Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Childhood Fondness for Rodgers and Hammerstein and Libraries Inspired BPL Storyteller

by Lynn Carpenter, Five Points West Regional Branch Library

Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution
Todd S. Purdum

It seems as if I’ve always known that Rodgers and Hammerstein were great Broadway musical showmen—I’m not sure how I knew. I learned their songs “Do-Re-Me,” “O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A!,” “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” “Edelweiss,” “Climb Every Mountain,” and “It Might as Well Be Spring” in third grade. I saw The Sound of Music on my eighth birthday but I didn’t know it was by Rodgers and Hammerstein. My love of music and musicals was rivaled only by my love of books and I quickly found the play collections in my school library.

To get into the school building on a cold morning, you could go to the library. With my new love of books in fourth grade, I would check out a book in the morning, read it during the day, check it in at the end of the day, and check one out to read at home that night. Pretty soon I was checking out books to fellow students, shelving books, and reading shelves.

By the time I hit junior high, the custodian would open the library when I arrived and I would begin the morning operations for the library. This continued through the first half of my sophomore year in high school. We moved, and the new school did not want my help in the library, so I went back to my first love: music and theatre.

In college, I received my bachelor of fine arts degree in theatre and went to New York where I worked at an acting school for children. At last, I had the opportunity to direct some of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s wonderful shows—Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music, and The King and I. The school didn’t have a costumer, and soon I assumed those duties.

With the intent to save some money to go back to school and pursue a master’s degree in costume design, I returned to Alabama. After several jobs, I began working as a storyteller for the Birmingham Public Library. Storytelling satisfied my yearning to perform. My library skills learned as a child came back to me and I felt at home. With the encouragement from the associate director, my coordinator, and my supervisor, I applied to graduate school and became a professional librarian.

National Public Radio had an interview with Todd S. Purdum, author of Something Wonderful: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway Revolution. I had to read it. The way these two men changed the face of Broadway forever is just as amazing as the impact of Hamilton today. I had read With a Song in My Heart, Richard Rodgers’ autobiography years ago, but it did not go into the health problems (battles with cancer and alcoholism) that these gifted men fought to bring the world such beautiful and moving stories that deal with subjects that are still relevant today.

The library staff is participating in Summer Learning on Beanstack in our own category to not compete with the public. Last week, I was the staff winner! I have the Beanstack app on my phone and I use the Beanstack link on the website. I like the phone app because I can set it when I start reading and stop it when I’m done and my time is automatically uploaded to the website app. That way, I don’t have to keep track of the time I spend reading. I can also scan the book’s ISBN to enter the titles I have read.

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