This blog post is a song request for my friend Phillip in Brisbane, Australia.
I was very fortunate (many moons ago now) to have seen the Australian production of Les Miserables starring the late Rob Guest as Jean Valjean. I was in desperate need of contact lenses then and I remember my friends laughing at me because I didn't have programme with me and I had said, "Gee, Jean sounds an awful lot like Rob Guest!" Um that's because it was Rob Guest.
I saw the production with my old high school jazz band. It was a reunion dinner of sorts. This particular musical was full of memories for us, as we also sang a female choral arrangement of On my own. I distinctly remember the sopranos would fight over who would get to sing Epponine's solo when the main soprano soloist wasn't at choir rehearsal at any particular occasion.
There was a time when men were kind
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting
There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
There was a time
Then it all went wrong
When Fantine begins the song with this opening verse, she paints a picture of innocence lost and how the softness of inviting words and blinded love signalled the beginning of the end.
I dreamed a dream in time gone by
When hope was high and life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted
Life was full of good times and dreams that seemed to take on a life of their own.
Life always seems to make you happy when you are young, carefree and have no responsibilities to think about in the world. This song is such a tragic expression of one's faith in life lost, faith in God lost - because you can't fathom why the life that you dreamed could just as easily be taken away from you, snatched from your grasp without warning and without any clue to the desolation that you would end up with.
But the tigers come at night
With the voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
As they turn your dreams to shame
The soft voices reappear again but they cause destruction and wreak havoc, completely devastating the once pure dreams you had. The complete emptiness signals that life mocked your dreams and never intended you to remain with that naive sense of happiness that deluded innocents feel, because you had not really lived life until you are the at the bottom of the life you dreamed - of love, happiness and laughter.
He slept a summer by my side
He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came
And still I dream he'll come to me
That we will live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather
The seasons are pivotal in this part of the song as Fantine remembers the love and life shared with him. Sometimes in life you will only get to live the kind of happiness of fairytales for a fleeting moment, in this case, for a fleeting season. Remember that self-discovery and awareness that you shared with him, it's that kind of life, love and dreams that only comes with someone that you shared with completely - where you shut the world out if only for that fleeting season.
I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I'm living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed
The most crushing part of the song is signalled here at the end and it is almost a sign of things to come when Fantine dies alone and leaves the story in a poignant way, as even though her death signals the end of her life, it also signals her departure from the hell that her life had become.
I hope that if you have had some hellish moments like Fantine, that they will soon come to pass.
Don't ever let hell become the life that you live nor let it kill the dream that you dream.