Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Yale Glee Club, Robert Goulet, and the Brazilian National Anthem

The Yale Glee Club is 150 years old this year, and naturally there are many interesting stories to be told. This post on the Yale Glee Club blog, "From Charlton Lyons - Reviews of the 1941 Tour," tells a great one about a performance in Rio de Janeiro with a special guest:
...the world famous composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos, who was not merely in the audience that night but who, by prearrangement, came up on the stage to conduct the Yale Glee Club in its performance of its first number, the Brazilian National Anthem. And it was during our singing of their National Anthem that Villa-Lobos turned to the audience to conduct the audience as well. The Yale Glee Club did know that country’s national anthem—we knew it very, very well and could sing it a splendid version of Portuguese, but the Brazilians did not. I remember the occasion perfectly—well, almost perfectly. I have no recollection of the near silence of the audience reported by the reviewer, a silence owing to the fact that only a few could sing it. But, singing my own head off, I would not have heard that silence anyway, would I? No! Certainly not!
It's a great story from the Glee Club point of view, but it must have been a bit of an embarrassment for Villa-Lobos. That same year he published
A Música Nacionalista no Govêrno Getúlio Vargas ca. 1941, in which he characterised the nation as a sacred entity whose symbols (including its flag, motto and national anthem) were inviolable. Villa-Lobos was the chair of a committee whose task was to define a definitive version of the Brazilian national anthem.
The quote is from the Wikipedia article on Villa-Lobos, this section of which is based on Simon Wright's 1992 Villa-Lobos. When I read the Glee Club story, though, it made me think about the famous National Anthem incident starring Canadian Robert Goulet (again thanks to Wikipedia):
On May 25, 1965, Goulet mangled the lyrics to the United States National Anthem at the opening of the Muhammad Ali-Sonny Liston heavyweight championship fight in Lewiston, Maine. Goulet had never sung the anthem in public before, and replaced the lyrics "dawn's early light" and "gave proof through the night" with "dawn's early night" and "gave proof through the fight." The gaffe was reported in newspapers nationwide the next morning, and Goulet was criticized in opinion columns for a lack of knowledge of the lyrics.
The best part of the story isn't included here. I remember hearing Goulet talk about how, at a nightclub gig soon after this incident, he began to sing "O Say Can You See..." as a joke. He assumed that everyone had heard what happened, and would treat it as a joke as well. When the crowd began to sing along, though, he had no choice but to continue as well, and mangled the words once again.

I love that story. Goulet, by the way, was born to French Canadian parents in Massachussets, but spent his formative years 600 km to the north (!) of Red Deer's Villa-Lobos Central Control, in Girouxville, Alberta.

But back to the Hino Nacional Brasileiro. The Orquestra Sinfonica do Estado do Sao Paulo and their conductor John Neschling have recorded a CD of the absolutely authentic versions of the National Anthem (in orchestral and choral versions), and other national songs:

01. Hino Nacional Brasileiro - versão instrumental
02. Hino Nacional Brasileiro - versão com coro
03. Hino da Independência
04. Hino da Bandeira Nacional
05. Hino da Proclamação da República

You can download the entire album for free, thanks to the Osesp website. While you're there, check out their many freely-available podcasts.

1 comment:

  1. You are an incentive ass. Mr Goulet missed only one word----