Monday, January 7, 2013

Les Miserables

*Sorry that video at the end plays by itself.  I'm not sure how to prevent that.  

I've loved the musical Les Miserables for a long time.  When I was in 8th grade, and in the turbulent trial period of middle school, I was fortunate enough to get a wonderful chorus teacher named Mr. O'Keefe.  He must have been fresh out of college, and this was his first teaching gig.  He had his own band, and he even had a produced album on tape!  haha.  A TAPE.  He wanted to change the world, and he taught that huge, irreverent, hyper group of adolescents like we were diamonds in the rough.  He was definitely one of the teachers who inspired me to teach.  After school he offered an extra class where he tutored small groups of us in vocal performance.  Growing up doing musical numbers with my family, and singing in church, I could already read music and knew how to project my voice, etc.  I was no prodigy by any stretch of the imagination, but I had an okay sound to my voice.  That class gave me a talent to develop, and a direction, and definitely some self-esteem and confidence  during a time when it's hard to feel a lot of that.

After several weeks doing exercises and a few small group showtunes, Mr. O'Keefe pulled me aside and asked me if I would be interested in learning a solo.  It was then that I met Les Miserables.  In his words, "Miserab-la, like so-fa."  I wasn't at all familiar with the Victor Hugo novel, or even the story, but I thought the song was beautiful as he played it and sang it for me for the first time.  On My Own.  He told me about the character Eponine who sings it - she's a bit of a tomboy, who loves a boy named Marius, but he only considers her a friend and falls in love with Cosette.  Eponine sings the song On My Own while walking the streets in the night, singing about how she loves him, but she's all on her own in her feelings.  What a perfect song for this awkward, tall, Mormon girl in a sea of Catholic peers!

That weekend, I had my Mom drop me off at our local library, and I checked out a pair of headphones and a RECORD of the Broadway performance of Les Miserables.  I sat there for hours and listened to the song over and over and over.  Then I listened to the whole album and read the words, and the plot of the play, and how the story goes.  It was wonderful!

 One of my favorite Christmas presents was a tape (again with the tapes!) my Dad gave me for Christmas of the Broadway recording of Les Miserables.  I wore that tape out, I listened to it so much!  While my friends were listening to rap and R and B, I was in my room memorizing lyrics to musicals!  I did perform On My Own at our Spring chorus concert.  I was scared and nervous, but really proud of myself for doing it.

Years later, I read the book Les Miserables by Victor Hugo.   As I was now a little more mature, I was able to focus less on the teen love triangles of the story, and more on the noble characters and deeper themes:  Love, redemption, repentance, forgiveness.  It was one of the first times I ever experienced feeling The Spirit while not in church or reading something spiritual.  Myriel the Bishop in the story is a type of Christ to me.  One of my favorite scenes is when Jean Valjean steals silver from the Bishop.  He is captured and brought back by the authorities to confess.  The Bishop instead tells the authorities that he did indeed knowingly and willingly GIVE that silver to Jean Valjean, then he chastises him (in front of the police) for forgetting the silver candlesticks, which would surely fetch him quite a bit of money.  The police leave, and the Bishop says to Jean Valjean:

 "Do not forget, never forget, that you have promised to use this money to become an honest man."  Jean Valjean, who had no recollection of ever having promised anything, remained speechless.  The Bishop had emphasized the words when he uttered them.  He resumed with solemnity -
"Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good.  It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God."

Only one person who ever walked the earth has the power to purchase our souls.  Jesus Christ paid for our sins, mistakes and sorrows with His blood.  It is a debt we can never repay, but he does not ask us to repay it, only to Come Unto Him, Keep His Commandments and Feed His Sheep.  Through Him we can change, and truly escape the sin and pain of our pasts.

On New Years' Eve of 2001, my friend Lauren surprised me and bought me tickets to finally go see the musical Les Miserables.  It was an awesome experience!

Saturday afternoon, I got a hall pass from Josh, and went to go see the movie by myself.  I got an overpriced popcorn and a drink, and sat next to an older couple.  In hindsight, I guess I was On My Own.  :)  It was amazing!  What a performance!  Not for kids - it's got some rough themes.  Anne Hathaway as Fantine was my absolute favorite.  I've had the songs stuck in my head all weekend.


Golden Sun said...

Great memory, thanks for sharing! I saw Les Mis twice on Broadway in NYC as a teenager. I didn't fully appreciate it then. I haven't seen the movie yet, but plan on going by myself too sometime this week.

Isaac & Meg said...

Love this post Amy! The movie was fantastic and the music has been in my head ever since, no complaints though, it really is amazing!

Sally said...

I, too, wore out a tape listening to Les Mis. Lauren would be so bugged. :)

Marie' said...

I wasn't going to go, but after reading your post, I feel like I should. Enjoyed reading your memory.

Sarah said...

I want a ticket and a solo night out!
I loved the show on stage, the couple of times I've seen it in SLC. And I love the music. Glad to hear the newest version didn't disappoint.