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Julie Andrews Celebrates The Sound Of Poetry

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Julie Andrews Celebrates The Sound Of Poetry


Julie Andrews Celebrates The Sound Of Poetry

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Fans of Julie Andrews can hear her voice once more. That almost perfect singing voice was damaged in surgery, yet her talent for music shines through on a CD that accompanies a new collection of children's poetry.

Ms. JULIE ANDREWS (Actor): Quinquereme of Nineveh, from distant Ophir, rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine, with a cargo of ivory and apes and peacocks, sandalwood, cedar wood and sweet white wine.

INSKEEP: Julie Andrews put together this collection of poems, songs and lullabies with her daughter, Emma Walton Hamilton.

And as Andrews told NPR's Lynn Neary, poetry has long played an important role in her family.

LYNN NEARY: When Julie Andrews and her daughter started to think about which poems to include in this collection, a couple of obvious ones came to mind: "Sea Fever" and "Cargoes," by John Masefield, because they were among the first poems Andrews had memorized as a child. And then there was�

Ms. ANDREWS: A.A. Milne's �The King's Breakfast,� which is that charming poem -the king asked the queen and the queen asked the dairymaid: Could we have some butter for the royal slice of bread? And, of course, it's a wonderful poem to read to children. That had to be in the book. And so it was joint favorites, personal favorites. Of course, once we started looking, we discovered 100 new favorites. This one is a favorite from both of our childhoods. So we're going to read it together. And it's called �The King's Breakfast� by A.A. Milne. I'll start.

The king asked the queen, and the queen asked the dairymaid: Could we have some butter for the royal slice of bread? The queen asked the dairymaid, the dairymaid said, certainly, I'll go and tell the cow now before she goes to bed. The dairymaid, she curtsied, and went and told the alderney: Don't forget the butter for the royal slice of bread.

NEARY: Andrews and Walton Hamilton even included a few of their own poems, as well as some by Andrews' father and grandfather. Andrews says poetry has always been a family affair. Her own parents were divorced, but when she visited her dad, he would always read poetry to her.

Ms. ANDREWS: He actually loved to commit poems to memory, because he felt that on a walk, if he needed to talk to himself or never be lonely or flex his brain, he could recite a poem. And he had many committed to memory.

NEARY: And your father's favorite poem is "Loveliest of Trees," which, of course, is included in this book. Do you have it memorized, by any chance?

Ms. ANDREWS: Not all of it, but you can prompt me. Lovely - it's by A.E. Housman.

NEARY: Right.

Ms. ANDREWS: And it is one of my favorites, too. Loveliest of trees, the cherry now, is hung with bloom along the bough, and goes about the woodland ride, wearing white for Eastertide. And here's where I get a little lost - anyway, eventually, it ends up by saying, about the woodlands I will go, to see the cherry hung with snow.

NEARY: The collection also includes the lyrics of songwriters like Johnny Mercer, Stephen Sondheim and Rodgers and Hammerstein.

Ms. ANDREWS: For me, whenever I choose a song to sing, it's about the lyric first. You'd think, of course, it's about the melody, that's a given. But really, I'm no good at singing a song unless it has a good lyric. I mean, �My Favorite Things� from �The Sound of Music� is really a poem.

(Soundbite of movie, �The Sound of Music�)

(Soundbite of song, �My Favorite Things�)

Ms. ANDREWS: (Singing) Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favorite things.

Then there's a glorious lyric by Ira Gershwin to a song called �My Ship.� And that is really - I think it's almost one of my favorite songs, but it is because the words are so beautiful.

(Singing) My ship has sails that are made of silk. The decks are trimmed with gold.

NEARY: The loss of her singing voice more than 10 years ago was devastating for Andrews, but since then, she's become famous with a whole new generation, taking on parts in films like �The Princess Diaries� and �Shrek� 2 and 3. And while nothing will ever replace her singing, Andrews says reading poetry out loud comes close.

Ms. ANDREWS: It certainly gives me a satisfaction, and to bring my own take to the reading of each poem is great fun. But yeah, I do hear the music, and there's rhythms and movement and words that are important. It's great fun to read them.

NEARY: Andrews hopes this collection of favorite poems, family poems and memorable lyrics will lead others to discover the joy of reading aloud to children. Poetry may seem intimidating, she says, but mostly it's way to connect with the people you love.

Lynn Neary, NPR News, Washington.

INSKEEP: And you can hear Julie Andrews read some of her favorite poems on our Web site:

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