The behind-the-scenes "making of" documentary essay series about preparing songs for performance.
Come Fly with Me
-- (1957; Music by Jimmy Van Heusen, Words by Sammy Cahn)
From the script for “A Little Travelin' Music”:
Of course, there are many other travel-worthy destinations beyond the United States. Much like what we’ve shared with you tonight, Frank Sinatra recorded an album in 1958 that was designed as a musical trip around the world. The next year, the collection was nominated for Album of the Year at the inaugural Grammy Awards, with a title song written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy van Heusen at Sintra’s request.
Recap: The Sounds of Indiana barbershop chorus presented what we call ‘The Travel Show’ in 2018, following the same “standard documentary format” that had been so enthusiastically received for the previous year’s ‘The Indiana Show.’ As before, this concert format presents a mix of chorus and quartet songs set around a particular theme, interspersed with slides of short video clips each paired with a Ken Burns-style voice-over narration to introduce and sometimes close out each song. The song order for The Travel Show was determined roughly by the geography of each song. After a visit to the Hawaiian Islands last week, we now take off for exotic destinations around the globe.
As narrated above, in the same way that “A Little Travelin’ Music” was the Sounds of Indiana’s musical tour of the United States, Frank Sinatra’s 1958 album Come Fly with Me was designed as a musical trip around the world. Further, the title song served to set the tone for the rest of the collection just as Let’s Get Away From It All did for The Travel Show. And there are two other coincidences to note there, as well: 1) Let’s Get Away was another of the songs included on Sinatra’s album, and 2) “Let’s Get Away From It All” was considered as the title of our whole show before the Music Team settled on “A Little Travelin’ Music.”
Even though Come Fly refers to far-off worldwide locales, the song was an easy choice for inclusion in The Travel Show because the chorus was already highly familiar with the music: it had previously been included in both The Sinatra Show (2016) and The Indiana Show (2017), as well as one of our recent sets for district contest. (The connection to Indiana was that, in 1996, the song was recorded by The Four Freshman, a vocal quartet that had been founded at Butler University in Indianapolis almost fifty years earlier.)
With so many performances of the same piece in such a short time, the chorus had to progressively modify and update our interpretation of the music and lyrics to keep the song fresh for our audiences. For Sinatra, I feel like we focused on, understandably, replicating at least the style or tone of Frank’s own performance, and we carried over the same presentation to the contest stage. For Indiana, even though it wasn’t evident from the documentary-style script, we had more of an overarching storyline to the song order that focused our interpretation on the storyteller and addressee of the song: who is inviting whom to Come Fly with them, and why and how are they saying it? And then for Travel, we focused more on the act of air travel itself, with the tone of Come Fly effectively bookending the show with the same sentiment as the opening Let’s Get Away.
The song’s lyrical content is indicated by the title and repeated line: the speaker is trying to convince someone to fly away to some faraway place by describing what they could see and do together in these locations:
Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away (up and away).
If you can use some exotic booze, there’s a bar in far Bombay.
Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away (let’s get away).
Come fly with me, let’s float down to Peru.
In llama land, there’s a one-man band, and he’ll toot his flute for you.
Come fly with me, let’s take off in the blue (off in the blue).
Once I get you up there, where the air is rarified,
We’ll just glide, starry-eyed.
Once I get you up there, I’ll be holding you so near,
You may hear angel’s cheer, ’cause we’re together.
Weather-wise it’s such a lovely day (lovely day).
Just say the words and we’ll beat those birds down to Acapulco Bay.
It’s perfect for a flying honeymoon, they say.
Come fly with me, come on let’s fly away!
Come on, babe, let’s touch the sky.
Come on, baby, let’s fly!
Unlike Let’s Get Away, though, I don’t have as much of a mental movie going on in this song, specifically seeing in my head the narrator trying to convince his person to drop everything and go on vacation with him, and so I’m not embodying that character onstage. Rather, in our latest interpretation of the piece, and specifically as suits this show, I am the narrator, personally and directly trying to convince the audience to Come Fly with Me. I’m either at home reading from the travel brochure or already on the plane looking at SkyMall, imagining the possibilities of these various destinations. The song thus acts as an extension of the narrative style of the entire show, just like the documentary snippets explain the locations and what to do there, as brought to mind by the music of each place.
In rehearsals, we also talked about intensifying the song as it goes on. The increasing movement and energy throughout the song are meant to evoke sitting in a jet liner as it takes off. Aural and physical cues, subtle shifts in voice and body, change the “color” of the song through the different sections of the piece, speeding up, continually “raising the stakes,” as it were, raising off the ground, just like the plane, until, at the very end, we send the last note flying! … as our craft and overtones fade off into the clear blue sky.
And from there, exciting opportunities of the wider world await! On the other hand, vacations (and concerts) have to end at some point, so next week, we head Back Home. I’ll meet you there. ;)
January 20, 2019