‘Tis the season for holiday traditions and the timeless recordings that accompany them. Be it songs about Santa Claus, Frosty, sleigh rides, or winter wonderlands, the seasonal classics are an integral part of our holiday memories.
While originally composed for Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1959 musical, The Sound of Music, “My Favorite Things” has become a holiday classic in its own right. Julie Andrews actually performed the song on a special holiday episode of The Garry Moore Show in 1961 (four years before she played Maria in the film). The 1960s saw a surge of holiday albums from a wide array of artists that featured renditions of “My Favorite Things,” including Jack Jones, the Supremes, Barbra Streisand, John Coltrane, and others; and in more recent years, pop artists such as Kelly Clarkson, Leslie Odom Jr., and Pentatonix have continued to include “My Favorite Things” on holiday albums. Especially in 2020, many of us are currently cherishing those “brown paper packages tied up with strings” arriving at our doorsteps.
Some favorite materials in the Music Division’s special collections are Oscar Hammerstein’s lyric sheets, found in the Oscar Hammerstein II Collection. When working with Richard Rodgers, Hammerstein generally wrote the lyrics first; he then handed his words over to Rodgers, who set them to music. On sheets from his yellow legal pad, we can study Hammerstein’s brainstorm sessions, rhyming exercises, and overall creative process as he crafted the lyrics of songs that effortlessly roll off our tongues today.
In 2014, Michael Feinstein visited the Library of Congress to record discussions of revealing collection items from the Rodgers and Hammerstein Collections; one of the resulting videos focuses on Hammerstein’s lyric sheets for “My Favorite Things.” Watch Feinstein outline Hammerstein’s process, page-by-page.
And after you listen to Feinstein talk you through Hammerstein’s craft, take an extra few minutes to enjoy the video that Playbill.com shared last month in honor of the 61st anniversary of The Sound of Music opening on Broadway. The video animates Hammerstein’s process and shares scans of Hammerstein’s lyric sheets, with additional scans of lyric sheets for different songs from the musical.
On behalf of the Music Division, I wish our readers a Happy Holiday season, and hope that 2021 might bring some more of our “favorite things” back into our lives!