Hold onto your hats I've got a lot to talk about this week sweethearts.
Wendy's Quartet - what iffing
I love taking a song and playing around with it. Asking 'what if -what if we tried...?' and then finding out. Emlyn and I call it our kitchen table work - we sit at the table with a song and find out what if - what if we changed mode, what if we changed time signature, what if we changed the entire feel? Here's what happened when we what iffed You Are My Sunshine
It's on my mind when I share arrangements on this blog - it's just so much fun to find out what if when you sing a song - I want you to feel you can do this with these arrangements. It's one reason I like to give you a skeletal arrangement. I want to leave plenty of room for you to explore what if.
So I was pretty delighted yesterday when Wendy sent me her quartet's rough recording of my arrangement Mary Had A Baby. It was just a joy to hear their what ifs - what they did to make it their own - they shaped the song by balancing solos and tutti verses and kicking the tempo up after the first verse. And sorry for the spoiler, but they popped in a modulation so unexpected and well managed I laughed when I heard it.
I think this is a phone recording - Wendy emphasised that it's a rough recording of a rehearsal. Which is great - that's exactly what this blog is about. How good do these girls sound!
The Big Sing sing I Sing
Most of my pieces are for community singers. We make music because it's good to do. It's good for us, it's good for the people in our lives and the people we share music with - people we sing with and people we sing for. That's what community music is about. If your group sings songs from this blog, send in recordings and we will celebrate what it means for the world when normal people sing together.
Some years ago I studied music education at Uni of Qld, where I met the extraordinary human being Dr James Cuskelly. What a force in music education he is. Another time I must tell you more about him and his impact on me and thousands of others. His community choir hosts the annual event The Big Sing. Choirs share a day making music with and for each other. This year they sang I Sing, Andy Armstrong's beautiful song I published on this blog. Here's a rough and ready recording of James leading these lovely people singing together:
Sweethearts I started this blog earlier this year while I was wondering what to do. At the beginning of this year I had hatched a plan based around going back to uni to further my composing. My plan was to do honours this year.and then do a composition phd on a scholarship. I needed first class honours or equivalent to apply for the scholarship and it seemed (given my non academic pathway to learning composition) less risky to do honours than try to prove equivalence. (So what study did you do in composition Jodie? Well I read a lot for eg when I wanted to find out about counterpoint I bought Fux and worked through it by myself. O...K... so at uni, what study have you done? Um, well I did a first year harmony subject in 1989. O...K... anything else? Well I studied privately with Ollie for a while. A mad, wonderful jazz-Swede. Maybe you've heard of him...) It was easier to just suck it up and do honours.
Any way it went badly. I felt old and lonely - my fellow students were so young and filled with a beautiful certainty they would one day shake the world. Where does that feeling go? Also I was dragging myself around in a at the time undiagnosed peri-menopausal hormone imbalance daze - with zero energy or enthusiasm and increasingly poor health. I found it hard to articulate what my thinking process was to my supervisor and through no one's fault, I came to dread our weekly supervision sessions.
Half way through the year I dropped out. And Emlyn (baritone, husband and IT guy) told me to start a weekly blog to keep the momentum of writing going. (Probably also to stop me moping and whinging but he's too good at being a husband to say that out loud.)
I did - and here we are!
Now at uni, I had been working on a major choral work - setting text I had put together over several years, from a wide range of beautiful poetry. Because I slunk away miserably from uni, this piece felt like failure and frustration and not surprisingly I've been avoiding it.
But I want to return to it and finish writing it.
The other day I realised it would be helpful to publicly commit to keeping on with it, and I figured I could do that on this blog. So I am publicly committing to getting back to writing it, and asking your indulgence - I'd like to add weekly reports to the blog posts on how I'm going with this project.
and finally... this week's song
Complexity Level: super simple - could be taught by ear
Parts: lead and 3 part backing - SAB
Genre: Elizabethan - Shakespeare no less!
Deets: D minor, 4/4
This one is from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. At the very end of the play Feste the fool sings it. The lyrics seems to say - really there is nothing to be done: humanity's continued nonsense is as guaranteed as the miserableness of the English weather. All we actors can do is try to put on a good show for you!
Here's a very nicely written reflection on the song.
And here is an extraordinary countertenor's version.