Music, Memories & Heart Murmurs
Let me state up front and unequivocally: I was not yet on planet Earth during the 40s. Or much of the 50s, for that matter. That said, I did grow up with parents who loved the music of the 1940s, an era of the big world war, big world leaders and, of course, big brassy bands.
I say this because last week my wife and I had the pleasure of escorting her parents to Glendale’s historic Alex Theater to see the matinee performance of “In the Mood – a 1940s Musical Revue.” The beautiful art deco auditorium of the 1,413-seat Alex was packed to the top row of the balcony.
Besides making me feel much younger than I have in a long time, the capacity audience last Monday afternoon was a fascinating mix of men and women in their, shall we say, golden years. (I’m sure some in attendance had already graduated into their platinum years – and I mean that in the nicest possible way.)
I’ve never seen so many walkers, canes, wheel chairs and oxygen tanks outside of a medical supply warehouse. Before the show began, and during the intermission, the conversations we overheard all around us sounded more like we were at a hospital medical review than a musical revue; from, “Did you hear about Henry’s hip replacement?” to “Oh, I’m doing okay except for my bladder infection,” to “Poor Betty’s dementia is getting much worse, poor dear!” and much worse. (What is it about age that makes people talk about each and every body part that hurts or leaks or doesn’t work any longer?)
In the few quiet moments before, during and after the performance, there was a constant white noise of wheezing, coughing and hearing aid feedback. But the music on stage easily overpowered all such ambient sound coming from the geriatric gathering.
But God bless ’em all, these well-seasoned citizens were out and about, participating in life in spite of their various infirmities and limitations. I certainly hope to be able to do the same when and if I reach such advanced years. But I’m already starting a list of non-medical conversation topics to have on hand when the time comes.
With a couple of exceptions, the show’s band members were considerably older than singers/dancers – not surprising since it’s easier on the body to play a trombone or trumpet than to dance the jitterbug while singing four-part harmonies. To use a contemporary term, the show’s 40-song “playlist” included such timeless classics as “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” “There I’ve Said It Again,” “Tuxedo Junction,” “It Don’t Mean A Thing,” “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You,” “Moonlight Serenade,” and of course, “In the Mood.”
Several of the songs in the second act were an homage to our country’s role in fighting WWII, including “Over There,” “This Is Worth Fighting For,” “Bugle Call Rage,” “When the Lights Go On Again” and others. The show ended with a tender and touching tribute to military veterans, with any vet in attendance being asked to stand (some had to be helped by those on either side – a tear-producing sight if ever there was one) when their branch of service was called so the rest of us in the audience could applaud their service.
As we listened to the lyrics about fighting with honor, sacrificing home and heart for a cause bigger than you (what a concept!), I wondered what such a show would be like for subsequent wars. Sure, a revue about the Vietnam “conflict” would surely include such groups as the Doors, Creedence Clearwater, Jimi Hendrix and many others. But the theme would certainly not be one of pride or patriotism – more like cynicism and suspicion. Sigh.
And what – heaven forbid – would a musical revue based on the more recent Iraq and/or Afghanistan wars sound like? Honestly, I think I’d rather sit and hear about someone’s gallstones and urinary tract infections, thank you very much.
I’ll see you ’round town.