Monday, June 28, 2010

Feed The Birds (Tuppence A Bag) from Mary Poppins

When I was a kid about in second or third grade I used to listen to audio-cassettes as I would go to bed and my favorite one to listen to was the soundtrack to Mary Poppins. Like many other things I encountered as a child I fixated on the music but the difference between Mary Poppins and other things I got into when I was a child, I’m still obsessed with Mary Poppins.

The pinnacle of Walt Disney’s creative ambitions, Mary Poppins still holds up today as one of the most finely crafted musical and films for that matter ever created. Dick Van Dyke’s often-criticized cockeyed accent can’t take away form his irresistible charm and virtuosic performance as Bart.

Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber’s heartwarming performance as Jane and Michael Banks reminds us how good children actors can be.

And of course there’s Mary Poppins herself played by the “practically perfect in every way” Julie Andrews.

Mary Poppins came out one year before The Sound Of Music in 1964. Nominated for consecutive Academy Awards for both of these films, Andrews won for Mary Poppins (as well as Golden Globes for both of these roles). Let’s pause for a second, isn’t it just a little mind-blowing that Julie Andrews stared in two of the greatest films of all time in consecutive years?

Andrew’s Mary Poppins is dark and a little creepy with just as much charm as Maria from Sound Of Music. Manipulative, crazy and enigmatic Mary Poppins is one of the most enduring characters in film.

While the soul of The Sound of Music is “Edelweiss” (which I discussed in this earlier post), the soul of Mary Poppins is “Feed the Birds (Tuppence A Bag).” Representing the antitheses of Mr. Bank’s capitalistic motivation, the story of the old lady who feeds birds is one of giving and warmth. This is exactly what Jane and Michael so eagerly want from their father, which is why the children so badly want to feed the birds.

The verses are mysterious in their harmony, while the instrumentation paints a dark and uncertain picture of a foggy London street. A lilting waltz begins when Mary quotes the old lady before the verse comes to a rest.

I don’t know what it is about the way that Julie Andrews sings “feed the birds,” but it’s truly magical. Her singing warms your soul like a hot chocolate on a snowy day.  Maybe it’s the fact that what she is saying is a plea for all of us to just slow down our hectic lives and care for someone else.

Whatever it is, every time that first chorus starts I get chills. There is something so intimate, so immediate about this song. While "Feed The Birds" masterful musical arrangements and performance with subtle and nuanced meaning in the words, none of this gets in the way of the simple joy of knowing and loving this song as a child. 

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