“Sunrise, Sunset”*

Image: (WikiArt): “‘Ceiling of Paris Opera House’ was created in 1964 by Marc Chagall in Naïve Art (Primitivism) style.”

Perry J. Greenbaum wrote on his blog on 1st January, 2011:

“Sunrise Sunset (1964), by Sheldon Harnick & Jerry Bock: from Fiddler on the Roof (1971), an American film musical (composer John Williams, singer Chaim Topol, violinist Isaac Stern).

This is one of the most famous and touching scenes from the 1971 film, Fiddler on the Roof — the marriage between Tzeitel and Motel under the bridal canopy, or chupa, in Hebrew. The film is based on the stage musical (Broadway opening on September 22, 1964) which itself is based on the stories (Tevye and Tevye and his Daughters) published by Yiddish-writer, Sholom Aleichem in 1894. Aleichem has been called the Russian Mark Twain for his use of irony and humour.

Although the film is set in pre-revolutionary czarist Russia of 1905, its appeal and significance transcends time. Its understanding of humanity, despite the focus on Jewish themes, traditions and travails, can easily become a universal one. This is because Fiddler on the Roof touches upon all the universal values and virtues that are important for all humanity, including the fight for freedom, equality, individual dignity and imagination. This becomes particularly poignant when under the yoke of oppression of a powerful and immoral State that fails to protect all of its inhabitants.

That being said, I wanted to begin the New Year on a positive note, and this musical clip from one of my favourite films is a fitting beginning for what we all hope will be a truly good year. This is not sentimental mush, but a view of life that carries with it dreams, hopes and happiness in the midst of struggles for survival that many, if not most of us, face daily.

And by survival I mean a survival with all the universal virtues noted above. Otherwise, it’s not truly life, but mere existence. But we continue on, not giving up, playing music, like a fiddler on the roof. As is noted in Wikipedia: “The musical’s title comes from the painting The Fiddler (1912) by Marc Chagall, one of many surreal paintings he created of Eastern European Jewish life, [which] often included a fiddler.”

And, like the fiddler playing on the roof, life is precarious, even dangerous, but he keeps on playing, just as we keep on marching forward out of necessity to do so, sometimes with joy mixed with tradition, despite the very precariousness of it all. No doubt, life is full of sunrises and sunsets, each new day a new beginning, full of hopes and dreams, limited only by our imagination.

Other songs popular in the movie, which touch on such themes as equality, freedom, happiness and individual dignity, and which have become classics, are: If I Were a Rich Man, Lechaim, Tradition, and Matchmaker.”

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