Goodness it’s been a while since I posted, finally I have returned!
Thanks for getting in the way, LIFE.
I’m talking about stories in music in this post, and yet I got my idea for this while attending my book club.
Strange though it might sound, it’s actually relevant, I promise!
Our book club is made up of Nerdfighters (or the followers of VLOG Brothers John and Hank Green, who I talked about a couple of posts ago) and so the ages in the group vary from mid-teens to late twenties. Just a few weeks previously I went to see Alfie Boe (famed British Tenor and the Jean Valjean from Les Miserables 25) in concert, as he was touring through the DC area and I’m basically in love.
(As in when he ran through the audience at one point and was so close I could have touched him, I was screaming NOT internally.)
And as anyone who knows me will tell you, if I can buy a t shirt as memorabilia for something, I will, so I was wearing my Alfie tour t shirt that day. Much to my surprise, the youngest member of our group turned to me when she sat down and said:
“Hey, is that Alfie Boe on your t shirt?”
“If you mean the most epic Jean Valjean EVER, then yes!” I exclaimed.
“You saw him in CONCERT?” she asked, eyes wide.
“Katy and I both did,” I answered, gesturing to my roommate (who seems to be making guest appearances in almost all my blog posts, I’ve noticed) “It was phenomenal!”
“He jumped from singing musical theater to classical Italian to ELVIS,” Katy chimes in. “It was amazing. Talk about versatility.”
“I’m so jealous,” Lily says. “I love him.”
Now, I’m not saying everything on the radio is terrible, it’s not (I too, have plenty of past Top 40 hits in my iTunes) but this small exchange gave me this very real feeling of hope that not every teenager on the planet has resigned themselves to only listening to the radio (honestly, as I reach my mid twenties, I find I personally hardly ever listen at all anymore) and it’s admittedly repetitive offerings. And then it got me thinking how awesome it was that someone like Alfie Boe, who is often showcased on PBS (Downtown Abbey aside, it’s not exactly known for bringing in the younger crowd), manages to appeal to such a wide variety of ages; when I saw him in concert at the Birchmere in Alexandria, there were people ranging from early teens to past sixty-five, which isn’t usually how these things go, at least not with concerts I’ve been to. With Alfie, one moment I was crying as he sang “Bring Him Home” and the next moment I was dancing in the aisle along with the rest of the audience. Back in September I also saw British West-End Star Ramin Karimloo (of Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables fame) on tour at the very same venue promoting his new album, and the same thing happened; there were people of all ages and he jumped from Phantom of the Opera, to bluegrass songs he’d written for his band Sheytoons (with fellow musical theater star Hadley Fraser) to Green Day and Rufus Wainwright.
I realized in that moment, what truly phenomenal things these two men and other singers and performers like them have done (Broadway star Idina Menzel is another great example) : they’ve married and brought together all different types of music and embraced fans of all ages, opening up the expansive, beautiful world of music and teaching people that it’s more than what plays when you flick on the radio.
All of this being said, I started thinking about their music, their performances, and why it drew in such such a varied crowd, and I remembered something Alfie said at the end of his concert:
“Someone asked me once what my philosophy of music was. And you know, that’s a good question. But I believe that all different kinds of music can touch us, and that’s why I can get up here and start off with Les Miserables and end up with things from my album, and then move to Elvis and the Doobie Brothers. There’s no such thing as only liking one kind of music. Different music fits different situations, different feelings. But it ties us all together.”
Well, I thought, that’s very profound and also very true. Music is something we all turn to when we’re happy, singing at the top of our lungs with friends while on a road trip, singing in the shower, singing while we’re cleaning house because it makes the job a little easier. And perhaps even more powerfully, we turn to music when we’re sad, when we’re lost or confused; it keeps us company in the darkness, eventually taking our hand and leading us back toward the light. Sometimes I might want musical theater, sometimes classic rock, sometimes Josh Groban, Billy Joel, Linkin Park or old school Disney. It just depends on the mood or situation.
Just like a book, a movie, a television show, music tells a story.
It can tell love-stories, stories of broken hearts, of friendship, of life, of death, of past, present, and future. A song can tell a complete story in the span of a few minutes or it can simply be the story of someone’s emotions, their thoughts, their dreams, like a character study in song.
Music sets the soundtracks of our lives, weaving itself in and out of our daily existence, always by our sides like a loyal friend.
It’s a truly incredible catharsis.
And really, I know I’m not the only one who wishes I could have my own theme music for any given situation.
I’ll leave you now with a couple of videos of the aforementioned Alfie and Ramin.
Alfie singing O Solo Mio and then busting out Elvis for the Queen. Yes, the queen of England:
Ramin Karimloo (aka one of the most BAMF Phantoms of the Opera EVER) singing Green Day:
Also a bonus video of the phenomenal Hadley Fraser, because I can’t write about music and not include him: