Sunday, September 14, 2014

My Life with The Sound of Music

I was raised on Broadway musicals. I remember my parents buying original cast recordings of My Fair Lady and Camelot before we owned a stereo. Once we got that stereo I listened to those records endlessly. In no time I could do all of Rex Harrison’s patter songs.

When the movie version of The Sound of Music was released, my mom bought the recording and pretty soon I could lip synch all those lyrics too. At the end of my 7th grade year, I auditioned for The Confederettes, the 8th grade girl’s chorus at Jefferson Davis Junior High School. (Did I mention I lived in the South?) I don’t remember what I sang, but I was delighted when one of my classmates told me that the director of the chorus said I had, “a clear, strong soprano voice.”

A clear, strong soprano voice. Many comments have been made about my singing since, but I would never hear praise like that again.

The chorus performed many concerts. The scariest part of the class was singing a solo at the of the school year. The Sound of Music was very popular and I would estimate that 35 of my 40 fellow chorus members sang “My Favorite Things.”

“Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens…”

“Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens…”

“Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens…” over and over again.

I would have welcomed a dirge. What I heard were many versions of the song done just as Julie Andrews did it. I’ve heard Julie Andrews. I love Julie Andrews. Not one of those girls sounded like Julie Andrews.

When it was finally my turn to perform, I felt elated. Maybe I didn’t have the best voice, but at least it wouldn’t be singing you-know-what. I opened my mouth and out came “Puff the magic dragon/lived by the sea…” I didn’t sound like Mary Travers but the performance was good enough to get me an A. I may have gotten that grade based solely on what I didn’t choose to sing, but I didn’t care.

Many decades and a full embrace of Steven Sondheim musicals later, I met up with The Sound of Music again. I worked at a family service organization which kept clients entertained in the waiting area with videos. My favorite was the “What’s Opera, Doc?” Loony Tune that featured Bugs Bunny, outfitted in long blonde braids and a horned helmet, as Brunhilde. Elmer Fudd sang “Kill the Wabbit” to the tune of “The Ride of the Valkyries.”

Alas, that only took up a few minutes. What played over and over again was—you guessed it—The Sound of Music.

I was in despair. My office was very close to the T.V. My pleas that something else be played fell on sympathetic ears. Unfortunately, those people with sympathetic ears also had hands that didn’t want to be changing a VCR multiple times a day.

“Look, Stephanie, it’s a godsend. It runs for 3 hours.”

So once more it was “Rain drops on roses and whiskers on kittens” over and over again.

I sighed a lot. I endured.

I left the agency and gradually fell out of touch with my co-workers but about 18 months after I left, I came home to find the following message on my answering machine:

“Stephanie, we thought of you the minute it happened. The Sound of Music tape finally broke.”

And that voice mail became one of my favorite things.

Stephanie Patterson


  1. Stephanie I enjoyed this piece. It's fascinating how different the upbringings were of this group of bloggers on CWC! My teen years were spent with listening to the radio on Sat. afternoons to the concerts broadcast from New York City, a foreign land to me, and I followed all the operas at that great distance. But I can see the site now, a house on the edge of Chesapeake Bay, with the wind howling outside, the waves dashing on the shore, and listening to it all by myself. T.Straw

  2. Actually, Thelma, I'm also doing a post on my introduction to classical music. Opera didn't come into my life until my 20s when someone introduced me to the Met broadcasts.

  3. Oh, those lovely Met broadcasts... I lived for them in those teen years! tjs