Saturday, January 1, 2011

Sunrise Sunset: Fiddler on the Roof

Written by: Sheldon Harnick (words) & Jerry Bock (music).

This is one of the most famous and touching scenes from the 1971 film, Fiddler on the Roof — the marriage between Tzeitel and Motel under the bridal canopy, or chupa, in Hebrew. The film is based on the stage musical (1965) which itself is based on the stories (Tevye and Tevye and his Daughters) published by Yiddish-writer, Sholom Aleichem in 1894. Aleichem has been called the Russian Mark Twain for his use of irony and humour.

Although the film is set in pre-revolutionary czarist Russia of 1905, its significance is universal. Fiddler on the Roof touches upon all the universal values and virtues that are important for all humanity, including the fight for freedom, equality, individual dignity and imagination. this becomes particularly poignant when under the yoke of oppression of a powerful and immoral State that fails to protect all of its inhabitants.

That bring said, I wanted to begin the New Year on a positive note, and this musical clip from one of my favourite films is a fitting beginning for what we all hope will be a truly good year. This is not sentimental mush, but a view of life that carries with it dreams, hopes and happiness in the midst of struggles for survival that many, if not, most of us face daily.

And by survival I mean a survival with all the universal virtues noted above. Otherwise, it's not truly life, but mere existence. But we continue on, not giving up, playing music, like a fiddler on the roof, As is noted in Wikipedia: "The musical's title comes from the painting The Fiddler (1912) by Marc Chagall, one of many surreal paintings he created of Eastern European Jewish life, [which] often included a fiddler."

And, like the fiddler playing on the roof, life marches forward with joy and tradition, despite the very precariousness of it. Issac Stern plays the violin cadenza in the movie. No doubt, life is full of sunrises and sunsets, each new day a new beginning, full of hopes and dreams.

Other songs popular in the movie, which touch on such themes as equality, freedom, happiness and individual dignity, and which have become classics, are  If I Were a Rich Man, Lechaim, Tradition, and Matchmaker.

Fiddler on the Roof: Original poster of the Broadway musical of 1964.

Sunrise Sunset
By Sheldon Harnick  & Jerry Bock

is this the little girl I carried,
is this the little boy at play?

I don't remember growing older,
when did they?


When did she get to be a beauty,
when did he grow to be so tall?


Wasn't it yesterday when they were small?


Sunrise, sunset (x2),
swiftly flow the days.


Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers,
blossoming even as we gaze.


Sunrise, sunset (x2),
swiftly fly the years,
one season following another,
laiden with happiness and tears.


What words of wisdom can i give them,
how can i help to ease their way?


Now they must learn from one another,
day by day.


They look so natural together.


Just like two newlyweds should be.

(Perchik and Hodel)

Is there a canopy in store for me?


sunrise, sunset (x2),
swiftly fly the years,
one season following another,
laiden with happiness,
and tears

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