Ezio Pinza was the first person to sing Some Enchanted Evening when South Pacific opened on Broadway in 1949. His granddaughter, Sarah Goodyear, recounts his extraordinary life story: from international opera singer, to political prisoner, then a star of musical theatre.
Perhaps best known for its 1958 film version, South Pacific famously starred Rossano Brazzi as Emile de Becque. However his singing voice was provided by opera star, Giorgio Tozzi. His son, Eric Tozzi, recalls hearing his father practice Some Enchanted Evening in their California beach-side home.
Canan Maxton runs the charity, Talent Unlimited, which supports student musicians. Some Enchanted Evening was the signature tune to her own love story, which inspired her to launch that organisation.
Alan Titchmarsh is best known as a TV gardener, but he has a surprisingly good voice. Some Enchanted Evening is a childhood favourite which reminds him of his parents, but he couldn't have foreseen the day when he would sing it live at the London Palladium for an ITV audience (credit to ITV All Star Musicals, produced by Multistory Media for the extract used).
Daniel Evans is the Artistic Director of Chichester Festival Theatre. He has recently staged a well-reviewed production of South Pacific; one which explores the racist theme Rodgers and Hammerstein originally sought to address in their Broadway production. He explains the role Some Enchanted Evening plays in the storyline of the show.
Julian Ovenden played Emile de Becque in the Chichester production (which, in 2022, will also be staged in Manchester and London before a national tour). He describes what it's like to perform this very famous and much anticipated song.
Produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by: Karen Gregor
Ain't No Mountain High Enough
Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell made Ain't No Mountain High Enough a hit for Motown in 1967. Diana Ross followed suit in 1970 as a solo artist with her version of the song.
It has a place in people's hearts with its anthemic themes of love, loyalty, triumph and perseverance. Cynthia Dagnal-Miron is a former rock critic. As an African American growing up in the 1960s she says the song gave black people a sense of comfort and of being loved. Kevin Patterson recalls meeting an elderly lady in a store in Philadelphia. When the song came on over the speaker both independently started singing along. They got talking and he learned she had been part of a movement to desegregate a local school in the 1960s and she had sung it then at a talent show. Kevin says it was a brush with history that gives him a new connection to the song.
John Harris also grew up hearing Ain't No Mountain High Enough . He says music and being part of a choir were what saved him when he sank into drug addiction and crime and ended up in front of Judge Elizabeth Martin who was presiding over 'Drug Court' an experimental programme to help offenders beat their habit and avoid going to jail. When he got clean Judge Martin invited him to sing at the Court's 25th anniversary celebration and the song he chose to sing with some of his choir was Ain't No Mountain High Enough. John feels a sense of gratitude towards it.
"No wind no rain no winters cold can stop me from getting to you" were the words Lesley Pearl sang to her birth mother as she lay gravely ill in hospital. Lesley had braved the incoming Hurricane Sandy to fly to Charleston to be with her. She and her mother shared a love of Motown and it brought them closer towards the end of her life.
The song still inspires hope and positivity. At the height of the pandemic in 2020 when New York was suffering huge numbers of Covid deaths and hospitalisations, nurse Kym Villamer sang it to staff and patients at the hospital where she works to remind them of the perseverance of the human spirit and the goodness of humanity.
The drama and anticipation the song evokes are described by Lauren Eldridge Stewart who is Assistant Professor of Music at Washington University in St Louis. She breaks down the various musical elements that make Ain't No Mountain High Enough such an enduring powerful uplifting anthem.
Take Me Home, Country Roads
"Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong"
Written by Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert with and for their friend John Denver, the song went on to be covered by Ray Charles, Toots and the Maytals, Olivia Newton John and many more. A song about the longing for home and the desire to be back with the people you love, 'Country Roads' has become one of the official state songs of West Virginia but it also speaks to people from around the world and across political divides. It's a song about togetherness, belonging, homesickness, the immigrant experience and the hold that the landscape of your 'home place' can have on you.
Featuring contributions from Bill Danoff, Sarah Morris, Jason Jeong, Ngozi Fulani, Lloyd Bradley and Alison Wells. And from Molly Sarlé, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig and Amelia Meath of the band Mountain Man.
Produced by Mair Bosworth for BBC Audio in Bristol
The Parting Glass
"So fill to me the parting glass...
Goodnight and joy be to you all."
A popular toast at the end of an evening or a heartfelt farewell to a departed or deceased person? The Parting Glass has become synonymous with leaving. It was written in Scotland and has criss crossed the Irish Sea becoming a popular song among Celtic peoples around the world.
Folk singer Karine Polwart talks of its fragile beauty as a song that can be a rousing drinking song at the end of the night but equally a poignant farewell at a funeral.
For Alaskan Fire Chief Benjamin Fleagle there was no more fitting song to honour his mentor and colleague at his Fire Department when he passed away over a decade ago. The song still brings out raw emotion in him.
Alissa McCulloch 'clung' to the song when she heard the Irish singer Hozier sing a version of it at the start of the pandemic in March 2020. At the time Alissa was seriously mentally unwell at home in Australia and was admitted to hospital where she listened to the song over and over finding comfort in its timeless beauty.
After Canada's worst mass shooting in its history Pete MacDonald and his sisters recorded an acapella version of the song as a musical tribute to those who lost their lives. It's a tradition in Novia Scotia to sing in the kitchen at parties, wakes and celebrations and they wanted to pay their respects to the dead.
The Irish singer Finbar Furey has performed the song with his band the Fureys and talks about its appeal not only in Scotland and Ireland but throughout the Scots-Irish diaspora.
"But since it falls unto my lot
That I should rise
And you should not
I'll gently rise and softly call
Goodnight and joy be to you all"
Producer for BBC Audio in Bristol: Maggie Ayre
The High Kings
We've Only Just Begun
The Carpenters - brother and sister duo Richard and Karen - were one of the most popular groups of the 1970s. His outstanding compositions and her stunning vocals created several massive hits including We've Only Just Begun. Originally written as a TV advert for a bank portraying happy young couples embarking on married life full of hope, they loved it and released it as their third single in 1970. Karen's wistful voice gave the song a melancholy that has long resonated with fans.
After her premature death from heart failure due to anorexia nervosa, the song took on an extra poignancy with lyrics like "so much of life ahead".
Fans tell their stories about the song and how it relates to their own life journeys.
For Professor Karen Tongson (named after the singer), We've Only Just Begun is about growing up in the Philippines where The Carpenters epitomised the American Dream. When she emigrated to the USA, the song became a metaphor for the immigrant experience.
Nomad and writer Jeff Read remembers his childhood in a poor part of Los Angeles brought up by a single mother who eventually died homeless on the street. The song brings back memories of childhood optimism and his longing for a stable family life.
Poet Abigail George recalls seeing a film about Karen Carpenter's life and identifying with the singer's struggles with an eating disorder as she herself had to cope with a difficult family life in South Africa.
Retired policeman John Weiss was reminded of the song when he attended the death of an elderly person at a care home. John looked at the deceased man's wedding photos and was struck by the brevity of life.
The singer Natasha Khan aka Bat For Lashes always loved The Carpenters and recorded her own version of We've Only Just Begun as part of an album where things don't end well for the young bride. Ironically, her version now features in a commercial for a British bank so the song has come full circle.
Randy Schmidt is the author of Little Girl Blue (The Life of Karen Carpenter).
Versions of the song featured are by
Grant Lee Buffalo
The Carpenters with the Philharmonic Orchestra
Producer for BBC Audio in Bristol: Maggie Ayre