This is a very unusual column because unlike the others I write marginally about music. I take the liberty to dedicate my column to three remarkable women that I had the privilege to know when I attended the University of Madrid.
The sleuthing skills of the native Chicago classmate brought about this long overdue reunion in New York City last weekend. As the native New Yorker I was relegated the duty of planning our itinerary. Besides doing the typical sightseeing of Rockefeller Center, Central Park, Fifth Avenue etc., I chose a Carnegie Hall concert with the New York Pops playing a repertoire of the music of Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein. Their music is not only beautiful but in my opinion represents the clean, principled simplicity and naiveté of the early 1950s and 1960s that my classmates and me all lived and experienced.
The post war era was a time of national growth and pride. Inconceivable technological advancements, communication advancements, ease of travel, greater discretional income, inflation and 2 misunderstood wars (Korea and Vietnam) motivated excesses and the fast erosion of the values and principles which once were thought to be unshakable. This period is also reflected in the musicals of the era which begin to question and contain thought-provoking plots.
As our reunion unfolded, each woman identified with the common affiliation that had brought us together during our studies. Stories of youthful trips and fun were recanted, along with memories of persons who left an indelible mark on all of us. As the weekend progressed it became obvious that the radical movements of the 1960s and 1970s coldly dismembered values, principles, and aspirations of a dream filled world that we all identified with in those early works of the dynamic duo of Rogers and Hammerstein.
I fondly remember the tear filled parting during our studies abroad, as we talked of the purpose and happiness we would seek in the world, but there was no perfection, order or fairy tale awaiting us. The world we expected, and were groomed for, had a short life. The world as we knew it dramatically changed before our eyes. Yet, yesterday, strangers of a half a century, joined in support of one another, and current families.
Once as young women groomed and released from one world as pure white doves, into a sky that would allow us to reach heights of self realization and satisfaction. An event, a reunion, 43 years later brought us together, but the uncertainties of distant time and varying life experiences, saw each woman, face and find herself in the eyes of those they had left behind a lifetime ago.
Now a bit aged, these doves, came together with unbridled and open acceptance and nurture that each received from the other, that gave recognition to the fact that, though experiences had been difficult, acceptance and appreciation brought warmth, understanding, and for that magical moment in time, the spirit of youth soared like a phoenix through the embattled casings of age. Just like the musicals of Roger and Hammerstein we had weathered the storms of life and emerged stronger with the spirit and resolve of our new found friendship to make sense of our next chapter with the happy ending of the “formula musicals.”
For your listening pleasure I have included some of my favorite selections from The King and I, South Pacific and Cinderella.
Carmen Ileana Román writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.