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Wednesday, 05 October 2011 10:06

Tony Winner Sheldon Harnick Rewrites "Sunrise, Sunset" Lyrics for Same-Sex Couples



Sheldon Harnick, the legendary Broadway lyricist of “Sunrise, Sunset,” one of the most beloved wedding songs of our time, has written two new revised lyrics for the song, one for gay male and one for lesbian same-sex couples, in response to a request from Rev. Joshua Ellis, a New York-based Interspirtual minister.

The male lyrics had their world premiere on Saturday night, October 1, performed by Broadway actress/singer/producer Jana Robbins at the wedding party of entertainer Richard Skipper and landscape architect Daniel Sherman in Tappan, New York.

“Sunrise, Sunset” was originally written by Sheldon Harnick (lyrics) and Jerry Bock (music) for the Broadway musical FIDDLER ON THE ROOF which premiered on September 22, 1964 at the Imperial Theatre.

A few weeks ago Sheldon Harnick was approached by Rev. Ellis, who officiated at the re-affirmation celebration of Skipper and Sherman on October 1.  Rev. Ellis, a theatrical press agent for 30 years before becoming an Interspiritual minister, asked Harnick to consider writing new lyrics so gay and lesbian couples could use the beloved song in their now-legal wedding ceremonies.  Rev. Ellis has already officiated at a number of same-sex weddings since the New York State Marriage Equality Act went into effect on July 24, 2011.

Rev. Ellis continues, “Mr. Harnick conferred with Richard Ticktin, the representative and best friend of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF composer Jerry Bock.  Bock died last year.  Mr. Harnick responded that he [Ticktin] agreed that Jerry Bock would have been delighted.

As part of ceremony on Saturday night, Rev. Ellis introduced Jana Robbins, telling the guests that they would be hearing the world premiere of Sheldon Harnick’s lyrics.  “Jana sang it magnificently and when she finished, the song was met with prolonged applause, many tears, and quiet awe,” Rev. Ellis concludes.

Richard Skipper and Daniel Sherman chose to re-affirm their vows at their October 1 celebration, a Black & White Ball for 160 of their closest friends.  Days after the Marriage Equality Act passed in Albany, the couple entered the lottery to get married on July 24, the one-day-only allowance to get married the day the law went into effect, without the normal waiting period.  They were among the winners.  As Richard Skipper explains, “Danny and I called that our elopement.  It was a tiny legal ceremony with a few friends as witnesses, and no music, no band, no party.  After 68 days of legally wedded bliss, we wanted to share our joy with a ball inspired by the legendary 1966 Truman Capote-Katharine Graham party.  We called it our re-affirmation.  We did the whole ceremony over again, with new vows, the same rings, and lot more friends.”

Skipper continues, “Danny and I were very moved that 47 years after Sheldon Harnick originally wrote ‘Sunrise, Sunset’ he opened his heart, and with pen to paper, opened this song to include everyone with no prejudice.  His generosity is not just to us but also to all people.  And then there was the heartfelt emotion that Jana Robbins expressed in singing the song.”

Jana Robbins’ performance of “Sunrise, Sunset” at the wedding celebration can be viewed on YouTube.

Sheldon Harnick’s copyrighted new lyrics can be viewed on Rev. Joshua Ellis’s website: