a race, Lee knows just what to do.
I'd put all my junk in pawn,
To be on any horse that jockey's on.
Oh' I wonder where my easy rider's gone.


UWM Summer: Breakdown of Terms


Act I, Scene 1:

Glorious Hill, Mississippi: Fictional Mississippi town and the setting for Summer and Smoke and other Williams' plays. The name may ironically suggest Golgotha.

Promethean Figure: After the Titan Prometheus, who brought fire to humans. A "Promethean Figure" is someone who is clever, original, and daring.

Vicksburg, Mississippi: The scene of a major defeat for the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. After the 47-day Siege of Vicksburg under the command of Major General Ulysses S. Grant, the Union Army gained command of the Mississippi. The end of the siege coincided with General Robert E. Lee's defeat at Gettysburg, both events signalling the turning of the war towards the Union's favor.

Apple-Jack Brandy: A hard, concentrated, cider. Mississippi in the period in which Summer and Smoke is set had already legally-enacted Prohibition. Mississippi was the first state to outlaw the sale of alcohol in 1908. The state not only was the first to ratify the 18th Amendment to the US Constitution outlawing the sale and consumption of alcohol in 1919, it was also the last state to abandon Prohibition in 1966.

Lyon, Mississippi: Town in Northwest Mississippi, which is also referenced in Williams' poem "The Couple."

Fever Epidemic: Chances are that the Doctors Buchanan, father and son, are battling against an outbreak of Yellow Fever. While this disease had been understood and controlled by 1914, a yellow fever epidemic had struck New Orleans in 1905 killing approximately 900 people. During the catastrophic epidemic in the South during the latter part of the 19th Century, the fever, as seen in the period illustration by Matt Morgan below, was often personified as “Yellow Jack.”

Palmetto: A short, indigenous palm in the South.

Act I, Scene 2:

Bromo: Short for Bromo-Seltzer, a name brand antacid used to relieve heartburn, but which was also good at combatting the effects of a hangover (made from acetaminophen, sodium bicarbonate and citric acid).

Claret: A Bordeaux wine. Even during the height of Prohibition, sacramental wine was exempted. Therefore, it would not have been illegal for claret to be found in the Winemiller rectory, although there would doubtlessly still be some in Glorious Hill who would frown on its inclusion in a punch.

Act I, Scene 4:

Four-Dimensional Continuum: Spacetime, which is thought of as the combination of length, width, height, and time.

Magellanic Clouds: (Nubeculae Magellani) Two irregular dwarf galaxies visible from the southern hemisphere.

Act II, Scene 7:

Cook's Tours: Tour company founded by Thomas Cook in Derbyshire in 1841; a forerunner of American Express, which continues to exist under the name Thomas Cook Group, PLC.

Piedras Negras: Town in Northern Mexico on the Rio Grande opposite Eagle Point, Texas.

Maison Blanche: A department store in New Orleans, founded in 1897 by Isidore Newman, a German-Jewish immigrant.

Act II, Scene 12:

Red Goose Shoes: Shoe company based in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1911, the company was merged with the International Shoe Company, the company for which Williams' father, Cornelius Williams, worked, and where Williams himself worked briefly (an experience that the playwright wove into The Glass Menagerie).

Peabody Lobby: The lobby of the Peabody Hotel, Memphis, Tennessee, which continues operation.

                                                                        The Peabody Hotel, circa 1909.