Difficulty factor: near-total ignorance of Sondheim
June 16, 2010 5:32 PM   Subscribe

Help me avoid embarrassment. I have no training and couldn't tell you what my range is using, like, technical terms, but when singing I embarrass myself least with Amy Winehouse's song You Know I'm No Good. Taking that as my (only) data point, what song should I attempt at an evening of Sondheim?
posted by prefpara to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I like to do "Could I Leave You?" from Follies. It's fairly easy to learn by Sondheim standards, and I just really like it. It's quite high in the original version, but you might be able to sing it down an octave.

[Is this really karaoke, or some sort of piano bar scenario? If former, will they really have many Sondheim options?]
posted by sueinnyc at 5:38 PM on June 16, 2010

"Send in the Clowns" is a gift to altos and it's probably the best known Sondheim among those who aren't musical theater nerds... maybe for a night among musical theater nerds you'd want to go for something less obvious, but it's an easy (and fun, and DRAMATIC!) song to sing.
posted by moxiedoll at 6:19 PM on June 16, 2010

Amy Winehouse is a contralto. If you can match her vocal range (just in terms of high or low pitches), you might be an alto or contralto; and if your voice also has that kind of deep, chocolatey, rich, dark sound to it, then that vocal colour (see tessitura) is what would make you a contralto. Here are some other contralto pop singers.

As for Sondheim, check out Follies or Sweeney Todd for repertoire.
Carol Burnett has a pretty low voice and she does quite a bit of Sondheim, too- long video play list here.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 6:30 PM on June 16, 2010

Children Will Listen is another great Sondheim alto song. The same character in Into the Woods also sings The Last Midnight, which is more fun, but also quite a bit harder.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:32 PM on June 16, 2010

Ladies That Lunch from Company.
posted by bluestocking at 6:44 PM on June 16, 2010

If you can do sarcastica and funny, Ladies who Lunch is awesomefab.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 7:01 PM on June 16, 2010

If you want to do "Ladies Who Lunch," the version you should get familiar with is Elaine Stritch's. She originated the role, and it's become her signature tune. (No offense to Barbara Walsh in the clip bluestocking linked to...)

"Could I Leave You?" is a good choice - it's got some brilliant lyrics that are fun to chew the scenery with.

"I'm Still Here", also from Follies, is another good one - it builds up to being a bit of a loud belty number toward the end though.

Maybe "Not a Day Goes By" from Merrily We Roll Along.
posted by dnash at 9:44 AM on June 17, 2010

The Miller's Son from "A Little Night Music" might be good, though quick at times.
posted by zizzle at 11:09 AM on June 17, 2010

If you expand to songs where Sondheim was only the lyricist, but didn't write the music, then you also have 'West Side Story" and "Gypsy" to choose from... West Side Story is kinda short on good solo songs for a lower voiced woman, but from Gypsy you could probably make any of Mama Rose's numbers work: "Some People," "Everything's Coming Up Roses," "Rose's Turn."
posted by dnash at 4:53 PM on June 17, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions! It turned out the actual difficulty factor was extreme stage fright leading to fainting halfway through my song. On the plus side, it's definitely not limited to Sondheim songs and I'll go again in a few weeks with more preparation and, I hope, less everything-is-going-colors.
posted by prefpara at 7:45 AM on June 19, 2010 [1 favorite]

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