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SONG ANATOMY: preparing the role (MT, OPERETTA, OPERA)

Studio: Kristen Hedberg

Due via email to: No hard copies.

*Song/AriaTitle He Plays the Violin *Character Martha Jefferson

*Composer Sherman Edwards *Work 1776

*Premiere March 16th, 1969 *Librettist/Book Writer Peter Stone/Sherman Edwards

1. Give a brief summary of the plot.

1776 is about a summer in Philadelphia, and the Continental Congress is a tired and angry group of men
trying to figure out the independence from Great Britain. The story follows John Adams of Massachusetts,
Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania, and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia as they try to convince the members
of congress to vote for independence.

2. On what is the work based? A play, novel, historical figure?

The story is based on the events surrounding the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

3. Explain the origin or the story, noting the differences and similarities between it and the musical/opera.
The musical dramatizes the efforts of John Adams to try and bring everyone together to vote for American
independence. The musical is also a comedy, which I highly doubt happened during the actual signing of the

4. Give a brief description of the composers historical background.

Sherman Edwards was born on April 3rd, 1919 in New York City, New York. He studied history at New
York University, and after taught American history at James Monroe High School. He also liked to perform as an
actor and played piano with artists of pop and jazz. He wrote songs including Broken Hearted Melody and See
you in September. Edwards decided to combine all of his interests into one, and that became the musical 1776. He
composed the music as well as writing the lyrics. For the final draft he collaborated with Peter Stone. The show
was a success and won a Tony Award as Best Musical.

5. Describe the composers style. What does that require of the singer? How does that relate to you?
The composers style is very growing. It starts out soft but gradually becomes a grand number. With many
instruments and dancing and singing. It requires the singer to be active and have their voice in one place, even
though its a wide range. He Plays the Violin is a soprano song but it needs to be strong, and I need to work on a
strong soprano sound.

6. How does the accompaniment/orchestra relate to the vocal line?

The accompaniment is very quick and moving throughout the entire song, while the vocal part is flowing
and slower.

7. Describe the character. Give a complete description including age, personality, occupation, nationality, marital
status, education level, economic and social status, condition of health, relationship to other characters and basic
physical traits.
Martha Jefferson is Thomas Jeffersons wife. She is young, blonde, and beautiful. Martha is kind and
generous. Unlike her husband, she loves to talk and is very social. She loves her husband very much, especially
when he plays the violin.

8. Discuss the characters perceived posture. Relate it to your own.

She stands up very straight, because of her corset, and walks with dignity. I stand up straight when I play
Regan in King Lear because my dress was so tight, I can remember that feeling.
How does your character fidget?
When she gets shy, Martha holds her hands together in front of her, or tucks her hair behind her ear.

9. What journey does the character take in the story? How different is he/she at the end of the story as compared to
the beginning?
She is only in one scene so she doesnt change from the beginning to the end.
10. Describe the location of the story in general.
The location of the story is Philadelphia in 1776. Its summer.

11. Research and describe the social customs of the place and time in which the musical/opera the story - is set.
Assume you are in a traditional production.
40% of Americans were small or medium sized independent farmers who supported themselves with their
crops. It also took 40,000 dollars for a family to feel secure. However, carpenters only made about 5,000 dollars a
year, and teachers even less than that. Lawyers made 3,000 dollars a year. The ultimate sign of wealth was a coach
drawn by horses. A woman in 1776 had no opportunity to be independent, and life expectancy was 54 years for men
and 56 years for women.

12. List famous authors/poets and visual artists from the time period in which the work was composed. What
conclusions can you draw about other art forms being created when this work is created? Are there any similarities?
Maya Angelou, Mario Puzo, Robert Frost were some of the famous authors during 1969. Honestly, I dont
see any similarities between authors, and this is the first time doing rep sheets that I havent found a similarity.

13. What was happening in history when the work the composer was writing this work? Wars, philosophical
movements, religious movements, etc (What is really happening in the world outside the walls in which the
COMPOSER lives and works?)
Richard Nixon is inaugurated 37th President of the US.
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon.
Nixon bombs North Vietnam

14. Answer the same question again and relate it to the time period in which the piece is set if it is different from the
time period of the composer. (What is really happening in the world outside the walls in which the CHARACTER
lives and works? How might this affect your characters responses to environment, other people, pressures,
conflicts, etc?
Common Sense Pamphlet by Thomas Paine was published advocating American Independence.
Americans shell British troops in Boston
The American War of Independence.
Rhode Island declares independence from Britain
United States Declaration of Independence on June 11th

15. Describe the situation of the character in each scene. (You will need to understand the entire story to accurately
answer this question.)

Act 1 Scene 4: Martha enters because Adams has sent for her. She hasnt seen her husband in so long. Franklin and
Adams ask how she loves a man so silent as Jefferson, and she says she loves him because of his musical talent.
16. What is the characters main goal/purpose/objective in each scene? In other words, what does the character
want? Take some time to think about this one. Does the character get what he/she wants? What new objective is
created for the scene following?

Act 1 Scene 4: Martha just wants to see her husband. She hasnt seen him in so long and misses him! She does get
what she wants, thanks to Adams.

17. If you were the director of this production, what would you say in your program notes that would entice your
audience excite your audience that might take away intimidation, boredom, or any barrier that audience members
feel when they are in newer territory? This is important for the future of our art form, and for competing with the
shortened attention spans of todays audience members and their addictions to TV and phone screens, rather than
live theatre.
If you dont have money for tickets to see Hamilton, 1776 is your next choice. 1776 is a musical about
how America came to be, and what struggles men had to make our lives free.

*Write out all all lines of your song, leaving an extra line under each printed line. Underneath each printed line,
write the subtext. What is the character really saying? For example, someone saying Your hair looks good today
could mean a variety of things: You look like you need a compliment. Wow, what a copycat. I wish I had the
nerve to ask you out. Your hairdo is really a hair dont.

Line 1 Original Text

Line 2 Subtext: What the character really means

Oh, he never speaks his passions

He never talks about what he loves
He never speaks his views
He never tells his opinions
Whereas other men speak volumes
Other men are obnoxious
The man I love is mute
But the man I love is quiet

In truth, I can't recall

To be honest I dont remember
Being wooed with words at all
Being persuaded by any talk
Even now
Even now

He plays the violin

He plays the violin
He tucks it right under his chin
He tucks it right under his chin
And he bows, oh he bows
And he bows, oh he bows
For he knows, yes he knows
For he knows, yes he knows

That it's heigh, heigh, heigh, diddle diddle

That its heigh, heigh, heigh, diddle diddle
Twixt my heart, Tom and his fiddle
Makes my heart beat fast, Tom and his fiddle
My strings are unstrung
He makes me melt

Heigh heigh heigh, heigh

Heigh heigh heigh heigh
I am undone
His violin makes me melt

I hear his violin

I hear his violin
And I get that feeling within
And my heart starts beating fast
And I sigh, oh I sigh
And I sigh, oh I sigh
He draws near, very near
He gets close, very close

And it's heigh, heigh, heigh, diddle diddle

And its heigh heigh heigh, diddle diddle,
And goodbye to the fiddle
And hes playing something else now
My strings are unstrung
My laces are undone

Heigh, heigh, heigh, heigh

Heigh heigh heigh heigh
I'm always undone
Im always undone

Heigh, heigh, heigh, heigh


When heaven calls to me

I see a bright light
Sing me sad elegy
Say a prayer for the dead
Say I died
Say I died
Loving bride
Loving bride
Loving wife
Loving wife
Loving life
loving life

For it was heigh, heigh, heigh diddle diddle

For it was heigh heigh heigh diddle diddle
Twixt my heart, Tom and his fiddle
Twixt my heart, tom and his fiddle
And ever 'twill be
as it will always be

Heigh, heigh, heigh, heigh

Through eternity

He plays the violin

He plays the violin
He plays the violin

(Note that if the song is in a foreign language, you will have three lines for this exercise. The first line will be the
original text; the second the translation of the text; and the third line being the subtext or deeper meaning of the

Be sure to consult the Tips for Doing Research form for scholarly web sources. Notice that wikipedia is not
one of them.

At the end of each song anatomy, list the sources from which you found your information. I may go back to
them and check for accuracy. Be sure to write information in your own words and use your own thoughts.
What you think matters. I am interested in those thoughts, assuming they are in harmony with the factual
reality of the work.

This research is crucial to understanding and building character. Find your authentic version of this
character while staying respectful to the writers truths and clues.