The Exquisite Beauty of the Familiar

Deal W. Hudson
February 13, 2018

This morning I burst into song: “Oh, what a beautiful morning, oh, what a beautiful day.” My son, Cyprian, now twenty-one, he had not heard me do that in while, and half-smiled, half-frowned.

But as I sang the lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II and the melody of Richard Rodgers, I was struck by the perfection of their marriage. This is a song I’ve known by heart since I was in 6th grade when I would sing it aloud in the basement of our family home of Tarpon Lane in the development next to Mt. Vernon on the Potomac.  ‘

I enjoyed hearing my voice echo around the cinder-block walls and off the concrete floor of the unfinished part of our basement.

So these lyrics have laid quietly in my memory bank for nearly sixty years:

All the sounds of the earth are like music,
oh, the sounds of the earth are like music,
the breeze is so busy it don’t miss a tree,
An’ a ol’ weepin’ willer is laughin’ at me.’

The Rodgers & Hammerstein musical “Oklahoma” opened on Broadway in 1943, six years before I was born. The superb film version appeared in 1955 with Gordan MacRae and Shirley Jones. At age 21, it was Jones’ first film after a handful of TV appearances. She was radiant and pitch perfect. MacRae was a film veteran, his baritone voice had no equal in musical theater, and his masculine acting style won not only Laurey’s heart but also the heart of filmgoers.

At age 34, MacRae’s role as Curly McLain made him famous, but, sadly, he would squander his fame with alcohol after making an equally-good “Carousel” with Shirley Jones the following year.

Back to the music and lyrics of a song so very familiar to millions — “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning.” Keep in mind it was written by two native New Yorkers, who, as far as I can tell, never spent much time out on the “ranges” of Oklahoma or its equivalent. Here’s my favorite stanza:

All the cattle are standin’ like statues
All the cattle are standin’ like statues
They don’t turn their heads as they see me ride by
But a little brown mav’rick is winkin’ her eye

That last image is a delightful surprise and adroitly characterizes Curly as a confident ladies man in the opening scene of the musical. If the reader doesn’t remember how the film version begins, take another look below. The director Fred Zinnemann, who could evidently make great films in any genre (remember “A Man for All Seasons,” 1966), teams with cinematographer Robert Surtees to capture in glorious blue the big sky of the American West (shot in Amado, Arizona).

Listening again, I’m awestruck by MacRae’s baritone, his ability to soar even higher in the second refrain on the word “morning.” It comforts me that I can come back to works of art such as this for years to come, but it saddens me that so many of the generations following me have yet to discover its exquisite beauty.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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