Friday, December 15, 2017

A Window Above: I Dreamed a Dream

Song: "I Dreamed a Dream"
Composer: Claude-Michel Schönberg
Lyricists: Alain Boublil (French); Herbert Kretzmer (English)
Musical: Les Misèrables
Premier: September 24, 1980, Paris

I am not a fan of music reality television.  In particular, I truly despise Simon Cowell.  As a vocal music teacher, I spend my entire working life building up students' nerve.  Few things make the average person anxious quite like the idea of singing in public and convincing even the most outwardly confident teenager to take that risk requires endless encouragement over months and years.  Then people like Simon undo all of that work in a matter of seconds.  I know he would argue he's waking his contestants up to the realities of the industry.  To hell with your industry, Simon.  Music is far too important to allow egomaniacs like you to ruin it.

Susan Boyle's first appearance on Britain's Got Talent is one of the greatest moments in television history, musical or otherwise.  If YouTube views is a measure of pop culture impact, 218 million is a damn impressive number.  The story is well-known now.  A frumpy, middle-aged Scottish woman takes the stage.  Neither the audience nor the judges are remotely shy about expressing their skepticism.  They even laugh at her choice of song.  Then she starts to sing.

Joke's over.

Astonishment quickly evolves into adoration.  The looks on the judges faces tell a whole new story.  They all know - even Simon knows - that in this moment, Susan Boyle is bigger than all of them.  Their "judgement" is immaterial.  The producers certainly appreciated the power of this triumph and have worked hard at recreating it with other contestants in the years since.  But no one can top the original.

As a teacher, I live for the Susan Boyles of the world, those kids who walk into my classroom and unexpectedly knock my socks off.  It happens - certainly not every day, but it happens.   They remind me of the privilege that is my job.

Want to know something funny?  The story of Ella Fitzgerald's first performance at the Apollo Theater is remarkably similar.  Alas, I can't find a link to a video.  But if you ever have the chance to see the excellent documentary The Savoy King, it tells the tale.


  1. That's a great song, too.

    I don't watch reality television and, at the time, didn't watch any television, but I remember it.
    It was huge.
    I think my mom got her album that came out later.

  2. I saw this also. I do not watch any reality telly (too much happening right outside my door) but this was too wonderful to not to watch. What a lovely voice.

    cheers, parsnip

  3. What a great post. I do not like and do not watch "reality" television. Boo, Simon Cowell.


  4. That video gave me the chills. I heard about the video and the story- but I never actually saw it. Wow! You can feel the energy in the room change when she starts to sing. What a beautiful voice.

    I can imagine that being a vocal teacher would be very rewarding- and I am sure very interesting too. :)

    1. The video will never get old for me. The power of that genuine, human moment is just amazing.

  5. Hi AS. Sadly, there's so few Susan Boyles in the world, but there's so much talent. I do enjoy reality music programs. We have X-Factor and the Voice in Oz, obviously copied format from overseas, but they are done so well here. I watch the British one with Simon Cowell occasionally and cringe when he crushes hopes and dreams. I'll never forget the Susan Boyle moment. Thankfully, I was watching that night.
    Glad you're a thoughtful music teacher.

    Happy Christmas!
    Have a great 2018!

    Denise :-)

    1. Hi, Denise! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, too!