The Louis Schwebius Album Challenge


There’s nothing as stirring as a preacher who started out as a song and dance man, like my dear friend, the Rev. Louis Schwebius. Our friendship began in the theater, and though we followed very divergent paths, we’ll always share one thing: our love for the music of the stage.

That’s enough preamble.

Louis tagged me in a FaceBook challenge the other day:

“In no particular order, identify 10 all-time favorite albums that really made an impact and are still on your rotation list, even if only now and then. No need to explain. Nominate a person each day.”

You’re supposed to do this over the course of ten days, but I can’t concentrate on anything for that length of time. I also don’t want the responsibility of tagging people to share their favorites — if you read this, and you want to share your ten favorites, I’d love to hear what they are.



Now comes the hard part.

Ten albums, huh?


  1. The Sound of Music (50th Anniversary Edition) First and foremost, The Sound of Music. Before I was exposed to this, I was a normal, quiet, studious child, who longed to become a scientist. Immediately afterward, and for the rest of my days, I was a flibberty-gibbet theater nerd who longed to fill stages as big as the Alps. Do not play this around impressionable adolescents.
  2. Star! (1968 Film) Star! This ONE album, this miraculous album, introduced me to the music of Noel Coward, George Gershwin, Cole Porter and Kurt Weill, all sung by the incomparable Julie Andrews. Can it get any better? When I was pregnant, I played this constantly, hoping my kids would acquire great taste while they were in the womb. It seems to have worked.
  3. Puccini: La Boheme (Soundtrack Highlights)  La Boheme is always lovely, but when Netrebko and Villazon sing the first act together, it isn’t music… it’s sex.
  4. Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1979 Original Broadway Cast)Please do not ever dump me on a desert island without a copy of Sweeney Todd… in my estimation, the very best thing ever composed by the greatest composer of theatrical music  in the twentieth century, Stephen Sondheim. The power, the humor, the pathos, the sheer brilliance!
  5. Sondheim, Etc.: Bernadette Peters Live at Carnegie Hall I never expected this to become one of my “Go To” albums—Bernadette’s voice is an acquired taste—but I’ve played it and played it and played it for years. Nobody else does Sondheim as well—again, she captures both the humor and the heartbreak.
  6. Jacques Brel//Ne Me Quitte Pas Kill me now, will ya? There is no better album for the days when you want to wallow in misery than this, Ne Me Quitte Pas by Jacques Brel. You almost have to put on a black dress and some pearls before you start listening, but damn! “Laisse-moi devenir l’ombre de ton ombre, l’ombre de ta main,
    l’ombre de ton chien”… “Let me become the shadow of your shadow, the shadow of your hand, the shadow of your dog.” Needy, much? Hey—sometimes, we all are.
  7. La Strada: Songs from the Movies This is the album I listen to most often nowadays. Rolando Villazon has the most romantic voice there is or ever was, and when he sings the film classics on this album, I melt. The second track is “She,” which I always associate with Notting Hill; you’ll never hear anything lovelier in your life. I promise.
  8. Entre elle et lui: Tribute to Michel Legrand Forget the Natalie Dessay you know from the Met (although I don’t want to… she was terrific!). She is one red hot mama when she sings the music of Michel Legrand, who brilliantly accompanies her on this delicious album. Consummate actress that she is, Dessay takes you to the heart of each song, making you laugh, cry, and soar.
  9. Mad Scenes All right, DON’T forget the Dessay you saw at the Met… revel in this wonderful album, in which she sings some of opera’s greatest Mad Scenes, starting with my favorite, the one from Lucia Di Lammermoor. What she does with Ophelia’s aria from Hamlet is chilling, but then, nobody does cray-cray better than Dessay. By the way, she sings so high that dogs will follow you if you play this in the car; please be careful.
  10. Manhattan (1979 Film)This album has the best Rhapsody in Blue I’ve ever heard, conducted by Zubin Mehta. It’s all Gershwin and all wonderful, but if it had nothing but that one track on it, I’d still be happy.

I can’t believe how much music I love didn’t make the cut… Liza, Audra, Elaine Paige, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Queen, Angelica Maria, Montserrat Caballe, Placido, Rocky Horror, Sarita Montiel, and everything by Mozart should appear here, shouldn’t it?

This was really hard.

Wanna share yours?

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