by Chorale alumna Anne Quaintance Stylianou
Composer Robert B. Sherman passed away this week. For many of us who grew up in the Colorado Children’s Chorale, he was, in the words of Marc Shaiman, “the scorer of our childhood.” (Mr. Shaiman himself is the composer of Hairspray, and its signature number “You Can’t Stop the Beat,” which was our unforgettable showstopper last season.) The Chorale roots owe much to Mr. Sherman who, with his brother Richard M. Sherman, composed the scores of Mary Poppins, Tom Sawyer, Charlotte’s Web, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and other films. Some of my earliest and most beloved Chorale memories involve the songs of Sherman & Sherman, from “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” when I was in Prep Choir in 1980 to the irresistibly silly “I Love to Laugh” of Prep Choir 2010. The songs of Sherman & Sherman lend themselves perfectly to the Chorale’s staging and the incomparable talents of stage director Robert Wells and choreographers Brad and Susie Bolton. “Sister Suffragette” is the consummate girls’ number, and I can vividly recall paintbrushes flying when the boys staged “Gratifaction.” Scores of Chorale alumni doubtless remember the tremendous stamina required to perform “Step in Time.” I still think of that step we use all the time: “right cross, right heel; left cross, left heel” as the ‘Step in Time’ step. Hundreds of singers have relished the humorous quodlibet “Tom Sawyer” (“Tom goes off with Huck, swimming in the nude…”).
Some of my most poignant memories have also been scored by Sherman & Sherman. Can anyone match the sweetness of Prep Choir pleading for “The Perfect Nanny” to hurry (“we won’t hide your spectacles so you can’t see, put toads in your bed, or pepper in your tea…”)? Ask anyone who sang “River Song” how hard it was not to cry, and it’s even harder now that I’m an adult and understand all too well that childhood is fleeting; the boy really does become a man in the time it takes to “blink away a tear.” A family friend asks me every year to let him know if “River Song” will be in the repertoire, or the beautifully childlike and wistful “If’n I Was God.” Soon, I hope. I never tire of those songs, and I am so grateful to the Chorale and to Robert and Richard Sherman for those wonderful memories.