The calendar says spring starts next week, but I’m not buying it. In mid-Michigan, we were teased last Monday, when temperatures reached 49 degrees. Then on Wednesday we woke up to this:
Regardless of the weather, I’m bringing out some spring-themed songs for my March piano programs: “When the Red, Red, Robin Comes Bob, Bob, Bobbin’ Along,” “I’ll Be With You in Apple Blossom Time,” “When It’s Springtime in the Rockies.” If I could find a song about crocuses, I’d play that, too. And in tribute to the hardiness we’ve needed this winter, I’ll play “Edelweiss,” a song about a small white flower [see it here] that grows in the snow-covered Alps.
“Edelweiss” was the last song written for the score of The Sound of Music, and the last collaboration between Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers. (Hammerstein died the following year, 1960.) Captain von Trapp, played by Christopher Plummer in the movie, sang “Edelweiss” to express his love for his homeland Austria. Plummer called the song schmaltzy. But his voice didn’t measure up to that of his co-star, Julie Andrews, so he only had to sing the first and last few bars anyway. The rest was over-dubbed by Bill Lee, the singing voice of many Disney film characters, most famously, Shere Khan in The Jungle Book.
Plummer’s opinion notwithstanding, both men and women in my senior audiences adore “Edelweiss.” I have actually heard contented sighs when I begin the melody. Afterwards, someone always asks what edelweiss means, so I tell them about the flower with a German name—edel means noble, weiss means white. But the song’s title is the only German thing about it. There are no original German lyrics, as many believe. “Edelweiss” isn’t the national anthem of Austria (although the flower is pictured on its 2-cent Euro coin); it isn’t an Austrian folk song.
“Edelweiss” is a simple song written for a Broadway show, about a flower that blooms in mountain snow, a song to give us hope as we wait for spring weather in the Midwest. To borrow a line from composer Frank Loesser, “Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year.”
Copyright © 2014 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
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