Monday, December 21, 2009

Spring Awakening: "Left Behind"

There's a contemporary Broadway musical making it's way across the country this season, having closed on Broadway January 2009. Spring Awakening won 8 Tony's in 2007, including best score and best musical. Set in Germany in the 1890's, it's been referred to as a folk-infused rock musical.

The plot involves an adolescent cast that deals with very controversial themes such as sex, suicide, physical abuse, abortions, as well as education and spirituality. The musical score by Duncan Sheik with lyrics by Steven Sater is really outstanding, and I actually enjoyed the music more than the plot itself.

One of the more mellow and beautiful pieces in the musical comes after the death of one of the characters. Moritz Stiefel is an innocent boy with high expectations placed on him by his father. When he fails his finals at school, his father reacts harshly and with disdain. Moritz ultimately commits suicide and at his funeral the song "Left Behind" is sung.

There are many layers to the idea of being left behind. Traditionally you think of the people who are alive still, as being the ones "left behind", but this song incorporates a concept that it's the parts of the deceased that are left behind. The hopes, wishes, even sadness and fears of people can linger as a part of them, even when they are physically gone.

Here are the lyrics with a YouTube video of the song at the end of this post.

You fold his hands and smooth his tie, you gently lift his chin.
Were you really so blind, and unkind to him?
Can't help the itch to touch, to kiss, to hold him once again.
Now to close his eye--never open them.

A shadow passed, a shadow passed, yearning, yearning
For the fool it called a home.

All thing he never did are left behind.
All the things his mama wished he'd bear in mind,
And all his dad had hoped he'd know.

The talks you never had, the saturdays you never spent.
All the 'grown-up' places you never went.
And all of the crying you wouldn't understand.
You just let him cry, 'make a man out of him.'

A shadow passed, a shadow passed, yearning, yearning
For the fool it called a home.

All things he ever wished are left behind.
All the things his mama did to make him mind.
And how his dad had hoped he'd grow.

All things he ever lived are left behind.
All the fears that ever flickered through his mind.
All the sadness that he'd come to own.

A shadow passed, a shadow passed, yearning, yearning
For the fool it called a home.


And it whistles through the ghosts still left behind.
It whistles through the ghosts still left behind.
Whistles through the ghosts still left behind.


Towards the end of the musical there is another lovely bereavement song. Similar to "Left Behind", the sentiment is remembering those who've died by keeping them alive in the memories of those living. The song is called "Those You've Known" (follow link for full lyrics)

The song is an overlapping melody sung by 3 characters, 2 of which have died. The chorus states, "Those you've known/And lost, still walk behind you/All alone/They linger till they find you." As the song concludes, the living character Melchoir promises, "I'll walk now with them/
I’ll call on their names/I’ll see their thoughts are known. They walk with my heart/And I'll never let them go."

A good promise for those of us living to remember.



2 Responses to “Spring Awakening: "Left Behind"”

Pun said...
December 23, 2009 at 3:45 PM

What a wonderful post. Thanks so much for highlighting the poignancy of our lyrics. We at Spring Awakening never thought in our wildest dreams that we would touch so many people with our show and are surprised every time someone tells us we changed their life or helped them through a tough stage in their life. As a society, we need to talk more about what teens are going through, and this musical has opened up a lot of honest communication between parents and their teens. What a great idea for a blog, to approach the arts from a psychological perspective. Keep up the great work!

Pun
Blogmaster for SpringAwakening (http://www.totallytrucked.blogspot.com)


Pun said...
March 16, 2011 at 11:54 PM

What a wonderful post. Thanks so much for highlighting the poignancy of our lyrics. We at Spring Awakening never thought in our wildest dreams that we would touch so many people with our show and are surprised every time someone tells us we changed their life or helped them through a tough stage in their life. As a society, we need to talk more about what teens are going through, and this musical has opened up a lot of honest communication between parents and their teens. What a great idea for a blog, to approach the arts from a psychological perspective. Keep up the great work!

Pun
Blogmaster for SpringAwakening (http://www.totallytrucked.blogspot.com)