Regina Songwriters’ Circle: More than a Circle of 5ths

Creative City Centre
June 15 2017

I am filled with both pride and gratitude. Wanda Gronhovd and I, co-coordinators of the Regina Chapter of the Songwriters Association of Canada (SAC), are preparing for our group’s first showcase on June 15 8pm at Creative City Centre (mostly Wanda…truth be told). Wanda is the perfect co-chair; she really is able to get things done—and is quite a talented songwriter, who is currently working on her second CD.  Indeed, there are some wonderful songwriters lined up to perform for you like Wanda and James Gates. Also featured is our resident lyricist, Brian Smyth. As a songwriting circle, we get to hear not only the songs, but their genesis and growth. I have been able to watch these songwriters as they hone their craft and work to get better and better.

Honestly, being a part of a community of songwriters has been good for my soul.  In fact, there are only two things that seem to lift me up from the mire of the everyday: my songwriters’ community and the act of songwriting itself—so far, nothing else has come close. Every third Thursday of the month (our meeting time), I have received comradery, solace and kinship. We have attracted songwriters from across southern Saskatchewan, such as Glenna Switzer, who recently won a Saskatchewan Country music award! Many of these folk found us through Lorena Kelley from Sask Music—thank you Lorena. On these Thursday nights I have the pleasure of listening to a wide musical spectrum—from Indie folk to country to jazz/blues to pop, even electronic/dance music (such as Jane Gjlestland, who also recently won UK Songwriting award). As a SAC Writers’ Group, we have been privileged to be visited by some wonderful colleagues this year…Belle Plaine and Megan Nash to name two.

I will perform the title track of my forthcoming CD “I Don’t Do Lazy Like That” (now mastered…and soon to be going into ‘actual’ production). I also plan to do a song I wrote while in the Songwriting: Melody course as part of the Berklee College of Music Songwriting Specialist Certificate….tentatively called “Bendigeidfran”
…try putting that in a song 😉

We would love to see you to share our songs…Thursday June 15 at Creative City Centre

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Songwriters Go Underground

What an awesome evening of Saskatoon Songwriters at the Underground Café. And what a venue! The Café is everything a coffee house and performance space should be—cosy, casual, art-filled—you know, “cultured” in the best sense of that word. The grilled chicken sandwich was delicious as was the “super cran tea”…loose tea served with its own infuser. The stage is intimate with their cool logo on the wall.

There were eight of us— Jay Semko, Alex Runions, Terry Jordan, Trish & Wendy, Sally Meadows, Rhonda Gallant-Morari and  Micheal Lander –representing quite a range of musical styles. Indie, folk, pop, light jazz, gospel, bluegrass. Wow. And a great mix of piano players and guitarists. I sang a new song written in my Berklee “Writing Hit Songs” course, “Love Me Like a Dew Drop in the Rain” and also performed “I Say Amen to That” from my first CD. Jay Semko and Alex Runions were awesome.  I listened to Jay’s “Flora Vista” CD in the car, quite enjoyed it, especially the song “Ocean in Your Eyes.” Terry Jordan was accompanied by Jill on the banjo, which added much to the evening.

 

Speaking of the banjo, Northern Lights Bluegrass Festival was a sponsor as was Blackridge Brewery, Studio XII Music and Dance Company, and the Underground Café. Big thanks to them all!  Micheal Lander, the chair of the Saskatoon RWG of Songwriters Association of Canada, organized the event—and superbly so, I might add. He is quite a singer-songwriter himself, great vocal control.

I connected with several songwriters in the audience whom I had met through the Saskatoon group, and cannot remember when I felt such a sense of community among songwriters…and to think, I had to go Underground to experience it 😉

Keep writing everyone, we cannot wait to hear your next song!

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Music is alive and well in the West!

What a joy, what a pleasure!
It is a coolish but glorious Sunday morning.  I lazily got out of bed, had my morning Starbucks, and now I’m on my second cup of coffee. So, I ease down in the boldness quotient for this additional cup and currently, I am drinking “Donut-Style coffee.” Really what is that? Perhaps, it has something to do with the power of branding or cross-branding or something ‘branderful’ like that….

Anyway, from branderful to wonderful. I have been listening this weekend to some of the latest Western Canadian Music Artists. Wow. I have been blown away. I have to say it was humbling. The range of music styles is impressive, the level of production is impressive, the lyrical thoughtfulness is impressive. Such high standards can only be good for all of us artists; for we see and hear what is possible. One of the joys of being able to listen to such a cross section of artists is that some of them have already become favourites—instantaneously.  I am simultaneously humbled, proud and grateful to be part of such a dynamic, inspiring and world-class musical community.

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Wisdom is Waitin’ on Me: Five Myths of Being Wise

A track from my forthcoming CD “I Don’t Do Lazy Like That”

April Fools’ Day strikes me as an appropriate time to talk about wisdom. There is wisdom in balance—the balance between the thoughtful and frivolous, between the serious and the light-hearted, between solemnity and humour. April Fools’ Day…apparently the morning that WestJet became Canada Air to be our #MostCanadian airline,   the morning when Amazon’s Alexa home assistant proclaimed that she would offer support to pets, the morning when our own Taron Cochrane made his annual? (fake) concert announcement—all the folly of 2017’s April 1. Falling and chasing jokes…maybe not as far from falling and chasing that elusive wisdom.

Wisdom is Waiting on Me” is track from my forthcoming CD. ‘Wisdom’ –perhaps just as much anything—may be commodified in contemporary culture, and in various ways.  In my world I have come to see several myths around wisdom:

  • We are led to believe that wisdom is a natural by-product of age—as we age, we expect to become wise or at least wiser. In reality, I have encountered wise young people, and foolish older people.
  • Wisdom happens without effort; it is a passive, passed down artefact. In reality, life is dynamic, surprising and at times quite challenging. It is how we chose to reflect and react with life that creates wisdom. Wisdom is an active, engaged process.
  • In this way, wisdom is not a right of the mature, in reality; wisdom is an earned perspective through active engagement with one’s own life.
  • Simply put, wisdom is not a commodity; it is not a formulaic sequence to enlightenment. Wisdom is not the right kind of mudra, not the perfect Siddhasana with perfect posture, not the right trek up to the right mountain top—it is not even not the right kind of yoga attire
  • Wisdom “don’t come in lightning bolts or eureka’s at night”
  • “Wisdom is Waitin’ on Me” and you too,
    Ohm, ohm, ohm.

….Ummm, could you please pass my sweat towel?
Too many downward dogs.

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My New CD…Final Phases: According to the Accordion

As I write this, I am listening some of the rough mixes for my next CD, I Don’t Do Lazy Like That. This phase is exciting; it also seems a bit daunting. I have been working on this CD for the better part of a year, and one realizes that it sort of comes down to these moments. Listening, reflecting, self-critiquing; listening, reflecting, self-critiquing. I wonder if I have been able to maintain the original muse for each of the songs. The songs change during production, and in many ways, my job here is to let them go in as best shape as I am able to muster—to trust my team, indeed to trust the songs.  These are the final stages of preparation before these twelve songs are released into the world.

Again, I have been able to work with the same stellar cast of musicians as my first two CDs—Gent Laird on stand-up bass, Rich McFarlane on acoustic, electric, rhythm and lead guitar, Glenn Ens on percussion, and I play piano on a few tracks. Mr. Ross Nykiforuk contributes accordion, piano, keyboards, and organ, a multi-talented instrumentalist indeed. Of course, Ross produces this project, as he has my previous two. I am fortunate to be able to harness such homegrown talent.

One particular track is emerging as my personal favorite; it is a rather simple one and sparsely produced. There is the piano, the accordion, and my voice. The ways in which Ross’s accordion playing wraps around the vocal track and piano is captivating. The track has a regretful sadness, and a simple poignancy. I do hope you will enjoy it, and stay tuned for more updates on I Don’t Do Lazy Like That.
Warmly, Scott Anthony

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International Songwriting “Collab”

Currently, I am part of an international, online songwriting “collab”. I am getting into the lingo of all the cool singer-songwriters—not that I make any claim to being so, just that I am confronted with songwriting vernacular more and more. By doing so, one cannot help but absorb and attempt to mimic singer-songwriter “talk”—a salient feature of which is abbreviations (incidentally, is not ‘abbreviation’ rather a long word, given its purpose?). Apparently, we songwriters are beyond super busy, we are so super-super-busy that we do not have time to pronounce entire words. Take “collab” for instance, short for “collaboration”. Most fortunately, I learned “collab” just in time, as I am currently part of an awesome songwriting collaboration.

We are four songwriters from all around the world—from Italy, England and two from Canada. The process really has been amazing to me. My colleagues on this journey are Angela Skinner Music, Giulio Moretto and Andrea Peloso. When the collective is engaged in the collaboration—when we think about purpose/point/theme of the song, when we bounce around ideas/riffs/motifs, when we wonder about tonal colours and contrasts; the distance completely fades. That I may be part of such a wonderful group of songwriters is quite heartening, as each of us brings our strengths to the collective.

While I am not sure what our song will eventually sound like, this is one of those times in life when I need—truly—to enjoy the process, our journey. Meeting wonderful songwriters is more than inspiring enough. …..what a lovely thought on this, the first day of Spring!

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Game of Clue

Quack Song 2
The second song I’m working on for Sing Duck Sing, I am tentatively calling Game of Clue. Some parents who have children with Autism Spectrum Disorder report that—in retrospect—there were signs along the way. I guess this may be the case for many things—hindsight may be remarkably and uncomfortably accurate. There is a rather famous poem entitled, Welcome to Holland, in which the protagonist (a parent) must learn to accept a trip to Holland rather than Italy (see http://dsnetworkaz.org/holland/).

It is a letting go of expectations that one may have had, and embracing the realities of what is—of having a child with ASD. Further, it is a call for a celebration of what is—not just acceptance.  In this song, the idea is to try to capture some of the typical second thoughts, or brief entertainments of possible ASD diagnosis that Burke may have had about her child. I considered especially the scene on p. 56 of the pay, Ducks on the Moon (2010).

Here is the Soundcloud link: https://soundcloud.com/scottanthonyandrews/game-of-clue
…and here are the lyrics, so far

GAME OF CLUE
Words & Music: Scott Anthony Andrews (with nods to Kelley Jo Burke see p. 56 of Ducks on the Moon)

VERSE
Asleep in my arms
He looked like any other child
With his eyes closed
He looked like anyone’s son
But when he opened his eyes
He wasn’t looking for my face
A man overboard
Clawing through stormy seas
Looking for something, anything to hold to
Not necessarily me

CHORUS
Was that a clue?
On Sunday morning?
Was that a clue?
Deep in the heart.
Was that a clue?
On Sunday morning?
Was that a clue?
Deep in the heart.

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Guess I Missed Those Cumulonimbus Clouds

Quack Song 1
Wendy the Weather Girl (Guess I Missed Those Cumulonimbus Clouds)
OK. I have my Song Plot for the musical I am co-writing with Burke, Sing Ducks Sing, an adaptation of her one-person play “Ducks on the Moon” (2010).  I thought I might start with the I Want Song/Metaphor Song; I did. Tentatively, and I use that word most decidedly, it is entitled, “Wendy the Weather Girl”.  The idea that Kelley Jo Burke and I had was to represent the presence of autism (ASD) through something like the weather network.  Typically think concretely and visually; perhaps that accounts for why I have come across so many students with ASD that enjoy the weather network. Further, we can expand on weather systems as allegories for ASD. Here’s my first attempt, although I have misgivings about an allegorical song for the “I Want Song.” As it stands the verse is in F major and is the voice of Wendy; the Chorus is based upon the F blues scale for contrast. It is hopefully obvious that this latter section is indicative of various nomenclatures one associates with weather.  The crux of the song is that Wendy misses the obvious in her forecast, her invisible gorilla, is cumulonimbus clouds–

Nevertheless, see the lyrics below as well as a sound cloud link to a very rough draft…stay tuned…

https://soundcloud.com/scottanthonyandrews/wendy-the-weather-girl

VERSE
I’m Wendy the weather girl
A forecast of smiles for you (oh, oh, oh oh)
Wendy the weather girl
Calling for a shower or two (oh, oh, oh oh)
Gusty with a little sprinkle
Just enough to fluff your hair
I’m Wendy the weather girl
Tune in for temperatures true

CHORUS
Guess I missed those cumulonimbus clouds
Seen at 2 pm,  5 kms Northwest,
Tracking east, digging in like a thunder clap
Gaining speed, spinning fast, anemometers snap
Skies of grey, 80K , what you say ‘bout that?
Guess I missed those cumulonimbus clouds

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My First Quack at It

An Initial Song Plot: Sing Ducks Sing
I re-read Burke’s play, Ducks on the Moon (2010) last night; I will likely continue to do so, as I continue to work on our Art-Based Educational Research project. Ducks is a one-woman 90 minute play; it seems reasonable to keep it a one-woman show, so I am looking at possibly 4-5 songs. Mandelbaum’ s caution resonates: avoid a “ ‘chop and drop’ job, with the original play cut down to make way for the [songs] (1991 p. 178). And at the same time, Frankel (2000, p. 22) reminds me that “songs take over most of the main points of the plot.” So I must ask myself:

What is the central struggle in this drama, the central I Want?, and is there anything missing from this struggle that songs might add? And still in this context, what is missing particularly in the high points.

Burke’s struggles with how to cope with a child that is decidedly different than her other children. She is an experienced and knowledgeable parent:

“I’m not ecstatic and I’m not scared. He’s my third child, and I know how to feed him, and I know how to wash him, and I know exactly where to put him in the crook of my arm. I am an old mum, and I am up to anything he’s got” (Burke, 2010, p. 28).

What needs to come across I think in terms of the musical is the struggle to accept the autism diagnosis, and to accept  certainly, but more importantly, is the struggle for the protagonist to accept help in raising her son; the protagonist comes to understand that she cannot do it all—that there are reasonable limits (even) to her parenting. This lesson is a hard-fought high-point:

“Down on the floor. Curled into the fetal position, keening like to an Amazonian monkey, in a shrill counterpoint to the bass thrum of the rental car outside chugging through its tank of very expensive America gas—just shriek and shriek and shrieking that I couldn’t do this, I couldn’t plan this, I couldn’t make it right, I need help, I need help, I need help, I need help, I need help…” (Burke, 2010, p. 50)

Acceptance then are is the big I Want and I Am messages of this musical. In terms of the layers of educational import; obviously this play is particularly useful for understating parent/professional relationships in the context of students with ASD—not the least of which may be how parental self-efficacy may be impacted, perhaps particularly if the child is not first-born. Given these contingencies, here is my initial song plot:

A Rubber Duck Chorus Linerubber-duck-chorus line
Initial Song Plot

1. A breathing calming song; a blowing out the birthday cake candles song. An implied duet. A breathy, small and simple song.

2. I Want Song/Metaphor Song. What may be missing from the current play is a portrayal of how ASD may present, of what ASD is, in real time, not a recollection—more specifically here, a depiction of the real-time struggle, of a parent wrestling with a son with (for most of the play undiagnosed) ASD in an attempt to plan for and control the un/known.  This may be going out on a limb, but Kelley Jo Burke and I have discussed using something akin to the Weather Network as a metaphor for ASD; in ways this is apt since many people with ASD appreciate all the numbers inherent in today’s weather forecasts; including temperature, degrees, wind chill values, wind speed and direction, precipitation accumulations and kinds, UV index, 5-day forecasts, historical daily high and low temperatures, etc.

However, I must remember that this is a play about Burke’s struggle. So, if using a weather network kind of metaphor, perhaps casting the protagonist as a live meteorologist who makes forecasts that are completely inaccurate. She could be reporting form the field…something like “called for a 1.5 cms of snow and I am here in 60km/h blizzard”. “Wendy the weather girl” Possibly.

3. Diagnosis Dance ~or~ Diagnosis on Ice. This could introduce movement into the piece; for some reason I am leaning to the concept of ice-dancing or figure-skating as opposed to ballroom dancing. In my brain I think of ice-dancing as being weather-related, though I have no reason why to make such an association.  This could be an upbeat song, like a tent pole song, although it comes early in the play.

4. Clue: The Song of Clue. Burke discusses throughout her play the many clues that became obvious in retrospect, as may often be the case in situations such as these.  This could be another comment/metaphor song. It may be possible to keep a similar form as the one many are familiar with, as…. “Colonel Mustard did it in the Conservatory with the revolver.” I am thinking that this may be quite similar to the Diagnosis Dance; however, unless I take steps to prevent this.

5. Finally, several times in the play, Burke (2010) says “This is the last time I will feel this way for the rest of my life…” (p. 28). There is a lament there; at the same time, there is possibility; there is future. My feeling is that this could be an effective song; if done correctly, it could capture the myriad emotions that thread through the play. It would be conceivable to draw upon images of things that Burke did as a parent with her other children—things that were not as successful for Noah.

And that, Ladies and Gentlemen is my first go round of a Song Plot for “Sing Ducks Sing” ….stay tuned for the first song draft….

References

Burke, K.J. (2010). Ducks on the Moon: A Parent Meets Autism. Hagios Press: Regina, SK.

Frankel, Aaron (2000). Writing the Broadway Musical (Revised and Updated). USA: Da Capo Press.

Mandelbaum, Ken (1991). Not Since Carrie: Forty Years of Broadway Musical Flops. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

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A Quacking Song Plot

Sing Ducks Sing: Quacker-Three
Welcome friends to my online blog about my Arts-Based Educational Research (ABER) project, where I am adapting Burke’s play, Ducks on the Moon (2010) into a musical. Some may call this ABER project quackery, but I am already on my third posting, so I am calling this posting quacker-three. In the second posting, I highlighted the different kinds/ways of incorporating music into plays (play-with-music and musical drama) and the different types of musical theatre songs (I Am Song, I Want Song, Comment Song, Metaphor Song, Opening Number, Reprise and Segue, and finally Tent Pole Song). Today, I consider a few guidelines about lyric writing, musical theatre songwriting more generally, and the placement of songs within the musical, or what is sometimes referred to as the Song Plot.
rubber-ducks-1408285__480

About lyrics…
Writing musical theatre lyrics may be different than writing for smooth jazz or pop songs, but they are some similarities.  One truism salient to both genres seems to be: show, don’t tell; or, stated differently “Calling next on the senses will translate abstractions into concreteness. Metaphors, neologisms—whatever hits the fancy, no pondering or editing. Seize.”  (Frankel 2000; p. 30). In other words, good lyrics must taste as such; as opposed to be understood as such.

 

About musical theatre songwriting…
The biggest lesson for me about musical theatre and smooth jazz/pop songwriting is probably THE crucial difference between them:  in the theatre songs must have narrative motion; they journey; they ambulate; they arrive. Certainly pop songs may do as well, though it does not appear to be imperative. Indeed, Viertel (2016) recalls “perhaps the greatest example of Hammerstein’s dictum that a song should be a miniature play, with its own movement, conflict and resolution” (p. 64).

About the Song Plot…
From my understanding, a song plot is all the songs in a musical without any dialogue. A songs-only chart allows the writers to examine how the musical narrative flows through music; ideally, one strives for variety and placement:  “Musical synopsis shows whether the number is the right one, and in the right place. This includes the alteration of numbers—among the different characters, between solo and group numbers, and among kinds of numbers (ballads, rhythm tunes, special material and production numbers” (Frankel 2000; p. 65). So, the writer should manage dramatic tension through the songs; and one way to do so is to “var[y] rhythmic impulses or charges. High or low, the rhythmic contrast between these charges is what makes them effective” (Frankel 2000; p. 32).

And, of course there are not only rhythmic contrasts, since “the complement of rhythmic contrasts is visual variety. Musical theatre moves figures through mere signals of place, on an open platform of space, and keeps the space free for change; this makes all musicals spectacles” (Frankel 2000; p. 33). And, again the Viertel (2016) suggests that variety is the goal, for “as soon as the audience understood a visual idea and taken pleasure from it, another idea has to be presented. As soon as the sound of a trio has been enjoyed, the quartet has to enter, then the octet, then the entire company” (p. 110).

Conclusions…
So, my next task is to re-read Ducks on the Moon, look for those dramatic high points and create a tentative song plot

References

Burke, K.J. (2010). Ducks on the Moon: A Parent Meets Autism. Hagios Press: Regina, SK.

Frankel, Aaron (2000). Writing the Broadway Musical (Revised and Updated). USA: Da Capo Press.

Viertel, Jack. (2016). The Secret Life of the America Musical: How Broadway Shows are Built. New York: Sarah Crighton Books.

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