An evening pause: This clip includes the scene that leads up to the song, and helps explain its dramatic context.
To be honest, this has never been one of my favorite Rodgers & Hammerstein songs. The musical, South Pacific, is magnificent, and has been featured before as an evening pause, but this song to me always seemed a bit preachy. It was written in the 1950s, however, and thus for its time was, as was the musical, important components of the civil rights movement that ended the bigoted discrimination against blacks in the United States.
I should add that as a child who loved this musical when I first heard and saw it in the early 1960s, I never understood what Nellie’s problem was. Why did it matter that the kids’ mother had been Polynesian?
An evening pause: From the 1955 movie, Oklahoma. This Broadway musical is one of the best examples of the fundamental differences between American culture and what preceded it. In the past, all music, drama, fiction, etc, revolved around telling the stories of the powerful, the nobility, the rulers, and the great. In the United States, “of the people, for the people, by the people,” literature, art, drama, and music has focused instead mostly on the lives and concerns of ordinary people. In this musical, for example, the story is about how two ordinary cowpokes decide to give up their roaming ways to settle down and become farmers, all for love. And in doing so, Rogers and Hammerstein end up also telling the story of the American west as it transitioned from the wild west of gold rush boom towns and cattle drive cowboys into a settled society of cities and families.
An evening pause: From The Sound of Music (1965). The context: The Nazis have taken over Austria, and plan to arrest Captain Georg Ludwig von Trapp and his family at the end of this concert. This lovely song, Edelweiss, is initially sung by von Trapp as a farewell to his nation. As the song unfolds, however, it becomes instead a song of defiance against the Nazis, by the von Trapps and the audience.