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Godspell's Beautiful City Inspirational Song

"Beautiful City" Sheet Music, Lyrics, Song History, Stories

including "Beautiful City" for the Broadway revival. Original music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

Hear "Beautiful City" Recordings

Godspell New Broadway Cast album that includes Beautiful CityThe Godspell New Broadway Cast album includes "Beautiful City" sung by Hunter Parrish AND a bonus track version sung by John Ondrasik of Five For Fighting.

Download - Mp3 files - Godspell New Broadway Cast OR buy the cast album CD here Godspell New Broadway Cast Album CD


Buy Godspell 2001 National Touring Cast "Beautiful City" affectionados will not want to miss the up-tempo version on this recording. The 2000/2001 national Godspell tour features some of orchestrations and arrangements you won't hear elsewhere, based on modern bands like Dave Matthews, Tori Amos, and others. For contemporary rhythms and fun, try this CD. Buy or hear audio clips from Godspell - 2001 National Touring Cast [new browser window].


Godspell 2000 with Beautiful CityThis Off Broadway Godspell Cast CD includes more of the script passages than other albums (e.g. dialogue in the middle of songs). The version of Beautiful City on this album includes the more current lyrics that Stephen Schwartz favors. Buy or hear audio clips from Godspell 2000 Cast Album .


The Godspell Movie Soundtrack includes "Beautiful City" but it's been changed since then. Buy Godspell: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack [new browser window] Original lyrics and music.


Laurie Beechman coverNo One Is Alone [new browser window]

Laurie Beechman's inspirational album includes a special, one of a kind version of "Beautiful City." All the songs on this CD are upbeat.

"Beautiful City" sheet music from Godspell by Stephen Schwartz

NEWER "Beautiful City" - Get "Beautiful City"- instant download by Stephen Schwartz. VERSION: Broadway Revival as sung by Hunter Parrish and the company of Godspell.

TRADITIONAL:"Beautiful City" - Downloadable sheet music - VERSION: traditional. Piano/Vocal/Chords, includes current lyrics.

Print versions: Find a large collection of Godspell sheet music here: Godspell music at Sheet Music Plus - [new browser window] (opens new browser window) including a print version of "Beautiful City" from the recent Broadway revival, as well as medleys for SAB, SATB that include "Beautiful City" from Godspell.

"Beautiful City" is also in the Stephen Schwartz Songbook scored in the way that Mr. Schwartz plays it in concerts.

For the 2001 orchestrations by Alex Lacamoire for use in productions, see Godspell 2001

 

Godspell "Beautiful City" - special uses

9/14/2001. After the September 11th attack on the Word Trade Center, someone asked Stephen Schwartz about using some of his songs (e.g. "Beautiful City" or "Someday") in memorial services or related uses. He posted his answer on his website at that time: "Of course you have my permission, as does anyone else who would like to use one of my songs in any way to comfort or benefit victims of the attacks. Let me use this posting to say the same to those who have contacted me about using 'Beautiful City' as well. I am honored that any of my work could possibly be of some use. Most sincerely, Stephen Schwartz"

Understanding "Beautiful City" and it's History

The following is Shawn McCarthy's article from the newsletter, The Schwartz Scene Copyright 2001 by MusicalSchwartz.com.

"We Can Build a Beautiful City"

What should our response be to the events of September 11th? Certainly justice needs to be realized but at the same time we need to continue fostering hope, love and community especially in the midst of catastrophe. The wonderful words of Stephen Schwartz's "Beautiful City" ring through loud and clear as they point us to the real possibility of collectively creating a better world.

When the film version of the Stephen Schwartz /John-Michael Tebelak off-Broadway smash hit GODSPELL opened in movie theatres across the country in 1973, fans of the stage musical would have been surprised by the numerous differences between the two.

Watching the film they would have quickly discovered that, unlike the stage show where the action played out in one location against the backdrop of a cyclone fence, the movie made spectacular use of various locals around New York City. Another distinction centred around Stephen's wonderfully infectious score which included some significant changes; new orchestrations and additional instrumentation, certain songs removed such as "Tower of Babble" "Learn Your Lessons Well" and "We Beseech Thee" and a new song written specifically for the film called "Beautiful City."

This song was written to replace the song "We Beseech Thee" as David Greene, the film's director, felt that the latter song was "too theatrical" to work effectively in the film.

"Beautiful City" is sung by Jesus played by Toronto GODSPELL cast member, Victor Garber, and his disciples toward the end of the film as they merrily skip and dance through the empty streets of New York. Joyfully they sing the sprightly music and unabashedly optimistic words:

"Come sing me sweet rejoicing/Come sing me love
We're not afraid of voicing/All the things we're dreaming of
Oh, high and low/and everywhere we go

Chorus: We can build/A beautiful city Yes we can/Yes we can We can build/A beautiful city Call it out/And call it the city of man"

In the years since it was written, Stephen has described the lyric as 'too sentimental'- amongst other choice words - but admits to liking the music. Hence in early 90's when a new L.A. production of GODSPELL was proposed, Stephen supplied a new lyric but the tune remained essentially intact. The lyric changes were influenced by the aftermath of the riots in L.A. and reflected a more thoughtful, practical approach to rebuilding community in contemporary society. The second verse begins:

"We may not reach the ending/But we can start
Slowly but truly mending/Brick by brick/Heart by heart
Now, maybe now/we start learning how.

Chorus: We can build/A beautiful city
Yes we can/Yes we can
We can build/A beautiful city
Not a city of angels/But finally a city of man"

Though the L.A. production never came into being, the song has found a life within the many productions of GODSPELL done around the world partially as the result of a studio cast recording completed in 1993.

(It's an optional song when licensing the show from Music Theatre International.) In August of that year a talented group of singer/actors based in London's West End assembled to record GODSPELL under the supervision of Stephen and producer John Yap. This recording was the first to include the new version of "Beautiful City" and was sung by Darren Day.

Along with the new lyric was a new arrangement that was exquisitely minimalist compared to the original movie version. Day's solo rendition was gentle and heartfelt bringing added poignancy to the song. The lyric was once again revised in the mid-nineties when the late, wonderfully talented Laurie Beechman recorded an album of "songs of hope and inspiration from Broadway" entitled "No One is Alone" found on the Varese Sarabande label. Because she wanted to repeat the bridge with new words, at the singer's request Stephen wrote an additional lyric:

"When they finally put the flame out/When your final tear's been split
You can stand there portioning the blame out/Or begin at last to build..."

Over the last eight years many productions of GODSPELL have had the interesting challenge of finding the 'perfect' placement for the song within the show, in addition to deciding who should sing it and how to stage it effectively. In one production I saw several years ago, Jesus sang it after the finale, looking out over the city street (the setting of the play) as he watched the disciples re-integrate into society at large.

In the 2000 off-Broadway production, the song was placed after "We Beseech Thee" and before "On the Willows". Sung by Barrett Foa, this version was truncated, leaving out the second verse entirely. The arrangement was again fairly sparse using mainly bass and synthesizer but also made use of the cast singing backup as heard on the recently released Fynsworth Alley recording.

The most recent recorded version, found on the DRG label, is performed by the highly gifted and energetic cast of the 2001 National Touring Company directed by Scott Schwartz. In this production the entire score has been re-orchestrated and arranged by Alex Lacamoire giving it a very 'hip' contemporary edge. Specific pop artists such as Tori Amos, Fiona Apple and the Dave Matthews band directly influenced many of Alex's choices in orchestrating the show. The later group specific influenced the arrangement of "Beautiful City" which is very upbeat, funky and at a relatively brisk tempo. It opens Act II and is sung by Joe Carney (Jesus),Michael Yuen (Judas/John the Baptist), and the company as they work together demonstrating that, as a group, they are evolving into a living community.

Throughout its various incarnations, the fundamental theme of "Beautiful City" has remained intact: society has within its power the ability to build a truly "civilized" community. It begins by making a choice.

"When your trust is all but shattered/When your faith is all but killed
You can give up bitter and battered/Or you can slowly start to build/A
beautiful city..."

Beautiful City Lyrics

OUT OF THE RUINS AND RUBBLE
OUT OF THE SMOKE
OUT OF OUR NIGHT OF STRUGGLE
CAN WE SEE A RAY OF HOPE?
ONE PALE THIN RAY REACHING FOR THE DAY

WE CAN BUILD A BEAUTIFUL CITY
YES, WE CAN; YES, WE CAN
WE CAN BUILD A BEAUTIFUL CITY
NOT A CITY OF ANGELS BUT WE CAN BUILD A CITY OF MAN

WE MAY NOT REACH THE ENDING
BUT WE CAN START
SLOWLY BUT TRULY MENDING
BRICK BY BRICK, HEART BY HEART
NOW, MAYBE NOW
WE START LEARNING HOW

WE CAN BUILD A BEAUTIFUL CITY
YES, WE CAN; YES, WE CAN
WE CAN BUILD A BEAUTIFUL CITY
NOT A CITY OF ANGELS
BUT WE CAN BUILD A CITY OF MAN

WHEN YOUR TRUST IS ALL BUT SHATTERED
WHEN YOUR FAITH IS ALL BUT KILLED
YOU CAN GIVE UP, BITTER AND BATTERED
OR YOU CAN SLOWLY START TO BUILD

A BEAUTIFUL CITY
YES, WE CAN; YES, WE CAN
WE CAN BUILD A BEAUTIFUL CITY
NOT A CITY OF ANGELS
BUT FINALLY A CITY OF MAN.

Godspell "Beautiful City" Stories

Write to carol@musicalschwartz.com if you have a story of your own to share.

"Beautiful City" in Bagdad

The following is true story by "Clark A" who allowed us to post it here on MusicalSchwartz.com. It was from his memory of moments about two months after Good Friday one year when he was in the military, recalling and sharing Stephen Schwartz's "Beautiful City" Godspell song.

Clark writes:

We were a Combat Support Hospital unit that was augmenting another CSH at the main hospital site in Baghdad (we'd captured Saddam's old hospital and took over operation of it in 2003).  Our job was to care for the wounded soldiers and Marines in our area of responsibility (AOR), which extended from The Syrian border in the west to the Iranian border to our east, as for north as Baquba and as far south as Karbala.

     I lived in a dorm-like building on the hospital campus, and had become friends with a few soldiers from the other unit who liked to go up to the roof of our "hootch" and hang out a few evenings a week.  We'd sit in lawn chairs, drink a little black market rum and coke (never enough to get drinkie, just enough to chill out a bit) and listen to music.  The rule was that everyone brought a few tunes to contribute, things we really enjoyed, not just background music.  The more obscure the better.  Our perch had a great view of southeastern Baghdad, which is actually a very pretty part of town (if you can look past the destruction), overlooking the helicopter landing pad to the west and the Tigris River to the east.  Sadr City, the infamous slum that Muqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army had roared out of on Good Friday that year, was just across the river and back a half mile.  We took mortar and rocket fire out of there daily, often at night while we were up on the roof, providing us with spectacular fireworks displays and a bit of excitement once in a while. 

     On the night I wanted to describe, it was a gorgeous mid-May evening, about 80 degrees and balmy, with a warm, gentle breeze out of the west and a million stars above us (maybe a million and three, it's hard to remember).  It was my turn to DJ, and I had just downloaded a long-missed treasure off the internet that I was eager to share with the crew.  We topped off our drinks, sat back to watch a helicopter full of wounded soldiers departing for Germany by way of Balad ( a town to our north with an airfield), and watched a flaming orange sun settle into the horizon as the sky turned a million shades of purple and blue.  It had been busy that day patient-wise, and we were all a little frayed around the edges and needing some mental healing.

     I queued up "Beautiful City" for them and sat back to watch their reactions.

     War does funny things to people immersed in it.  Sometimes it makes you bitter, or cynical, or angry.  Sometimes things that would normally make you smile, don't.  Things that you'd never worry about fill you with blinding rage.  Suffering that would make a statue cry don't phase you.  And sometimes, a sweet, silly song from a 30 year old musical makes you smile. 

     I'm sure when you were filming that song in NYC all those many years ago, none of you imagined that four scared and homesick soldiers caught up in the madness of a war in the desert would ever listen to it and feel better, if only for a few minutes, but it happened.  We all saw the city we were in, an ancient and yet modern city struggling to rebuild itself after the onslaught of the American war machine and decades of abuse and terror under Saddam Hussein, in a different way that evening.  We saw past the crumbled buildings, shell craters, and broken windows... and saw a beautiful city that we'd had all around us for so long but had never noticed before.  The white stucco walls, the orchids and roses and other dazzling flowers that nobody knew the names of, the tree-lined boulevards, the shadowed fronds of the date palms.  It was shocking how a song none of them had ever heard before had lifted a curtain from before their eyes, revealing a side of their existence that had been hidden. 

     After the song ended I sat quietly, waiting for their response.  Normally we were a pretty talkative bunch, telling stories that corresponded with our song choices... "I saw this song played live on a beach in Hawaii" or "I heard this one the first time I got laid", or whatever... but I kept quiet.  The Godspell story, as you well know, is not a brief tale, and I didn't want to monopolize the conversation.  So we sat silently, each looking into the distance, lost in thought, for a moment or two.  It was a moment I'll never forget, nor will they.  It was interrupted by a rocket that sailed right over our heads and forced us to flee the rooftop, but that was ok too.  We'd gotten our break, and that was all we could ask for.

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