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25 February 2019, 09:42 | Updated: 25 February 2019, 09:46
The wistful ballad was singled out from the ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ soundtrack as a potential Oscar winner – but how much do you know about its composer and the inspiration behind the song?
Mary Poppins Returns landed four nominations in this year’s Academy Awards – including Best Original Song and Best Original Score for composer Marc Shaiman, which eventually went to ‘Shallow’ (A Star is Born) and Black Panther.
One of the tracks, ‘The Place Where Lost Things Go’, is a beautiful oboe-led ballad co-written by songwriter Scott Wittman, and sung by Emily Blunt.
It comes at a particularly poignant moment in the film, as Mary Poppins sings a lullaby to the Banks children, who are grieving their late mother.
The song took its inspiration from an idea in P.L. Travers’ original eight-book Mary Poppins series, that the man in the moon is Mary Poppins’ uncle and he keeps all the lost things on the dark side of the moon.
Marc Shaiman told EW: “Just that idea of a place — if I can quote ourselves, a place where the lost things go — kind of stuck in our heads when we were trying to write the song Mary would sing to comfort the kids about how their mom is still with them.”
For most songs in the film, Shaiman and Wittman re-wrote passages and even whole tracks for lead actors Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda. But this one, Shaiman tells EW, was a sure-fire hit from the start.
“That ballad, once we wrote that, no one ever said to us, ‘Let’s take another pass at that. And I think once we wrote it, that was a milestone for us, the feeling that we were finally in the right place.”
Although she previously starred as the baker’s wife in Into the Woods, Mary Poppins is Blunt’s first major role in a Hollywood musical film – and her vocal performance is truly excellent.
Classic FM presenter Catherine Bott, who is also an acclaimed soprano, said: “In the tender ‘The place Where Lost Things Go’, Blunt sings and acts to perfection, with musical phrasing and lots of breath in her voice, perfectly pitched on every note (well, you’d expect no less from Mary Poppins).”
The song was also a favourite of Blunt’s. She told EW: “You can talk about all those big dance numbers, but [it’s] the song that really always made my heart sing, partly being because of what it reveals in a character who doesn’t reveal much to anybody.
“It is the most nurturing, the most tender that she is, and I think the song is so beautiful and so hopeful and so important for the world we’re in right now, with a lot of kids feeling a lot of loss. I’m going to cry if I even talk about it. That song probably means the most to me.”
The lyrics to the first verse are:
Do you ever lie
Awake at night
Just between the dark
And the morning light
Searching for the things
You used to know
Looking for the place
Where the lost things go
Read the full lyrics here.
Although it was nominated for Best Original Song, ‘Shallow’, composed by Anthony Rossomando, Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt for A Star is Born eventually took home the prestigious Oscar.
Musically, ‘The Place Where Lost Things Go’ would have been an extremely worthy winner. The ballad begins with a wonderful conversation in the woodwind, passing the melody from the oboe to the clarinet to the flute. The soaring strings of the first verse are then beautifully complemented by Blunt’s warm alto vocals.