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October 13, 2020

What We’re Listening To: Jill Barnes, Executive Director

Editors Note: I recommend listening to the soundtrack while you read.

I’ve been enjoying creating “themed” days for myself and my family. We’re having fun creating playlists for our themes like Motown, a lunch lady playlist, Hello Monday!, Billy Joel, Dolly Parton, and Sir Elton John. But the soundtrack that has been with me daily since January is the Broadway musical Hadestown.

Winner of eight Tony awards, Hadestown was composed by Anais Mitchell and tells the story of the ancient Greek tragic myth of Orpheus and Euridice, where Orpheus goes to the underworld to rescue his love Euridice. Infused with New Orleans jazz, folk, and pop, the story explores themes of isolationism, worker exploitation, poverty, and even climate change.

To be completely honest and summon my dramatic heart, I have felt some of the desperation and hopelessness that is woven throughout the musical.

“What I wanted was to fall asleep
To close my eyes and disappear.
Like a petal on a stream, a feather on the air” (from “Flowers”)

That said, I’m also drawn to the poetic beauty of the power of music and words that Orpheus holds:

“I sang a song so beautiful the stones wept and they let me in.
And I can sing us home again.” (from “Come Home With Me” (reprise) )

The love between the goddess of spring, Persephone, and the antagonist, Hades, is incredibly dynamic and moving. I love the idea of politics or big global issues (like a pandemic) put into the concept of changing seasons. Seasons change throughout the year, over and over again. There’s a time for everything. Good things happen and bad things happen, but then things change, and we continue living – even thriving, just like the spring and summer.

“It’s true the earth must die
But then the earth comes back to life
And the sun just goes on rising” (from “How Long”)

It teaches the importance of leadership and leading with love.

“Wait for me, I’m coming too
Show her the way so we can see
Show her the way the world could be
If you can do it, so can she
If she can do it, so can we
Show her the way so we believe
We will follow where you lead” (from “Wait for Me” (reprise) )

(I promise I’m not spoiling the ending… It’s a well-known Greek myth)

“It’s a sad song
It’s a sad tale
It’s a tragedy
……
But we sing it anyway
‘Cause here’s the thing
To know how it ends
And still begin to sing it again
As if it might turn out this time
He could make you see how the world could be
In spite of the way that it is
Can you see it? Can you hear it? Can you feel it?
It’s a love song
It’s a tale of a love from long again
It’s a sad song
We keep singing even so
It’s an old song
It’s an old tale from way back when
And we’re gonna sing it again and again” (from the song “Road to Hell” (reprise) but you have to earn your right to listen this one, after you have taken in the whole musical.)

For me, knowing that history does repeat itself, and humanity survives and finds a way to thrive, it all gives me hope and comfort.

Sometimes I wonder why I enjoy sad songs, and then I remember that there’s actually science that listening to sad songs can make us feel better!

It should be pretty clear that musicals have played an important role in my life and how I interpret the world around me. In a non-pandemic era, I stand by my belief that communal singing will save the world. It’s a big bold statement and I fully and truly believe it. I look forward to singing along with friends and strangers in the future.

Stay healthy and safe,
Jill

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