It was bound to happen sooner or later. I recently met a new resident of a senior facility who was, until a few months ago, a volunteer pianist like me. We chatted a bit and soon discovered we’ve played at some of the same places.
Cheryl has Parkinson’s disease. “Just the early stage,” she’s quick to add. But tremors and joint stiffness mean she’s had to give up scrapbooking and knitting and playing the piano. She uses a cane for walking, but can still drive. She admits she’s starting to feel the disease affecting her memory.
I applaud Cheryl’s decision to move into a senior facility now, before her health further deteriorates. It gave her the advantage of being able to select the place herself and she can transition gradually from her independent life into her new community. As her disease progresses, whatever help she needs will be available right there, because she chose a facility that offers a “continuum of care.”
In a conversation with Cheryl, she mentioned that she used to play a program of Irish songs for her March volunteer gigs. Next time I saw her, she handed me a neatly organized binder of photocopies. “See if there’s anything you want in there,” she offered.
I already had most of them: “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling,” “Molly Malone,” “Danny Boy,” “The Rose of Tralee.” A few were new to me. There was a jig called “Garryowen.” Hadn’t heard of that one.
And there was a lovely tune called “How Are Things in Glocca Morra.” Honestly, I don’t know how I missed it in all the years I’ve been collecting songs from the 1930s and 40s.
“How Are Things in Glocca Morra” is from the 1947 Broadway show Finian’s Rainbow. Francis Ford Coppola’s film version of the musical was released in 1968, starring Fred Astaire and Petula Clark. Finian’s Rainbow is sheer fantasy, a story involving magic and a pot of gold. There’s even a leprechaun.
Lyricist Yip Harburg wrote the words to all the songs. (Harburg seems to have liked make-believe worlds. Eight years earlier, he wrote the lyrics for The Wizard of Oz.) In his song about “Glocca Morra,” Harburg takes us to a mythical Irish village. It’s a ballad about nostalgia and homesickness. It’s also about believing, just for a moment, in a never-never land where no one gets old or sick.
“How Are Things in Glocca Morra” was recorded by Tommy Dorsey (vocals by Stuart Foster) in 1945, and a bit later by Gordon Jenkins and his orchestra (vocals by Dick Haymes).
I like this one by Buddy Clark. It made the Top Ten in 1947.
From one volunteer pianist to another, thanks for introducing me to Glocca Morra, Cheryl.
Paulette Bochnig Sharkey