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Old 10-30-2005, 01:39 PM
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In musicals where two groups sing different parts of the song simultaneously


Am I the only one who finds this really irritating? One example is in Fiddler on the Roof, during the "Tradition" song, when after the papas, mamas, sons, and daughters sing their verse, they all sing it again, but simultaneously. Also, one common exercise when I was a kid was with the Row Row Row Your Boat song, for one group to start singing, then the other group to start a few seconds later. I always thought that sounded terrible and never understood why we did it.
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Old 10-30-2005, 01:57 PM
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I kind of like it, but I guess I can't really say why. I think it requires a certain amount of ingenuity from the composer to make sure that the parts are rhythmically dissimilar enough that you can always hear both parts, and yet contain notes that more or less fit together harmonically.

Other examples:

All For the Best from Godspell
All That Jazz from Chicago
two or three of the songs from Wicked, I think
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Old 10-30-2005, 02:03 PM
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Oh, and in the opening of Into the Woods, when the Baker and his wife repeat, "The cow as white as milk, the cape..." while Cinderella mutters about going to the festival.

I believe the term for this would be "counterpoint."
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Old 10-30-2005, 02:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yumblie
Am I the only one who finds this really irritating?
Yes. Perhaps you can start a resistance.
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Old 10-30-2005, 03:04 PM
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I like it; if done well, it makes the music more interesting.

The best example is "An Old Fashioned Wedding" from Annie Get Your Gun. The two leads sing about their very different ideas for a perfect wedding, first Frank, then Annie, then both, and it great because each sings in a different style, appropriate for the type of wedding they are envisioning.

"Six Months Out of Every Year" from Damn Yankees is another good example.

Not that generaly the different parts are sing separately before being sung together. You don't have to pick up the lyrics -- you've heard them -- and can concentrate on the music.
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Old 10-30-2005, 03:10 PM
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My favorite -- "Fugue for Tinhorns" ("I got your horse right here, his name is Paul Revere...") from Guys and Dolls.
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Old 10-30-2005, 03:31 PM
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There's also the bit in West Side Story, just before the big rumble at the end of Act I, when Riff and Bernardo and Maria and Anita are singing the reprise to "Tonight, Tonight" and everybody is singing a different melody but they all work together. That's one of the best moments musically in the whole show. But twickster's selection, "Fugue for Tinhorns," is also quite awesome.
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Old 10-30-2005, 03:52 PM
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Also, there are two sections in Phantom of the Opera (the Note segments) where there are something like four or five different parts going at once. It fits together perfectly, though, and I used to just listen to that over and over and try to follow each of the parts as they wove into each other.
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Old 10-30-2005, 03:58 PM
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This is parodied in _South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut_. There's a song about various groups (I think four of them) preparing for the big event towards the end of the movie. Each of the four groups is singing a different verse about their preparations for this event. One of the four main South Park characters realizes that this is going on and says something like "How did this song suddenly turn into a medley?".
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Old 10-30-2005, 03:58 PM
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The "Confrontation" song in Les Miserables is excellent in this regard - Valjean and Javert take turns being "dominant" but they're singing different things that are thematically similar. They don't pre-load it by singing each seperately, though, so you'd best be paying attention.
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Old 10-30-2005, 04:07 PM
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if it is well written and well performed, I think it is one of the best aspects of musical theatre. I've done my share (HS, college, community theatre) and it is fun to perform
Gilbert and Sullivan are also famous for this - usually in their act one finales.
But these are very different from the "row row row your boat" example in the OP - A 'round' is a very old form of music, and it's done because it is fun. It teaches kids to sing and to listen while they sing. They learn the concept of harmony. The melodies are simple, the lyrics often meaningless, but the act of singing harmony in groups is a great experience for grade schoolers.
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Old 10-30-2005, 05:04 PM
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Now. Later. Soon. from A Little Night Music is one of my favorite songs from a musical.

So, I'm going to go with "no, not irritating - when it's done well."
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Old 10-30-2005, 05:20 PM
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Not irritating at all. Downright impressive when done well. I dropped in specifically to mention "Tonight, Tonight"(reprise) from West Side Story. Well, that and the duet between Giles and Tara and the whole cast singing "Walk Through The Fire" in BtVS - "Once More, With Feeling."
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Old 10-30-2005, 07:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yumblie
Am I the only one who finds this really irritating?
Apparently so.

And it's not unusual to find a quartet (or more) in an opera, each person singing something entirely different. And it works.
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Old 10-30-2005, 08:27 PM
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The opening song to Newsies has a section like this. The first song in the second act of The Fantasticks is too.

I like it when it's done well.
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Old 10-30-2005, 08:34 PM
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Ever try to sing Rock of Ages (the Hanukkah version) at the same time as Deck the Halls?
you do have to change one note in the last stanza but it works
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Old 10-30-2005, 10:25 PM
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I know and love all of the examples provided so far, and am just popping in to mention "Quartet (A Model of Decorum and Tranquility)" from Chess.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yumblie
Am I the only one who finds this really irritating?
Well, I certainly don't. Maybe you just aren't into complex music, or aren't much of a musical theatre fan to begin with? What kind of music do you usually listen to?
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Old 10-31-2005, 01:49 AM
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The most thrilling moment in Xanadu was when Gene Kelly and Michael Beck are each envisioning their version of the perfect nightclub band then their two separate visions blend together- in song!





Okay, I just wanted to be the first person ever to write the phrase "The most thrilling moment in Xanadu".


(If this was one of those "Name Your Guilty Pleasures" Threads, I'd tell you just how much I really do love that scene!)
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Old 10-31-2005, 02:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by twickster
My favorite -- "Fugue for Tinhorns" ("I got your horse right here, his name is Paul Revere...") from Guys and Dolls.
Excellent piece, that.

And, to address the OP, it might be good to differentiate between the different variations of "people singing more than one thing at once."

First, we have a canon, in which a melody begun by one voice (or instrument) is followed and mimiced by another voice, starting some point after the first. If the first voice, upon reaching the end of the line, goes back to the beginning and starts over, we have a round, as in Row, Row, Row Your Boat.

A fugue, as in twickster's example, is a bit more complicated, but can be basically summed up as follows: there is a main theme, that is performed at the beginning of the fugue by one voice. Other voices come in afterwards with the theme at various points. Each voice also has a part that is not the theme, yet related harmonically and structurally. At any given point one or more voices may have the theme while other voices have their 'non-thematic' parts. The interweaving of the theme from part to part is what makes a fugue a fugue (hope that makes some sense).

As TJdude825 mentions, these are all forms of counterpoint, namely, music in which more than one melodic line sounds simultaneously.

I'm sure there's a term for the South Park example and its ilk; when multiple songs or themes following the same harmonic structure are played against each other. I'm not sure what it is though.
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Old 10-31-2005, 07:05 AM
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Quote:
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I'm sure there's a term for the South Park example and its ilk; when multiple songs or themes following the same harmonic structure are played against each other. I'm not sure what it is though.
I would actually like to draw the jury's attention to "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel" from Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics (the South Park Christmas album). I am not normally a huge fan of South Park as a general rule, but that song kicks my ass six ways from Sunday. Plus, it's a killer earworm.
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Old 10-31-2005, 07:12 AM
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"Dreidel Dreidel Dreidel" is also sung by the cast of "Hairspray" on the Broadways Cares/Carols for a Cure 2004 CD. Harvey Fierstein is great!

The song from Phantom is "Notes." I love it!
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Old 10-31-2005, 07:15 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yumblie
Am I the only one who finds this really irritating? One example is in Fiddler on the Roof, during the "Tradition" song, when after the papas, mamas, sons, and daughters sing their verse, they all sing it again, but simultaneously. Also, one common exercise when I was a kid was with the Row Row Row Your Boat song, for one group to start singing, then the other group to start a few seconds later. I always thought that sounded terrible and never understood why we did it.
I love stuff like that. You're talking about canons, fugues, and other very-structured musical forms which formed the backbone of J. S. Bach's work (as well as the other Baroque composers).
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Old 10-31-2005, 07:19 AM
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From what I recall, to write songs like that is to perform a very mechanical function. To write songs like that well is to achieve some of the highest pinnacles of Western Art.

Give some Bach a whirl. If you can't dig that, then you just don't like counterpoint. No biggie.
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Old 10-31-2005, 07:48 AM
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And Forbidden Broadway Volume 2 has "Fugue for Scalpers," a parody of "Fuge for Tinhorns" that is so good.

I got two tickets here
For Phantom in the rear
But you can see real good through the chandelier.
Half-price, half-price, my wife kept these tickets on ice.
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Old 10-31-2005, 10:29 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Annie-Xmas
The song from Phantom is "Notes." I love it!
This is one of my favorite musical tunes also. A little different than the OP's point because it doesn't recombine previously separate parts; separate parts are woven together through the entire song.

However it is called Prima Donna. "Notes" immediately precedes it; they kind of run together.
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Old 10-31-2005, 01:18 PM
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the technical (musical) term for singing/playing two or more different melodies at the same time is called
(drum roll please)
Quodlibet
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Old 10-31-2005, 01:56 PM
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Count me among those who like it too. A few other examples:

- Also from the Buffy musical, near the end of 'walk through the fire' there are, I think, parts where three different people singing at once. (Buffy, Tara, and Sweet?) Certainly Sweet sings about a verse under the other characters, which did kind of drive me crazy in a good way until I could figure out what words and tune he was singing.

- 'I, Don Quixote' from Man of La Mancha, with Sancho and Quixote singing their themes at once and the two melodies just seem to blend together. I remember my mom and I singing along, each taking a part, while the record was playing.


on preview: thanks for the link anyrose
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Old 10-31-2005, 02:10 PM
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next time you're in a big enough group - try these two together
Oh When The Saints
and
Swing Low Sweet Chariot
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Old 11-01-2005, 12:00 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by anyrose
Ever try to sing Rock of Ages (the Hanukkah version) at the same time as Deck the Halls?
you do have to change one note in the last stanza but it works
And change the tempo of one, no? I've never done this, but I'm trying to "sing" them both in my head, and it sounds interesting...

Also, I believe the end of Act I of The Producers copies the West Side Story device mentioned above (just as South Park did).

Oh! And there was that Simon and Garfunkel thing where they sang Scarborough Fair along with ... another song... don't remember which one.

Also, listen to "Five for One" at this link: http://www.isound.com/albums/bob_ric...hristmas_album
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Old 11-01-2005, 12:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zsofia
The "Confrontation" song in Les Miserables is excellent in this regard - Valjean and Javert take turns being "dominant" but they're singing different things that are thematically similar. They don't pre-load it by singing each seperately, though, so you'd best be paying attention.
There's also the famous "One Day More" which is quite nicely done and stirring to boot.
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Old 11-01-2005, 01:40 AM
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Originally Posted by anyrose
next time you're in a big enough group - try these two together
Oh When The Saints
and
Swing Low Sweet Chariot
There's a third song called "I'm gonna sing" that melds with those two. (Or at least, I've always sung all three together)
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Old 11-01-2005, 01:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TJdude825
Oh! And there was that Simon and Garfunkel thing where they sang Scarborough Fair along with ... another song... don't remember which one.[/url]
Scarborough Fair is traditional, and Paul Simon wrote the counterpoint "Canticle".

Lyrics here.
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Old 11-01-2005, 04:54 AM
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And there's one from Call Me Madam: "I hear singing..." or whatever it's called.

There are two really, really great double choruses in Gilbert & Sullivan, neither of them Act 1 finales; "When the foeman bares his steel" from The Pirates of Penzance and "Tower warders under orders" from Yeomen Of the Guard.
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Old 11-01-2005, 12:30 PM
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Another great example is "Quartet" from Chess. Though as someone mentioned my very favorite earlier ("Fuge for Tinhorns").

This is a great musical and dramatic device -- whether individuals like the results or not -- it works very well in the structures I've seen it used.
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Old 11-01-2005, 01:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Misnomer
I know and love all of the examples provided so far, and am just popping in to mention "Quartet (A Model of Decorum and Tranquility)" from Chess.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ddgryphon
Another great example is "Quartet" from Chess.
Great minds...
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Old 11-01-2005, 02:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Annie-Xmas
The song from Phantom is "Notes." I love it!
I was beginning to think I was the only one who liked that song. The person who introduced me to phantom hated it.
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Old 11-01-2005, 04:33 PM
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I meant to mention "The Book Report" from You're a Good Man Charlie Brown.

Also, just for fun, listen to PDQ Bach's "The Art Of The Ground Round" to truly appreciate this kind of writing.
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Old 11-01-2005, 06:11 PM
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My favorite example of the is the "Lover's Quartet" from Co-ed Prison Sluts. Although it is heightened by Fluffy tearing the luncheon meat intestines out of the "hamster" while Hamster Man sings "The dog has wasted my hamster now, the agony's wasted my heart." Sigh. God, I miss that show.

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Old 11-01-2005, 06:19 PM
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Peter Gabriel-era Genesis used this structure with Fountain of Salmacis, and I'm thinking that Yes did it as well (Siberian Khatru, perhaps?)
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Old 11-01-2005, 06:53 PM
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One of my favorite moments from Miss Saigon is when Kim and Ellen are both singing over each other about Chris and their relationship with him.
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Old 11-01-2005, 07:19 PM
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Since the Hallowe'en party is still fresh in my mind I'm going to point out that there is a certain modern appeal for this kind of musical blending. It can be found in DJ mash-ups and mixes where two compatible songs (same chord progression, same key) are played either in sequence or together. It can also be found in sample-heavy music, often rap, where the backbeat of one song is laid in the background of some other kind of foreground sound.

The only difference that I can see is that some songs are written this way by a talented composer; the others are put together by people who are talented technically but who are not necessarily musically skilled.
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Old 11-01-2005, 08:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malacandra
There are two really, really great double choruses in Gilbert & Sullivan, neither of them Act 1 finales; "When the foeman bares his steel" from The Pirates of Penzance and "Tower warders under orders" from Yeomen Of the Guard.
But I think the best one in Gilbert and Sullivan is the Act I finale from Iolanthe. The Lord High Commissioner, the Queen of the Fairies, the Fairy Chorus, the House of Lords, Iolanthe, Strephan and Phyllis are each singing a separate song, and they all work together perfectly. It's wonderful to hear on a recording, but live it just makes me break out in goosepimples. It's an indescribably wonderful effect.

To the OP - Yes, I think you're the only one. Maybe you just can't hear more than one part, and it is too busy/confusing rather than blending perfectly?
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Old 11-01-2005, 10:31 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Misnomer
Quote:
Originally Posted by Misnomer
I know and love all of the examples provided so far, and am just popping in to mention "Quartet (A Model of Decorum and Tranquility)" from Chess.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ddgryphon
Another great example is "Quartet" from Chess.
Great minds...
And you both beat me to it. I love any opportunity to mention Chess (and know that Misnomer and I have both done so in any number of previous Musical threads).

For a few more examples, I'll put forth "Christmas Bells" from Rent (which goes to at least four parts of carols and original music without breaking a sweat), as well as some two-line use in "Another Day" and "What You Own" . And though we've ruled out that it's not what was intended, Rent also has a very beautiful round in "Will I?"

Also from Jonathan Larson in tick, tick... boom! is the neurotically sweet and tortured "Therapy," a two-line counterpoint.

I think the greater challenge is going to be finding a major, valid, successful musical (thus ruling out some hack that had ten shows off-off-off-Broadway with a real lifeless dud that nonetheless somebody on this board has a printing of) that does NOT have some contrapuntal duet. It's a great device that sounds cool and advances the story remarkably well.

(As to my favorite, it's already been mentioned. "Confrontation" in Les Mis. That song makes the show for me)
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Old 11-01-2005, 11:07 PM
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I don't mind the effect in music, it's when it's done through lyrics that get to me. Then again, I don't usually like songs with lyrics in general. I prefer plain old instrumental music, so in that respect I'm also weird. I just find songs where two different sets of lyrics are sung at once to follow along with.
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Old 11-01-2005, 11:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Only Mostly Dead
And you both beat me to it. I love any opportunity to mention Chess (and know that Misnomer and I have both done so in any number of previous Musical threads).
Well, that settles it, then: you must come have a beer in NoVa on the 19th, and we can talk about Chess!
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Old 11-01-2005, 11:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Malacandra
And there's one from Call Me Madam: "I hear singing..." or whatever it's called.

There are two really, really great double choruses in Gilbert & Sullivan, neither of them Act 1 finales; "When the foeman bares his steel" from The Pirates of Penzance and "Tower warders under orders" from Yeomen Of the Guard.
My personal favorite G&S is Patience. There are at least two numbers in act one and one in act two that do that
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Old 11-01-2005, 11:36 PM
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The one from Call Me Madam is called "You're Just In Love," I think. Irving Berlin was big into that kind of thing.

I'm kinda with the OP on this one. Sometimes it's done well and works, but mostly I just find it vaguely annoying. I was listening to the soundtrack for Oliver! recently (dug it out after seeing the recent Polanski movie) and at the end of the song "Oom-pah-pah" they do it, and it just kinda bugged me.

I do, however, like singing rounds. Or at least I did when I was a kid and we did that kind of thing. On one memorable occassion in elementary school we sang "Brother John" (I think that's what it's called -- Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping? Brother John, Brother John) in about four different languages. That was cool.

What I really hate in watching musicals live is when the audience feels like it has to clap along to the beat of every damn song. It just feels dumb, and everyone gets confused when the beat changes, nobody knows when to start or stop, someone always tries to start it up again, etc. I really hate that. Just listen to the damned song.

The stupidest use of music in a musical I ever saw was when I saw "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" in London. (Don't ask -- a girl I was with wanted to see it.) They made the title song so bloated that they actually did that thing where they slowed it down to half speed and brought a full chorus and orchestra in to sing it like it was some dramatic anthem or something. For Chrissakes, this is a story about a flying car, not the French Revolution.
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Old 11-01-2005, 11:46 PM
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As long as we're listing examples, here's my favorite: "Kiss Me" / "Ladies in their Sensitivities" from Sweeney Todd, the very best piece of musical theater ever written, and that will ever be written, and don't you forget it.

Seriously, the way these hugely different melodies and orchestrations suddenly collapse together into one swirling miasma of musical climax is simply astonishing. It's announced when two separate paired scenes synchronize on a point of introduction ("the name's Todd" / "Antony!") and spins off from there. It doesn't really work on the album; in the theater it's utterly mind-blowing.

And I'm seeing a production on Friday. Envy me.

By the way, my own brother, who posted above in this thread as Fish, wrote one of these himself in a musical adaptation of Henry IV Pt 1 called Hotspur! that's very, very, very cool. I would love to see the production remounted for a lot of reasons, but tops on the list is getting to hear this bit performed again.
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Old 11-01-2005, 11:51 PM
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Another good example is the actone finale of Candide!
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Old 11-02-2005, 03:41 AM
Malacandra is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Punkyova
But I think the best one in Gilbert and Sullivan is the Act I finale from Iolanthe. The Lord High Commissioner, the Queen of the Fairies, the Fairy Chorus, the House of Lords, Iolanthe, Strephan and Phyllis are each singing a separate song, and they all work together perfectly. It's wonderful to hear on a recording, but live it just makes me break out in goosepimples. It's an indescribably wonderful effect.

To the OP - Yes, I think you're the only one. Maybe you just can't hear more than one part, and it is too busy/confusing rather than blending perfectly?
I know that show backwards, and could busk the entire Act 1 finale, so I'm guessing the bit you mean is where the Chancellor and Peers are singing "Go away, madam", the Fairies are singing "Let us stay, madam", the Queen is singing "Bearded by these puny mortals" and Phyllis is singing "Surely these must be immortals. Can't remember Strephon or Iolanthe having a lot to do at that point though. The earlier bit, "When darkly looms the day", isn't at all contrapuntal. Maybe I'm not thinking of the part you're on about. (And don't you just love it at the end of the finale where Sullivan suddenly breaks into an oompah-oompah military march, "With Strephon as your foe, no doubt"? )

Hmm... must be time I did Iolanthe again. I've been Strephon at age 16 and Mountararat eighteen years later, and it's past time I sang the Chancellor.
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