This week’s Discover challenge is:
Tell us a story about a piece of music that stayed with you.
I still remember the first time I became aware of the musical, Wicked, even though it was just a feature in a newspaper. It must have sounded interesting to stick with me, but apparently not interesting enough at first: when my family and I were in Toronto, we walked past the theatre every single day for one week and didn’t go. Now, that would never happen! (It probably wouldn’t matter what show it was, I would go out of interest.)
It had been out for a few years before I saw it featured on an episode of Ugly Betty. From this, I became obsessed with the song Popular and was in awe of Kristin Chenoweth. Then I started attempting to belt out Defying Gravity, and eventually I knew the entire soundtrack inside out. Stephen Schwartz is a genius.
Wonderful, performed by the Wizard, is a brilliantly clever song about how people can be remembered in completely different ways, depending on who writes the history books. (‘A man’s called a traitor or liberator; a rich man’s a thief or philanthropist.’) Thank Goodness is a bittersweet song about the realisation that getting everything you wanted might not make you happy. (‘Happy is what happens when all your dreams come true. Well, isn’t it?’) Dancing Through Life is about not taking life too seriously. (‘Dancing through life down at the Ozdust, if only because dust is what we come to.’) I think every song is fantastic, but the one that really gets to me is For Good.
As you probably know, Wicked is the story of Oz before Dorothy landed there, back when the Wicked Witch of the West and the Glinda the Good were actually best friends. For Good is the song in which they say goodbye to each other, and essentially thank each other for their friendship. I think it is the most moving song I’ve ever heard.
I have been lucky to have had lots of good friends in my life, and they’ve always been hugely important to me. As in the song, my friends have undoubtedly helped me to learn and grow, probably in ways I don’t even realise. One thing I do know is that in seeing the boldness of many of my friends, and how they are unashamedly themselves, I have become more confident myself.
However, life takes you different places, and I can’t deny that many of my friendships are different now: we’re all a bit more scattered, we have jobs and responsibilities, and no, we aren’t as close as it was easier to be in school, or even at university. There’s a very gentle drifting apart over time, until you realise you’ve gone from knowing everything about each other to catching up once every few months.
I’ve just finished reading And a Happy New Year? by Holly Bourne, the sequel to her Spinster Club series, and I cried through almost the entire second half of the novella. (Potential spoiler: These wonderful characters, who reminded me so much of my own friends, found they might be moving apart from each other, and it felt so honest.)
It’s a very bittersweet thing – as the quote (often misattributed) says, ‘How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.’ It can be very sad to realise how much has changed, but the fact that we feel we have lost something means we had something special in the first place.
‘For Good’ perfectly captures those feelings of friendship, love and loss.
So much of me is made of what I learned from you.
You’ll be with me, like a handprint on my heart.
And now whatever way our stories end,
I know you have rewritten mine by being my friend.