Ok I tend to pick on him here a lot on the internet, but I’m going to take this opportunity to throw a prop to my brother.
Many years ago when we were attending different colleges in the Houston and Pasadena (the one in Texas which emanates challenging odors from its refineries and subsequently earns the name Stinkadena), I had the occasion to attend a voice recital in which my brother was performing.
He was a music major at the time, specializing in voice.
At the time, I wandered into the auditorium wondering what in tarnation was so important about whatever on God’s green Earth was he singing that I had to drive into this stink hole to listen to.
For you English teachers out there, I’ll give you a moment to reread that sentence and redline all of the assaults on good grammar I just committed there.
*pause for affect*
Well ladies and gentlemen, I barely got there in time. You see back then, we didn’t have any of those fancy devices like Tom-Tom, Garmin, or Siri to tell us how to get places. The mere fact that I ventured out from my north side neighborhood in a southeasterly manner to get to the school hosting the performance was just short of a miracle.
As I arrived, my brother had just been announced and was entering the stage. At that point, he sang “Empty Chairs At Empty Tables” from Les Miserables. This would be the first time I had ever heard that song.
In the musical, Marius sings the song and talks about how all of his friends and comrades in arms have died. Generally speaking, Marius survived the battle that killed all of these people off. Nowadays, I’m pretty sure they call that survivors guilt.
The song itself is moving.
My brother’s performance of that song was breathtaking. It evoked emotion. It rolled a tear or two and sent a shiver down my spine. Chris Matthews would experience the same feelings some twenty years later after watching a would-be President read some gobbledy-gook about hope and change off of a teleprompter.
I’m pretty sure I told him back then of what that song did to me. If I didn’t, I’m saying it now.
So I told you that story to tell you this story.
Yesterday at a Christmas get-together where I sat quietly in a chair waiting for the vittles to land in front of my pie hole, I picked up the newspaper. Generally speaking, I have nothing but disdain for print media. To think that I actually declared Journalism as a major all of those years ago still baffles me. Sure I wanted to write for a living. The problem was that I wanted to write vast, Homeric lines of bull and present it as the aforementioned bull.
I didn’t want to write bull and pass it off as truth.
None the less, I read a spread in the paper about Les Miserables, which opened in theaters on Christmas Day. One particular article trashed Hugh Jackman’s singing, and didn’t really have anything nice to say about the caterwallering of Russell Crowe. By the time I finished the first column inch and was beckoned to read the rest of the article on page D4, I had received a sufficient reminder of why I don’t like to read the newspaper.
I’m no fan of being told what I should or should not like, so I ignored the article. This afternoon, Wifey and I packed up the kids to go see Les Miserables. One of the benefits of having older kids is that we can go watch a film like that without Junior or Juniorette asking us when all the singing is going to stop.
Juniorette and I were familiar with all of the songs. Wifey knows the story, but not from the musical perspective. I would expect her most recent encounter was the film Liam Neeson did some years back. Junior didn’t know the story and had only heard a little of the music.
Screw the movie review.
I liked it.
There were a couple of points in that film that either generated the shiver or uncorked a tear duct. The first time I noticed it was early in the film when Jackman sang “Valjean’s Soliloquy”.
That’s right. Hugh “Wolverine” Jackman sang a song in that movie that gave me a shiver. That wasn’t the only one though. Several characters did it. Obviously, Anne Hathaway has to be mentioned here. Even though I’ve watched the trailer of her singing “I Dreamed A Dream” several times, watching it again on the big screen evoked the same emotion it did the first time I saw it.
“Javert’s Suicide” was a memorable one, and far more impressive when performed by Russell Crowe in the musical flick than when Geoffrey Rush did it in the 1998 version.
Eponine did it with “On My Own” and “Little Fall Of Rain”. I always felt she was underrated. I’m sure she did too.
That’s a little Les Miz humor for those of you familiar with the story.
There was one more shiver down my spine that needs to be mentioned. I’ve listened to the song “Empty Chairs At Empty Tables” many times over the last twenty years. Since the first time I heard that song performed by my brother, there have been absolutely zero instances I’ve listened to the song since in which the performance evoked the same response I experienced all of those years ago. Today, watching Marius sing that song brought back all of the memories from that day in Stinkadena.
She probably won’t admit it, but I’m pretty sure I saw Wifey rolling a tear or two at several points during the film. Junior was lukewarm on the film, and Juniorette was too far down the aisle from me for me to tell if it effected her in the same manner.
As for me, I’ll say this. My sister-in-law once characterized me as having a certain “unemotional bravado” about myself. Yeah, that’s probably true. Even still, you may have noticed that I sport a hat and shades on the front page of the site here.
By the time the film was over, I was wearing the shades in order to keep up the appearance. Behind the shades, a tear or two had made things blurry.