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Thread: The Voice of Tolerance (The Story of The House I Live In)

  1. #1

    The Voice of Tolerance (The Story of The House I Live In)

    Hi Sinatra Friends,

    a short preliminary note regarding this article:

    The following is the English translation of a piece I originally wrote in German language this past summer. A first abbreviated version was intended for the German Sinatra Discussion Forum where I coordinate the weekly presentations for our „Song Of The Week“ discussions, while the full article appears in print in the latest magazine edition (#19, November 2005) of the German Sinatra Society’s quarterly journal „The Voice“.

    The article (chapters I to VIII) is followed by a discographical appendix (chapter IX) at the end which provides the details for those Sinatra performances that are mentioned in the article (as far as they were officially broadcast and/or recorded), which might help you to locate and listen to certain performances you might be interested in.

    I would like to dedicate this article, respectfully, to Francis Albert Sinatra (1915-1998) on the occasion of his upcoming 90th birthday.
    Thank you, Mr Sinatra, for making a difference.



    Frank Sinatra And The Story Of „The House I Live In“
    by Bernhard Vogel


    The view of the statue of „Lady Liberty“ fronting the skyline of New York City possibly is one of the most popular, and most often photographed, images of America, while Lady Liberty herself probably is the most widely known symbol for what is called the American Dream – which makes Liberty Island a main attraction for visitors from around the globe, and also, the perfect place for patriotic celebrations. The statue had been a present to the U.S. by the republic of France, inaugurated in October 1886.

    On a warm summer’s evening on July 3, 1986, on Governors Island vis-a-vis the scenery, New York witnessed one of the most glamorous patriotic affairs in recent history. On the eve of Independence Day, following several years of restauration work on the statue, Lady Liberty was officially presented to the public again, just in time for her centennary. Millions of people on the TV screens across the globe watched the open-air gala show that was attended by numerous national and international proms from politics and showbusiness, including US President Ronald Reagan and his wife, while the statue itself was spectacularly illuminated by hundreds of coloured lights.

    Way on during a programme perfectly staged the way only Hollywood can do, following a short introduction by Elizabeth Taylor, there was a man entering the stage whom the German TV commentator Dieter Kronzucker fittingly described as „im Laufe der Jahrzehnte ist er selbst ein Stück Amerika geworden“, „throughout the years, he has become a part of America himself“. Indeed, that man had long become a legend at the time, and for him, this moment must have meant closing circles as well. Being the son of Italian immigrants, he had grown up in Hoboken/New Jersey across Hudson River, from where the silhouette of the statue was a daily focus for many a dream about making it there, for a better future...
    Now he was standing there, in front of the world and his president, at age 70, grey-haired, dressed neatly in a summer suit, shirt and tie.

    Francis Albert Sinatra made a short speech, then put away his glasses and went for a song. The song he had chosen for the occasion was „The House I Live In“, probably the most heartfelt patriotic thing from his repertoire. It was the title song of a short movie for which he had won his first Oscar four decades earlier. And sixty years ago, in summer 1945, that song’s first line had first been heard in public by The Voice: „What Is America To Me?“

    And that in a sort is a question that can be partly traced through the history of the song, and the history of Sinatra performing it.
    What was America to him?
    So let’s travel back in time a bit, to follow some mosaic pieces from along the trail.
    Last edited by bvo35; 11-05-2005 at 09:06 AM.

  2. #2

    Article part 2 of 9


    On October 5, 1942, Longacre Theatre on Broadway saw the the premiere of a small musical revue entitled „Let Freedom Sing“. It was a very ambitious undertaking, staged by a joint venture of very young artists, singers and dancers mostly in their teens and twens, who called themselves „The Youth Theatre Project“. Through their offensively patriotic musical, they tried to combine Broadway traditions to sociocritical themes, with a plot tackling topics of urban poverty caused by progessive industrialism and its harsh effects on the daily life of many, and of course, also racial segregation and discrimation as it was common in American society at the time. Needless to say, the world, and especially New York, wasn’t ready (yet) for such things – the reviews by the local critics were disastrous, and the show was cancelled after but 8 nights. Yet, that „bunch of kids“ within their show had inaugurated a song that would travel around the globe. It was called „The House I Live In (What’s America To Me)“

    The song’s composer was Earl Hawley Robinson (1910-1991). Born in Seattle, he had studied music (violin, viola and piano) at Washington University and come to New York City around 1934, where he joined „Workers Laboratory Theatre“, an independent theatre group, and also took further lessons from Aaron Copland (1900-1990), one of the most prolific American composers of the time (whom Frank Sinatra later placed in the same league as George Gershwin, naming him one of his personal heroes), who played an important part in further shaping the composing skills of Robinson. (Robinson in 1946 would accompany Sinatra on a voice-guitar duet of „The House I Live In“ – more about that later).

    Another important acquaintance for Robinson was Hanns Eisler (1898-1962), a German from Leipzig who had been forced to emigrate, being a member of the German communist party, after Hitler and the Nazis came to power in 1933. Eisler, one of Germany’s most prolific writers and composers of „working class songs“, inspired many of Robinson’s subsequent own compositions, including the famous „Ballad For Americans“ in 1939, that most ironically became the official theme song for both the Republican and the Communist party in the 1940 elections.

    The latter made Robinson, like even people like Copland and (too many) others, subject to FBI investigations during the notorious McCarthy witchhunts in the late 40s. In spite of having been awarded an Oscar (along with FS) for „The House I Live In“, he was officially banned from working for almost two decades – it took until the mid-60s that he was allowed to work again and gather praise and due rewards for his professional work. Robinson stayed active as both musician and composer right to the very end, which came in 1991 by a fatal car accident.

    The lyrics for „The House I Live In“, that contained very outspoken lines in favour of both racial and religious tolerance, basing them on what today is regarded as (but wasn’t at all back then) the democratic foundation of American Society and Western civilisation, had been written for the Youth Theatre Project by Lewis Allan (1903-1986). Allan, whose real name was Abel Meeropol, had enjoyed a broad education of highest order at Harvard University, and soon worked in a variety of fields, teaching English literature as well as writing texts, scripts and lyrics for theatre, radio and opera (in the latter field, he did a stand-out script for an English opera adaption of the famous German piece „Good Soldier Soldier Schwejk“).
    His strong opposition towards the racial discrimination pre-dominant in conservative-white America soon paired him with Robinson when he came to New York in the 30s, and equally made him subject of McCarthyism in later years. But like Robinson, his reputation was more or less restored after the 60s. Allan also made the headlines when adopting the two children of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg after the couple was executed for being communist spies.
    His probably most famous song lyrics remain „Strange Fruit“, a song that in 1939 took a strong stand against racism and was masterfully recorded by a young Billie Holiday. (The fascinating story of that recording, which would be too much to be mentioned here, was turned into a superb docu movie in 2002, check and

    A third person involved with the origins of „The House I Live In“, however, is unfortunately almost always forgotten today – it’s the young singer who first introduced the song during that one week when „Let Freedom Sing“ was playing on Broadway: Mordecai Bauman (*1912), who is still living in New York City (at the time of research, June 2005 – BV.)
    Bauman was classically trained as a vocalist and when starting out on various NYC stages in the 30s, he soon met with Robinson and Eisler. Especially Eisler became a close companion; the two of them produced a complete suite of songs about the Spanish Civil War that Bauman would intonate during their extended international concert tours of the late 30s and early 40s. Bauman also played an important part of introducing Marc Blitzstein’s first lyrics of German classics such as Bertold Brecht’s „Threepenny Opera“ to American audiences.

    When the quasi-fascist hunt for „communists“ forced Eisler into emigration (for him it was the second time to be expelled from a country – first Hitler in 1933 from Germany, then McCarthy & Co. the late 40s from the U.S.), Bauman as a U.S. citizen was allowed to stay but was banned from performing for more than a decade (interrupted only by a two-month Broadway stunt in „Sandhog“ at Phoenix Theatre in late 1954), forcing him to take several jobs not connected to his musical profession and talent in order to make a living. His professional career somewhat never fully recovered from that, and today he seems to be remembered only by a very few for his connection to Eisler’s (now) celebrated musical works. The more so, his name, Mordecai Bauman, has to be revived here!!!
    (Aside: I think he his a fascinating figure. Check out – but even that portrait makes no mention of that now very famous song he introduced in 1942! -- BV. )

    So, Bauman would have been „the man“ so to speak for perhaps introducing „The House I Live In“ to a wider audience through a commercial recording – but that wasn’t possible at the time: A long-term strike by the musician’s union AFM made it virtually impossible for vocalists to do any substantial recordings (famously, also Frank Sinatra suffered from that, when he signed to Columbia Records in 1943, he still wasn’t able to do any orchestrated recordings until November 1944 when the strike was over, issuing but a few a-capella recordings instead in 1943).

    Still, in 1944, „The House I Live In“ became a bit more famous in America, when it was recorded by a vocal group called „Delta Rhythm Boys“, an ensemble that pursued the style of the legendary „Golden Gate Quartet“. The recording was featured in the Universal movie „Follow The Boys“, directed by Edward Sutherland. (And in fact, the Delta Boys‘ capture of the Golden Gate Quartet’s sounds seems to be so perfect that in many Sinatra-related reference books, including Will Friedwald’s volume on p. 323, that version of „The House I Live In“ gets erraneously credited to the GGQ instead of the Deltas.)
    Last edited by bvo35; 11-05-2005 at 09:29 AM.

  3. #3

    Article parts 3 and 4 of 9


    In other words, „The House I Live In“ had to some extent already been established as a song in America, when Frank Sinatra in spring 1945 picked up the theme to elevate it as the title song for his campaign, worked into a short movie, against racial and religious intolerance, a campaign he from then on would pursue with remarkable strength, fighting various odds and, at least partly, also risking his own career. For sure, it wasn’t that Sinatra privately didn’t have had political opinions before that, but now, for the first time, he decided to really go public for his beliefs in liberty and equality, and he seemed ready to put his newly gained popularity as American superstar against those conservative forces who defended segregation and discrimination. It’s a move that still evokes respect and admiration today, given the „facts“ of daily life way back when.

    The short movie „The House I Live In“, produced by RKO Radio Pictures, was shot in just one day – poignantly, the date was May 8, 1945, the very day that World War II ended in Europe with German Army officials signing the documents of surrender. All participants from director to actors worked free of charge, and RKO lent the studio facilities for free as well.

    The soundtrack recording of „The House I Live In“ made on that date is today available on the „Frank Sinatra In Hollywood“ CD box (for this and for details of all following FS performances mentioned, see the appendix). Axel Stordahl, Frank’s regular musical companion during the 40s, had written the orchestration, while Mark McIntyre, a Sinatra regular for many recording sessions of the time, provided the piano-only background for the first lines. While, as we shall see, the arrangements Sinatra used for the song would change over the years, one element from this original version sustained: The musical allusion to the melody of „America The Beautiful“ at the closure.

    When the movie was „in the can“ but still not released, Frank Sinatra already took the song on the road. In late May 1945, he embarked on an extended U.S.O. tour which would also mark his first ever concert appearances in Europe, playing Canada/Newfoundland, the Portugese Azores, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Italy. Upon his return home, on August 14, 1945, „The House I Live In“ became the highlight song of a big 2-hour-radio special on AFRS (American Forces Radio Service) entitled „Command Performance Victory Extra“, moderated by Bing Crosby.

    And a week later, on August 22, 1945, Sinatra and Stordahl also made a commercial studio recording of the song at Columbia Records, so that a single was ready to be issued when the movie was finally ready to hit the cinemas. Today, we are able to enjoy two different takes from that session, since the originally released version has recently been sided by an alternate take from the same date.

    „The House I Live In“ premiered at September 11(!), 1945. Yes: September Eleventh. 9-11. A date that today strikes a lightening. Writing about this today (in 2005), it is impossible to be not somewhat taken by that day in the calendar. At this point, let’s just observe that history can be very poignant at times. But next to the fact that Sinatra, at the very hours of September 1, 1939 German time early morning (August 31, 1939 New York time late evening) when Hitler opened World War II, was in a studio recording „All Or Nothing At All“ with Harry James, this is the most poignant chronological/calendar-wise coincidence in the Sinatra book that I can think of.


    When „The House I Live In“ opened at the cinemas in September 1945, the audiences viewed Sinatra, playing himself, making a plea for tolerance to a bunch of kids that previously had been harassing a Jewish boy. The words of that scene, the speech Sinatra gives them before he embarks on singing the song, are well worth a reprint:

    Look, fellas... religion makes no difference maybe to a Nazi or somebody as stupid. Why, people all over the world worship God in many different ways. God created everybody. He didn’t create one people better than another... This wonderful country is made up of a hundred different kinds of people and a hundred different ways of talking and a hundred different ways of going to church. But they’re all American ways.

    These words sound so simple and self-efficient today. But back then, they obviously were not... nor were the lyrics of the song itself (see reprint in the appendix of this article), as Frank sang them. And the latter albeit some „compromise“ had been made regarding the original 1942 lyrics, that contained a few more lines which were left out by FS. Certain critics later tried to use that fact as proof for their claim that Sinatra wasn’t serious about his liberty crusade and was rather pursuing a purge of his public image harmed by the womanizing stuff etc... Yes, such were the moods back then: An outspoken plea for human rights was quickly reduced to „a star trying to bust up his reputation“.

    These type of ‚columns‘ of course, if unwillingly, only added more proof to the fact that American Society really needed a crusade for liberty, since they came from the same „corner“ as those who would still ignore all the intolerance that was taking place. Meanwhile, Sinatra’s reading for sure also implied some autobiographical factors here – as a kid in Hoboken, he probably had witnessed first-hand (or even, first-fist) how the so-called „better neighbourhood“ society would crack down on „those Italians“, and how discrimation affected the daily lives even, and especially, of children.

    The setting of „The House I Live In“ – speaking out for human rights and caring especially about the children in this context – somewhat became a most heartfully, and uncompromisingly, pursue for Frank Sinatra for the rest of his life. Not only did he do countless benefit things in this area, but his engagement to try to help stop intolerance was always especially focussed on children, because he knew (as everyone else should know), that it is only by teaching and educating the children and the teens about the valous of tolerance and free spirit, that you can assure a perhaps more peaceful future. Hence his many deeds in this area – the most ambitious, and prominently poignant, example would be his opening of a joint Jewish-Palestinian orphanage in Nazareth in the 60s, which he had paid for.
    On many other occasions as well, Sinatra made it a point that he „had a dream“ about making a difference, and that „it starts in the head of a child“. And look at the world today, and how children still get brainwashed and misused by whatever political or religious ideology. And how certain people keep defending that on whatever side. And how relevant, thus, Sinatra’s message from the above speech quote still remains today.

    Neglected or denounced by „the Hursts“, „The House I Live In“ movie quickly gathered acclaim from more liberal parties, and in early 1946 it won a Golden Globe for „the best film promoting international goodwill“. Two months later, the Academy in Hollywood was impressed enough to create a new Oscar category called „best short movie subject“, which on March 7, 1946, at Graumans Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles was bestowed upon Frank Sinatra along with co-producer Frank Ross, director Mervyn LeRoy and script writer Albert Maltz, representing the team from „The House I Live In“. It was Sinatra’s job to accept the Oscar on stage, and of course, following a short thanking speech,. he performed the song for the audience.

    The epilogue was partly a sad one. Sinatra himself, though under heavy attack from the conservative press (Lew Mortimer comes to mind), luckily escaped the witchhunts, but in spite of the Oscar trophy, and similar to what composer Robinson, lyricist Allen and singer Bauman experienced as mentioned in the previous chapter, especially LeRoy and Maltz suffered badly from McCarthyism in the late 40s. LeRoy was declared persona non grata, while Maltz even landed in jail, from where he made an escape to Mexico, away from his home country where he had been declared „communist“. And as late as 1960, the old schemes still worked: When Frank Sinatra in that year announced his plans to make a film out of „The Execution Of Private Slovik“ (the story of a US soldier sentenced to death as a deserter by a US Army court during WW2) and contracted Albert Maltz to write the script, pressure from the „political world“ and from „the streets“, extending to Sinatra’s family and children, got so tight that FS finally had to drop the project. But he did pay Maltz the full salary for writing the script. (Check Nancy Sinatra’s book „Sinatra: An American Legend“, 1995 edition, p. 148 for more details on this sad story).
    Last edited by bvo35; 11-05-2005 at 08:27 PM.

  4. #4

    Article part 5 and 6 of 9


    Back in 1945/46, Frank Sinatra, of course, enjoyed the success of both the movie project and the song. One week after the movie premiere, on September 19, 1945, he presented the song in his new weekly radio programme on CBS („Songs By Sinatra“, sponsored by Old Gold Cigarettes), even recreating the whole scene with a bunch of kids assembled at the radio studio. In the following months, Sinatra repeatedly performed the song in „Songs By Sinatra“, in November 1945 as well as in March and November 1946.

    Another format that perfectly fitted the song, of course, were the numerous broadcasts on AFRS, where Sinatra, as mentioned above, had already performed the song in August 1945. In late September, AFRS hosted the „Hollywood Victory Chest“ gala live from the Hollywood Bowl, and Frank’s rendition of „The House I Live In“ was the closing song for that special night. Further AFRS Command Performances followed in April 1946 and even November 1947, when McCarthy was already much in command.

    But the most special performance perhaps ever made by Sinatra of this song occurred in February 1946, as part of „Jubilee #172“ broadcast on AFRS: While on all other occasions FS kept performing it with full orchestra to the Axel Stordahl arrangement, on this date, he sang it as a duet of voice and guitar, just accompanied by – Earl Robinson, the composer himself! A truly exceptional moment, and a joy to listen to, yet so far almost impossible to find on CD.

    Sinatra stayed tuned to the song at least once a year – in 1949, he performed it on his NBC radio programme „Light-Up Time“, in 1950 it was part of the especially patriotic radio special „The Miracle Of America“, and finally in fall 1951, Sinatra also gave it a TV premiere on his CBS weekly TV „The Frank Sinatra Show“. The latter is especially noteworthy because once again, similarly as he had done for radio in 1945, Sinatra assembled a bunch of kids in the studio to „re-play“, so to speek, the cornerstone scene from the movie. It also was the last time that Sinatra performed „The House I Live In“ to the Axel Stordahl arrangement that had accompanied him since 1945 – after this date, followed by a six-years-gap, when he would perform it again in November 1957 on his ABC weekly TV „The Frank Sinatra Show“, Frank would introduce a new arrangement for the song penned by Nelson Riddle, his new companion at Capitol Records. And that arrangement he would then stick to well into the 70s.

    The 1951 TV performance, however, remains memorable for another thing, if something not directly connected to the song: Sinatra with a twinkle in the eye addresses the kids as „Rat Pack Gang“! (For completeness‘ sake, and because the term „rat pack“ is used ad nauseam these days, it should be added that Sinatra later NEVER referred to the famous team with Sammy, Dino & Co. as „rat pack“ on stage, he and the others would always call it „The Summit“.)


    When following Sinatra through the years with his versions of „The House I Live In“, for sure, January 19, 1961, somewhat becomes another milestone. It was Inauguration Day for newly elected John F. Kennedy, Frank Sinatra was in charge of producing and staging the event – and, naturally one might say, Sinatra picked „The House I Live In“ as center of his own vocal part for the occasion, using the Nelson Riddle arrangement written in 1957, and accompanied by a large orchestra under the direction of Leonard Bernstein. (Reprise recorded the whole event for a possible 2-LP-set release, which didn’t materialise, and sadly everything remains officially unreleased to date).

    For Sinatra, but hopefully also for the creators of the song, this occasion might have marked a first time of closing circles, because with Kennedy, eventually also the ever-growing human-rights movement had arrived at The White House. 19 years prior, Robinson, Allan, Bauman and their Youth Theatre Project had been chased off Broadway stage for daring to introduce material such as „The House I Live In“ – now, the song was performed at the Inauguration Gala for the very President of the United States! And soon thereafter, McCarthy victims be „accepted“ again, the plea for racial tolerance would finally become a national one, and once de-facto outlawed people like Martin Luther King would be able to host benefit galas at Carnegie Hall, as in 1963 (Star: Frank Sinatra. Song: Guess what!).

    Frank Sinatra’s third studio recording (following the two ones from 1945) was made for Reprise Records in January 1964, at a time when the whole nation still was in some kind of shock following the assassination of JFK in November 1963. That „mood“ perhaps had been the spirit for the whole album project the recording was part of, a LP entitled „America I Hear You Singing“, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Waring & His Pennsylvanians. For „The House I Live In“, Sinatra chose the latter as additional vocal accompaniment for what resulted in a very „patriotically appealing“ version of the Nelson Riddle arrangement. Vocally, it is perhaps Sinatra’s best recording of the song (it remains a mystery why the whole album, one of Sinatra’s most original Reprise LP projects, remains unissued on CD to this date.)

    A year later, when in 1965 Sinatra issued a double-album set called „A Man and His Music“, he recorded new special spoken introductions for some of the songs. „The House I Live In“, the 1964 recording, was featured, and what he had to say about it here was quite a personal thought, and a love letter to his country:

    I’m just one out of hundreds of millions of people who carry in our hearts a profound affection, respect, and lasting sense of loss for John Fitzgerald Kennedy. I dearly wish I could find more ways to live those words of his: Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. But whatever I try to give to my country it keeps giving right back to me, compounded every hour on the hour. Only in America could all this happen to me, happen to a guy like me. Anywhere else I might have wind up diggin’coal, herdin’sheep or stashing fortune cookies (...) My country has let me sing for my supper and then paid me for the food I eat. (...)

    This statement was setting a path for all later performances by Sinatra of the song, which would now always be introduced by an introduction expressing his love for his country.

    The late 60s and early 70s saw the „homo politicus“ Sinatra still active, while his switch to supporting Republican party candidates instead of Democrats as before gave way to much controversial colums, while Sinatra himself never altered the pace of his many public and private benefit activities regarding anti-discrimination purposes. What also remained unchanged was his affection for „The House I Live In“, which in April 1973 he musically carried into the White House’s East Ballroom, performing it at a gala dinner hosted by President Nixon, in honour if the Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, accompanied by the presidential Marine Band conducted by Nelson Riddle.

    This date gets mentioned usually only because it marked the beginning of Sinatra’s return from retirement, but in the context of this topic here, one cannot escape the impression that it was another landmark – to put the summary sarcastically: A once „outraging communist song“ staged by some „crazily ill-guided youngsters“ in 1942 was now performed at the White House!

    That, of course, happened because of Sinatra – no one would have invited Mordecai Bauman to perform „his“ song from the original production. But, in 1945, Sinatra had vowed to use his reputation and fame to „get the message across“, and his steadiness now triumphed, in a sense. In another sense, it didn’t, because the song as sung by Sinatra was now mainly welcomed as a heartfelt praise of “our country as it is“, neglecting that it still remained a call for „our country as it should be“. I don’t believe that Sinatra himself ever neglected the latter meaning. And he kept the song in his book until his final year on stage.
    Last edited by bvo35; 11-04-2005 at 08:07 PM.

  5. #5

    Articple parts 7 and 8 of 9


    When Frank Sinatra finally came back from retirement with live performances, in January 1974, for several weeks „The House I Live In“ became his closing song for the concerts, something that might tell a bit about how he felt of the song at the time, especially when noticing that later on in the 70s, having dropped the song from his concert repertoire, he would chose „America The Beautiful“ as showstopper. In fall 1974, however, when Sinatra’s famed „Main Event“ tour of the East Coast culminated in the famed Madison Square Garden spectacular of October 13th, „The House I Live In“ was still there in most performances, having been moved upwards in the setlist towards the middle, and still performed to Nelson Riddle’s arrangement.

    In the following years, that saw Sinatra’s ups and downs struggling with both his voice and his artistical output, the singer would perform the song only once – but then again, on a very patriotic occasion: On January 25, 1976, ABC TV broadcast live from the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC a special called „The American Spirit“, which was part of the numerous events that year celebrating the 200th anniversary of U.S. Independence, and to which Sinatra added a towering (prerecorded/-filmed) version of „The House I Live In“, accompanied by a full orchestra plus an Army vocal chorus. Don Costa, who took care of so many Sinatra performances in the 70s, had written a new chart for the occasion, that didn’t basically differ from the previous Stordahl and Riddle arrangements, yet added some fresh nuances.

    In the early 80s, when Sinatra had regained both his full vocal powers and (more important) his full musical spirit as both a studio and live performer, he chose to include „The House I Live In“ at a big open-air gala concert held on August 20, 1982, at the Dominican Republic’s resort of La Romana, at the Altos de Chavon amphitheatre. The whole concert, which was recorded by Warner (and has subsequently been released on VHS, Laserdisc and DVD), was dubbed „Concert For The Americas“, and so in a sense, that song was a must inclusion. Sinatra, who had picked it up again in his concerts several weeks prior, didn’t disappoint the audience and delivered one of the most beautiful renditions he ever did of it, including a heartfelt introduction summed up by the somewhat understating line:

    “Some years ago, I was able to introduce a song that answered the question about America“

    That line sums it up so perfectly! The song by Robinson and Allan, once introduced by Mordecai Bauman, reflecting a youth’s strong protest against so-called realities of society, then re-introduced by Sinatra in 1945, reflecting a popular star’s honest crusade against intolerance and discrimation, indeed answers „the question about America“.
    Which, mind you, does not mean that it „answers all questions about America“, no, but it puts into a lyric everything that should be America and the American Spirit. It’s not an „answer song“, it’s a „goals-to-be-achieved song“. It’s a „future song“, a „let’s ask what we can (or must) do for our country“-song. And that is something Sinatra seems to have understood from his very first performance of the piece down to his very last.

    From 1991 onwards, Frank Sinatra included „The House I Live In“ regularly in his concerts, resulting in many performances as he tirelessly kept touring his country and around the globe. In April 1991, Sinatra was invited to perform the song at the Universal Theatre in Los Angeles for a gala honoring the American troops returning from the first Gulf War (Kuwait), which was subsequently broadcast on a TV special called „Welcome Home, America“.

    In spring 1994, the producers of his Capitol swan-song album „Duets II“ electronically fabricated a „duet“ version of the piece with Neil Diamond, melting Neil‘s studio input to various clippings from previous live Sinatra vocals and a newly recorded orchestral track... the result, which has been released on the album CD, is a small catastrophe which is best served by not mentioning it. But, in this context, it deserves a mention, because poignantly, by way of this „recording“, „The House I Live In“ became featured on Sinatra’s final album release (which went multi-platinum).

    It was on May 13, 1994, on stage at The Sands Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City/New Jersey, that Frank Sinatra sang „The House I Live In“ for the very last time in his career, 49 years after he had started it. His voice had grown old and shaky by the time. But he still performed it with maximum emotional feeling and quite to maximum effect. His intro was simple, and also poignantly seemed to refer to the fact that throughout most of his career, he had kept the song for so-called big occasions:
    “This is a strange piece of music to be sung in a saloon, but it belongs anywhere... I introduced it in a movie many, many years ago, it has to do with the great nation of ours, and if you never heard it before I hope you’ll like it

    One certain line from the song lyrics became a symbol for Sinatra’s affiliation with it lasting for almost five decades: It’s the line about
    „the dream that has been growing for (insert number of) years“
    Sinatra once had started singing it as
    for a-hundred-and-fifty-years
    in 1945 (as heard on the Columbia recording) – now, in 1994, with his fading voice, he pushed it with
    more than twooo-hunndredd-uh-yearss .
    It is moments like these that make you shiver.


    So here we are again, after our little journey back in time.. so let’s get back in the mood.
    July 3, 1986, a warm summer’s evening in New York.
    A „whole gang of fame“ watching – Hollywood celebrities, international stars, politicians from near and far.
    Including President Reagan and wife.
    The star: Lady Liberty, completely refurbished, being illuminated in many colours.
    Including blue.
    On stage: A grey-haired singer, aged 70, shining blue eyes, and neatly dressed.
    Including tie.
    The singer starts a song.
    What is he singing about?
    He’s singing a song about America.
    But he is also singing about himself.

    He might remember the times when „Frankie“ was but a kid from Hoboken.
    For sure, he would remember a kid other kids would spit on as: „Dago!“
    He might remember the views of Lady Liberty, ever so near and yet so far.
    For sure, he would remember „that impossible dream“.
    He might remember the times when dreams first came true.
    For sure, he would remember how dreams may turn to ashes.
    He might remember the people and musicians he met on his first gigs.
    For sure, he would remember how several of them were banned because of being ‚coloured‘.
    He might have relived the „inner uproar“ he physically felt when experiecing that happening to his pals.
    For sure, he would take all chances he got to try to make everyone overcome the thing.
    He might be aware that there are still be a lot of „imperfections“ in his country.
    For sure, he would be singing about that this night.

    It turns out to be a difficult performance – the summer wind keeps blowing strongly, and it also seems to be blowing away some notes.
    Nevertheless, there he stands, Francis Albert Sinatra, in his summer suit.
    The microphone is fixed to a stand at the middle of the stage.
    Just like in the the old days, as if it was for a big band singer.
    And just like in the old days, as The Voice and his song evolve, the magic grows with every note.
    So, no coincidence that the final turned out especially grand.

    the millllionnn lightss Iiii seeeeee .....
    but esspeciallyyyy
    thuuuuuuuh peopllllle...!

    That final note on „meeee“ Sinatra sings high-note (he usually would modulate down at this point), and while holding it as long as he can, he stretches out his right arm and hand towards the sky, pointing at the statue, and by doing so, in a sense also pointing at all the dreams and schemes ever implanted into the song he was just finishing.

    Last edited by bvo35; 11-12-2005 at 04:00 AM.

  6. #6

    Article part 9 of 9 (appendix)

    IX. Discographical appendix

    Music by Earl Robinson, Lyrics by Lewis Allan (1942)

    What is America to me?
    A name, a map, or a flag I see,
    A certain word: "Democracy".
    What is America to me?

    The house I live in,
    a plot of earth, a street
    the grocer and the butcher,
    and the people that I meet,
    the children in the playground,
    the faces that I see,
    all races and religions:
    That's America to me.

    The place I work in,
    the worker by my side,
    the little town or city
    where my people lived and died,
    the "howdy" and the handshake,
    the air of feeling free,
    and the right to speak my mind out:
    That's America to me.

    The things I see about me,
    the big things and the small,
    the little corner newsstand
    and the house a mile tall,
    the wedding and the churchyard,
    the laughter and the tears,
    and the dream that's been a-growin'
    for 150 [--->more than 200] years.

    The town I live in,
    the street, the house, the room,
    the pavement of the city,
    or a garden all in bloom,
    the church, the school, the clubhouse,
    the millions lights I see,
    but especially
    the people:
    That's America to me.


    Thanks to Bob-Boston for providing the links to the FS recording section

    (1) RKO-Studio Recording [Filmsoundtrack] 8.5.1945
    recorded in Hollywood
    Arrangement: Axel Stordahl
    Orchestra conducted by Axel Stordahl:
    Frank Woolley, Cal Clifford, Arthur Atwell (trumpet); Roland Furnas, Elmer Ronka, Red Sperow (trombone); Wendell Hoss (Horn); Mannie Gershman, Stan Myers, Maurice Hix, Joe Bayer, Leonard Hartman (saxophone, woodwinds); Anatol Kaminsky, Harry Solloway, Elsa Grosser, Nina Wulfe, Sonia Fischer, Rocco Barbieri, Dorothy Wade, Tony Briglio, Ivan Eppinoff, Helen Tannenbaum, David Frisina, Ted Rosen (violin); Laurent Halleux, Barbara Simons, Ovady Julber (viola); Warwick Evans, Lysbeth Evans, Arthur Kafton (violoncello); Zhay Moor (harp); Mark McIntyre (piano); Luke Roundtree (guitar); Arthur Pabst (bass); Cal Earl (drums)
    CD: Frank Sinatra In Hollywood (6-CD-Box, Reprise/Turner) CD 2
    Frank Sinatra In Hollywood (1940-1964)

    (2) „Command Performance Victory Extra“ (AFRS Radio) 14.8.1945
    recorded in Hollywood
    Arrangement: Axel Stordahl
    Orchestra conducted by Meredith Wilson

    (3a-3b) COLUMBIA-Studio Recordings 22.8.1945
    recorded in Hollywood
    Arrangement: Axel Stordahl
    Orchestra conducted by Axel Stordahl:
    Uan Rasey, Leonard Mach, Bruce Hudson (trumpet); Peter Beilman Elmer Smithers, Carl Loeffler (trombone); James Stagliano (Horn); Fred Stulce, Heinie Beau, Don Lodice, Harold Lawson, Leonard Hartman (saxophone, woodwinds); Sam Freed Jr., Nicholas Pisani, Peter Ellis, Sol Kindler, Mischa Russell, Gerald Joyce, Samuel Cytron [Levine], Howard Halbert, David Frisina, Anthony Perrotti, Walter Edelstein, William Bloom (violin); David Sterkin, Maurice Perlmutter, Allan Harshman (viola); Cy Bernard, Jack Sewell, Arthur Kafton (violoncello); Ann Mason Stockton (harp); Frank Leithner (piano); Perry Botkin (guitar); Jack Ryan (bass); Ray Hagan (drums)
    (3a) (take –1])
    original issue/Single: America The Beautiful/The House I Live In (Columbia 36886, USA) issued 1945
    LP: The Frank Sinatra Story In Music Vol. 1 (Columbia CL 1130, USA) issued 10.2.1958
    LP: Greatest Hits – The Early Years [Vol. 1] (Columbia CL 2474, USA) issued 3.10.1966
    LP: In Hollywood 1943-1949 (Columbia CL 2913, USA) issued 24.3.1969
    LP: The Voice – The Columbia Years (6-LP-Box, Columbia C6X-40343, USA) LP 5 issued September 1986
    CD: The Voice – The Columbia Years (4-CD-Box, Columbia C4K-40343, USA) CD 3 issued September 1986
    The Voice: The Columbia Years 1943-1952
    CD: Greatest Hits – The Early Years [Vol. 1] (Columbia CK 09274, USA)
    CD: The Frank Sinatra Story In Music (2-CD-Set, Columbia Special Products A2-29709, USA) CD 1
    The Frank Sinatra Story In Music
    CD: The Columbia Years – The Complete Recordings (12-CD-Box, Columbia/Legacy CXK 48673, USA) CD 3 issued 5.10.1993
    The Columbia Years 1943-1952: The Complete Recordings
    CD: The Best Of The Columbia Years (4-CD-Box, Columbia/Legacy C4K 64681, USA) CD 1 issued 31.10.1995
    The Best Of The Columbia Years 1943-1952
    CD: Sinatra Sings His Greatest Hits (Columbia/Legacy CK 65240, USA) issued 1.7.1997
    CD: Portrait Of Sinatra (2-CD-set, Columbia/Legacy CK 65244, USA) CD 1 issued 8.7.1997
    Portrait Of Sinatra: Columbia Classics
    (3b) (take –PB)
    original issue/CD: The Essential Frank Sinatra (Columbia/Legacy CK 61059, USA) issued 10.6.2003
    The Essential Frank Sinatra: The Columbia Years
    Differentiation of versions at minute 2‘00
    -1: the wedding and the churchyard, [PAUSE] the laughter and the tears
    -PB: the wedding and the churchyard-the laughter and the tears

    (4) „Songs By Sinatra“ (CBS Radio/Old Gold Cigarettes) 19.9.1945
    recorded in Hollywood
    Arrangement: Axel Stordahl
    Orchestra conducted by Axel Stordahl
    CD: Frank Sinatra And Friends (30-CD-Box, Radio Spirits, USA) CD 2
    60 Greatest Old-Time Radio Shows Starring Frank Sinatra and Friends

    (5) „The Hollywood Victory Chest Programme“ #2 (AFRS Radio) 29.9.1945
    recorded in Hollywood, Hollywood Bowl
    Arrangement: Axel Stordahl
    Orchestra conducted by Meredith Wilson

    (6) „Songs By Sinatra“ (CBS Radio/Old Gold Cigarettes) 21.11.1945
    recorded in New York City, CBS Playhouse #3
    Arrangement: Axel Stordahl
    Orchestra conducted by Axel Stordahl

    (7) „Jubilee“ #172 (AFRS Radio) 12.2.1946
    recorded in Hollywood
    Duet with Earl Robinson (guitar), the song’s composer

    (8) ABC-Live Recording (18th Academy Awards) 7.3.1946
    recorded in Los Angeles, Graumans Chinese Theatre
    Arrangement: Axel Stordahl
    Orchestra conducted by Johnny Green

    (9) „Songs By Sinatra“ (CBS Radio/Old Gold Cigarettes) 13.3.1946
    recorded in Hollywood
    Arrangement: Axel Stordahl
    Orchestra conducted by Axel Stordahl

    (10) „Command Performance“ #217 (AFRS Radio) 14.4.1946
    recorded in Hollywood
    Arrangement: Axel Stordahl
    Orchestra conducted by Johnny Green
    [Re-Broadcast of the Sinatra-Segment from ABC 7.3.1946]

    (11) „Songs By Sinatra“ (CBS Radio/Old Gold Cigarettes) 27.11.1946
    recorded in New York City, CBS Playhouse #3
    Arrangement: Axel Stordahl
    Orchestra conducted by Axel Stordahl

    (12) „Command Performance“ #300 (AFRS Radio) 16.11.1947
    recorded in New York City
    Arrangement: Axel Stordahl
    Orchestra conducted by Axel Stordahl

    (13) „Light-Up Time“ (NBC Radio/Lucky Strike Cigarettes) 24.11.1949
    recorded in New York City
    Arrangement: Axel Stordahl
    Orchestra conducted by Ziggy Elman

    (14) „The Miracle Of America“ (Radio/Advertising Council) 20.8.1950
    recorded in Hollywood
    Arrangement: Axel Stordahl
    Orchestra conducted by Axel Stordahl

    (15) „The Frank Sinatra Show“ (CBS TV/Ecko Houseware) 13.11.1951
    recorded in New York City
    Arrangement: Axel Stordahl
    Orchestra conducted by Axel Stordahl

    (16) „The Frank Sinatra Show“ #7 (ABC TV/Chesterfield Cigarettes) 29.11.1957
    recorded in Hollywood, El Capitan Theatre
    Arrangement: Nelson Riddle
    Orchestra conducted by Nelson Riddle

    (17) REPRISE-Live Recording (Inaugural Gala for John F. Kennedy) 19.1.1961
    recorded in Washington DC, National Guard Amory
    Arrangement: Nelson Riddle
    with accompanying vocal chorus
    Orchestra conducted by Leonard Bernstein
    officially unreleased

    (to be continued)
    Last edited by bvo35; 11-05-2005 at 10:54 AM.

  7. #7

    Article part 9 of 9 - CONCLUSION AKA FINITO, AMGIGOS :-)


    (18) REPRISE-Studio Recording 2.1.1964
    recorded in Hollywood, United Recording Studio
    Arrangement: Nelson Riddle
    Vocal backing: Fred Waring & His Pennsylvanians:
    Fred Waring, Jack Halloran, Thurl Ravenscroft, Robert Tebow, Bill Cole, Bill Kanady, Loulie Jean Norman, Jackie Ward, Betty Jane Baker, Sue Allen
    Orchestra conducted by Fred Waring:
    Pete Candoli, Conrad Gozzo, Ray Triscari, Don Fagerquist (trumpet); Hoyt Bohannon, Dick Noel (trombone); Ken Shroyer (bassposaune); George Price, Arthur Maebe (Horn); Jules Jacob, Harry Klee, Willie Schwartz, Chuck Gentry, Joe Koch, Champ Webb (saxophone, woodwinds); Erno Neufeld, Victor Arno, Jacques Gasselin, Marshall Sosson, Alex Beller, Victor Bay, Joe Stepansky, Thelma Beach (violin); Virginia Majewski, Stanley Harris (viola); Edgar Lustgarten, Eleanor Slatkin (violoncello); Kathryn Julye (harp); Bill Miller (piano); Al Viola (guitar); Eddie Gilbert (bass); Irving Cottler (drums); Emil Richards (Percussion)
    original issue-Album/LP: America I Hear You Singing (Reprise F 2020, USA) issued April 1964
    America, I Hear You Singing
    LP: A Man and His Music (2-LP-set, Reprise FS 1016, USA) LP 1 issued 30.11.1965
    CD: A Man and His Music (2-CD-set, Reprise 1016, USA) CD 1 issued Juli 1987
    A Man And His Music
    CD: The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings (20-CD-Box, Reprise 46013, USA) CD 7 issued November 1995
    The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings

    (19-22) REPRISE-Live Recordings 2./4./12./13.10.1974 („The Main Event“)
    Arrangement: Nelson Riddle
    Woody Herman Orchestra geleitet von Bill Miller:
    Gary Park, Nelson Hatt, David Stahl, Buddy Powers (trumpet, Horn); Billy Byrne (trombone, Flügelhorn); Urbie Green, Dale Kirkland, Jim Pugh (trombone); Vaughn Wiester (bassposaune); Jerry Dodgion, Frank Tiberi, Greg Herbert, John Oslawski, Gary Anderson (saxophone, woodwinds); Joe Malin, Peter Dimitriades, David Kunstler, Avram Weiss, Harry Urbont, Stanley Karpienia, Max Hollander, Carmel Malin, Julius Brand, Peter Buonconsiglio, Max Cahn, Julius Schachter (violin); Vincent Liota, Maurice Pollock, George Brown, Michael Spivakowsky (viola); Anthony Sophos, Alan Shulman, Gloria Lanzarone, Julius Ehrenwerth (violoncello); Margaret Ross (harp); Andy LaVerne (piano); Al Viola (guitar); Gene Cherico, Ron Paley (bass); Irving Cottler (drums); David Carey (Percussion)
    (19) Boston/MD, The Garden, 2.10.1974
    LP: The Main Event (Reprise FS 2207, USA) issued Oktober 1974
    CD: The Main Event (Reprise 2207, USA) issued Juli 1987
    The Main Event: Live from Madison Square Garden (LP/CD)
    (20) Buffalo/NY, War Memorial Auditorium, 4.10.1974
    (21) New York City, Madison Square Garden, 12.10.1974
    (22) New York City, Madison Square Garden, 13.10.1974
    Video VHS/Laserdisc/DVD: The Main Event (Warner)
    Sinatra: The Main Event (DVD)

    (23) „The American Spirit“ (ABC TV/Timmy & Equitable) 25.1.1976
    recorded in Washington DC, Jefferson Memorial
    (Sinatra portion pre-recorded 20.8.1975)
    Arrangement: Don Costa
    Army Chorus (24 vocalists)
    Orchestra conducted by N.N. (27 musicians)
    (anyone knows who really conducted this? Hints welcome! Thx, BV.)

    (24) WARNER-Live Recording 20.8.1982 („Concert For The Americas“)
    recorded in La Romana/Dominican Republic, Altos de Chavon Amphitheatre
    Arrangement: Don Costa
    Orchestra conducted by Vincent Falcone jr.
    Video-VHS/Laserdisc/DVD (Warner)
    Concert For The Americas

    (25) TV-Live Recording 3.7.1986 („Lady Liberty“ Anniversary Gala)
    recorded on Governors Island/NY, near New York City
    Arrangement: Don Costa
    Orchestra conducted by N.N.
    Live TV broadcast
    Anyone knows who conducted the orchestra for Sinatra's part?

    (26) TV-Live Recording 14.4.1991 („Welcome Home, America“)
    recorded 5.4.1991 in Los Angeles, Universal Amphitheatre
    Arrangement: Don Costa
    Orchestra conducted by Frank Sinatra jr.
    TV broadcast

    (27) CAPITOL-„Electronic Mix“ April(?) 1994
    Arrangement: Don Costa
    Vocal Arrangement: Tom Hensley & Alan Lindgren
    Orchestra conducted by Patrick Williams
    Parts from which this thing was mixed:
    (a) Sinatra-Live vocal recording(s) 1994
    Date(s) and Location(s) not documented yet
    (b) Neil Diamond-Studio Recording spring 1994
    Date and Loction not documented yet
    (c) Studio-Orchestral track spring 1994
    Date and Location not documented yet
    original issue-Album/CD: Duets II (Capitol 28103, USA) issued 22.11.1994
    Duets II


    Last edited by bvo35; 11-11-2005 at 06:51 PM.

  8. #8
    OK take a breath, folks - that's it!

    How about everyone play a recording of the song now. In honour of Francis Ayyy, to whom, as written in the prelimaries, I dedicate my piece of writing.

    And when you play it, also keep thinking about what the song says, and originally meant. Still some way to go to achieve that dream... let's dream it first (with FS singing), but then, let'S do it! (as FS always implied).

    Last edited by bvo35; 11-04-2005 at 08:26 PM.

  9. #9
    Absoultely magnificent, Bernhard (as usual)!

    << I admit I was too lazy to insert links for all the albums >>

    I don't blame you one bit. Let me be of some assistance by providing here the links to the albums mentioned in your appendix, which have existing discussion threads in Frank's Recordings. If you go to quote this post, you can cut-and-paste the URL-formatted links directly into your own post:

    Frank Sinatra In Hollywood (1940-1964)
    The Frank Sinatra Story In Music
    The Voice: The Columbia Years 1943-1952
    The Columbia Years 1943-1952: The Complete Recordings
    The Best Of The Columbia Years 1943-1952
    Portrait Of Sinatra: Columbia Classics
    The Essential Frank Sinatra: The Columbia Years
    60 Greatest Old-Time Radio Shows Starring Frank Sinatra and Friends
    America, I Hear You Singing
    A Man And His Music
    The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings
    The Main Event: Live from Madison Square Garden (LP/CD)
    Sinatra: The Main Event (DVD)
    Concert For The Americas
    Duets II

  10. #10
    Mindful of Bernhard's request that his wonderful contribution here remain as a separate thread (with which I am in total agreement), let me also offer a link to an earlier discussion from last summer (since that was the impetus for Bernhard's monumental translation effort):

    Entry page "The House I Live In (That’s America To Me)" [merged]

    A recent addition to that thread includes the full text of Frank Sinatra's article, which appeared in the op-ed pages of the Los Angeles Times, and which fits quite nicely with the theme of "The House I Live In."

  11. #11
    Lourdes's Avatar
    Lourdes is offline Diamond Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

    Thumbs up Wow!

    Excellent, Bernhard!

    As always a wonderful text from an dedicated young man to keep the flaming.
    To young people who wants to know the stories about Frank's music is a superb text.

    Thanks Bernhard. I love you.

    Member since 1997
    - Frank Sinatra: You will be my music.

  12. #12
    Bob W's Avatar
    Bob W is offline In Memoriam
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Allentown, PA

    The House I Live In absolute treasure is your wonderful synopsis of this great piece of music by Francis A. When I get time I will print your entire write up...It is magnificent !

  13. #13
    Fantastic articles like these are in our magazine "The Voice" !!

    This is Bernhard !

  14. #14

    Lewis Allan

    Bernhard: You may want to mention that the real name of lyricist Lewis Allan (often misspelled "Allen") was Abel Meeropol. This man led an amazing life of political activism, as evidenced by just some casual googling. See, for example, the following website:

    Independent Lens: Strange Fruit - The Film (PBS)

    Meeropol and his wife are also notable because they adopted the orphaned children of the executed cold war spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

  15. #15
    Thank you very much Bob for your assistance!
    I've added the album links to the discographical appendix accordingly, and also added a short line to the Lewis Allan portrait.

    I watched the Lady Liberty special again today, which I taped from German TV when it was broadcast here. It still always gives me goosebumps when FS reaches for that grand finish.

    To all who responded, thanks for the kind words. Naturally, it's the music where the Sinatra spirit is present the most, but this song and its story also shows that it is "not just" the music.


  16. #16
    ARIES3032's Avatar
    ARIES3032 is offline In Memoriam
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    Jul 2001
    Moved to Fort Myers, Fl. in 1987


    Thank you, are small words, and may not convey to you how much I did so enjoy your piece of work about a very special piece of music. Special music, special men. I include you, my friend, Bernhard as one of those special men.
    LEATRICE (LEE) Fort Myers, Florida, USA
    Sinatra, Sinatra,Sinatra! Pray for Robin!

  17. #17



  18. #18
    aleksej schicke's Avatar
    aleksej schicke is offline Platinum Member
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    Oct 2004

    Great work as always.It really a thrill for me to read your post.

    So detail and so much work on it.We can see that you really enjoy it.

    I wish all the best and in July a limonande
    Best wishes to a man from the wonderful german town Fürth.It is a city that never sleeps


  19. #19
    brooklynbabe's Avatar
    brooklynbabe is offline Oh, puhleeze
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Spaceship Earth
    Wow, Bernhard, I can't begin to tell you how wonderful this is. I am going to print the article out to save and savor. I also love that picture of Frank. You are to be commended for doing what you do, and for doing it with such love and attention.
    Nancy Ann
    No more lives - no more dollars.

  20. #20
    Tony's Avatar
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    Abersoch on the stunning Llyn Peninsula.
    As with last years The Story of " Silent Night " this deserves to be up for post of the week, truly a masterpiece Bernhard.

    `Post of The Week`............
    [B]Mustn`t grumble. [/B]

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