Greetings from the Carousel Room at Highland Farm in Doylestown, PA. I’ve been headquartered here for five days on the third floor by night and meeting with a host of delightful Doylestown residents by day. Happily, our Led by a Rainbow book project has begun! What a privilege to stay at Oscar’s home (from 1940 to 1960) while working on our worldwide community memoir which celebrates him and his beloved Highland Farm. Christine Cole, a gracious hostess indeed, has provided a cozy fire in the livingroom several nights. The magnolia tree, outside what had been Oscar’s music room, is very responsive to the recent warm weather. With huge pink buds, it will be blossoming soon; the daffodils are already in full bloom. I’ve been humming “It Might As Well Be Spring” because it sure feels like spring. Not only is spring in the air, but Oscar himself is on the airwaves and creating quite a buzz.
Last evening at midnight, while composing the Red Carpet Word of the Week on my laptop, I got a text from our dear daughter Libby Barth. From Los Angeles, she wrote, “Happened to catch a special on Oscar Hammerstein on PBS tonight – now I’m glued to the tv!”
To which I replied, “I’m here tonight at the farm.”
She answered, “What!!! What fantastic timing! Well now I am there with you in spirit as I watch Hammerstein’s life on tv :)”
I wrote, “Call me when it’s over.” She did and we had great fun talking about Oscar and what she had learned about him.
That PBS Special, Oscar Hammerstein II – Out of My Dreams, directed by JoAnn Young is being aired tonight (Tuesday, March 13 on WHYY in the Philadelphia area at 8:00 p.m.) and on March 16th in the Rochester, NY area on WXXI at 9:00 p.m.) The following is a link to an article in the LA Times about the show. http://shar.es/gNv4x
I had the privilege to meet JoAnn and her daughter-in-law pianist, Betsy Young, in 2009 when Christine and I were planning our first Oscar Hammerstein II Birthday Sing-Along. Betsy who lives in Doylestown and Gordon Porth accompanied the sing-along entitled The Song Is You named after that gorgeous 1932 Jerome Kern-Hammerstein song from Music in the Air. JoAnn had told the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization in NYC about the event and brought along door prizes from them to give to some fortunate individuals. Her contribution elevated our celebration making it a most memorable evening. At the time, she was trying to get funding for this Hammerstein PBS special. Her patience, professionalism, and persistence have been rewarded. She deserves much praise for her effort and hopefully an Emmy Award.
And the timing is perfect! With the focus on The King and I in Meryl Streep’s The Iron Lady, the debut of Oscar and I two weeks ago in State College, PA and this documentary, it indeed appears to be the hour to reestablish Oscar’s moral voice, model of decency, and discourse focused on love and the need for more of it.
Last evening, I had dinner with long-time friend painter-actor Tom Foral and director-choreographer Joseph Patton in their Doylestown home. Joey directed Theodore Bikel, the original Captain Von Trapp in the Broadway production of The Sound of Music, in productions of My Fair Lady and Fiddler on the Roof. Bikel had told him that at one of the final rehearsals of The Sound of Music, he and Mary Martin were in the wings watching the production. They turned to see Oscar who had tapped Martin on the shoulder. Elated, she turned to hug him. But with his hand raised, he resisted. He quietly pressed a slip of paper in her hand and walked out of the theater. Having just been released from Memorial Sloan- Kettering Cancer Center and with that final lyric delivered to his leading lady, Oscar returned to his waiting driver and final trip home to Highland Farm.
More than anything, Oscar wanted world peace. As we enjoy Oscar Hammerstein II – Out Of My Dreams, let’s take to heart those profound words written on that piece of paper by this gentle giant.
“A bell is not a bell unless you ring it.
A song is not a song unless you sing it.
And love is not love unless it gives itself away.”
Those words later became the reprise of Sixteen Going On Seventeen. “A bell is no bell till you ring it. A song is no song less you sing it. And love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay. Love isn’t love till you give it away.”
Thank you, Oscar. May your dream become our reality.
The living room at Highland Farm B&B. Vist: http://www.highlandfarmbb.com