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Sheldon Harnick rewrites “Sunrise, Sunset” lyrics for same-sex weddings

Sheldon Harnick

From Playbill: One of the most common things in the world happened on Oct. 1 in Tappan, NY. “Sunrise, Sunset” was performed at a wedding.

Only this time it was a little different. The song — which has accompanied thousands of nuptials since its debut on Sept. 22, 1964, in Fiddler on the Roof — graced the wedding celebration of two men, entertainer Richard Skipper and landscape architect Daniel Sherman, and the melancholy-happy tune’s story of a “little girl I carried” and a “little boy at play,” now told of two boys.

“I’ve been doing same-sex weddings since New York law permitted it in July,” said Rev. Joshua Ellis, whose new career as a New York-based Interspiritual minister was preceded by many years as a theatrical press agent in New York City. “And something was missing. Nobody was singing ‘Sunrise, Sunset.’ It’s sung all the time in weddings of mixed couples. I guessed it was because they talk about a little boy and a little girl. So I contacted [lyricist] Sheldon Harnick.”

Ellis continued, “Within a few days, he wrote a note back. He’d contacted Richard Ticktin, who was best friend of Jerry Bock and his representative. Attached to that email were revised lyrics of the song.” Ellis then gently asked Harnick if he could also write a set of lyrics for a female couple. Those arrived soon after.

“As part of the ceremony, I explained the whole thing,” said Ellis. “I told the crowd this was the world premiere. This was it. Jana Robbins sang it. She did it magnificently. When it was over, the applause just went on and on and on. There were people who were applauding, people who were crying, people who were silent in awe.”

Here are the newly revised lyrics:

“SUNRISE, SUNSET”

NEW LYRICS BY SHELDON HARNICK, FOR SAME-SEX WEDDING COUPLES.
ALL NEW LYRICS COPYRIGHT 2011, SHELDON HARNICK.
ORIGINAL MUSIC AND LYRICS COPYRIGHT, 1964 JERRY BOCK AND SHELDON HARNICK

FOR MALE COUPLES:

Is this the little boy I carried?
Is that the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older.
When did they?

When did they get to be so handsome?
When did they grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?

Sunrise, sunset,
Sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly flow the days.
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers,
Blossoming even as we gaze.

Sunrise, sunset,
Sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly fly the years.
One season following another
Laden with happiness and tears.

What words of wisdom can I give them?
How can I help to ease their way?
Now they must learn from one another
Day by day.

They look so natural together.
Just like two newlyweds should be.
Is there a canopy in store for me?

Sunrise, sunset,
Sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly fly the years.
One season following another,
Laden with happiness and tears.

FOR FEMALE COUPLES:

Is this the little girl I carried?
Is that the little girl at play?
I don’t remember growing older.
When did they?

When did she get to be a beauty?
[Alternative: When did she get to be so handsome?]
When did they grow to be this tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?

Sunrise, sunset,
[Continues as above]

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