Featured Five, Vol. 2 – Story Songs

This blog is a part of The Directory of Contemporary Musical Theatre Writers, found online at www.contemporarymusicaltheatre.com
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Finish this sentence: “T’was the night before Christmas, and all through the house…”

Our point exactly.  We all love a good story.  So this month we’re celebrating some great story songs from the Directory.  There’s a lot to love about these five songs.  They’re incredibly melodic and expansive.  They captivate us, taking us somewhere we didn’t even know we needed to go.  In short, these five songs are very much worth your time!

Begin to learn about them through the writer’s words…

Annunciation from Glory
David Reiffel, Music & Lyrics
David Reiffel, Music & Lyrics

Glory delves into the question “What do we mean when we say we do–or do not–believe?” It tells the story of Glory, an evangelical woman, and her husband, a preacher of some renown, who arrive to help a church fight the atheist billboard that has been set up across the road. On her way, Glory encounters Victor, a mentally ill homeless man. What happens among the three of them, and the interpretation of those events by the congregation, the community at large, and the media, shakes the very foundations of their beliefs.

“Annunciation” is the epilog: several years after the action of the play, Victor (healthy now, and back on his meds) tells us of an encounter with a woman whom he believes to be Glory, though she denies knowing him. Conversational in tone, the song grows from a casual recitation to Victor’s realization that not knowing paradoxically will allow him at last to move on–in an unexpected way, Glory has saved him. This solo version (the show version includes an offstage chorus) offers a great opportunity for the actor: it’s a vocally challenging piece with a wide range, and the voice and piano are equal partners in telling the story. The singer needs a good, relaxed high A flat and an ability to make the speech rhythm natural in the early verses.

For more information, click here.

First Grade Teacher from Crossing Brooklyn

Jenny Giering, Music
Jenny Giering, Music
Laura Harrington, Lyrics
Laura Harrington, Lyrics

Set in New York City in 2002, Crossing Brooklyn tells the story of Des and AJ, young, idealistic public school teachers bent on changing the world, one kid at a time. Life is full of promise and endless possibility until Des begins to unravel under the weight of her fears, ignited that fateful September day. Splitting apart under the strain, Des and AJ struggle to find their way back to each other. Late in the second act, Des finally confronts the events she experienced on September 11 and tells us her story in “First Grade Teacher.”

For more information, click here.

Folk Group

Kim Oler, Music & Alison Hubbard, Lyrics
Kim Oler, Music & Alison Hubbard, Lyrics

“Folk Group”  was written for a revue about women’s issues.  Our assignment was to write a song about teen pregnancy– particularly the termination of a pregnancy.  We chose to write a song about one woman’s experience before that was a legal option.  That said, the song does not have to carry a political  agenda.

 It is a song about innocence.  The woman who sings it must be unfailingly upbeat, looking back fondly on this time in her young life, her best friend, and her first love.  The 60s references should seem like a jaunty trip down memory lane until the last verse–when the singer’s all too human mistake, and the loss she still feels, sneak up on both her and the audience.

For more information, click here.

So I Chased the Setting Sun

Anna Dagmar, Music & Lyrics
Anna Dagmar, Music & Lyrics

“So I Chased the Setting Sun” is a metaphor for the gradual letting go of a long-distance relationship. I wrote the lyrics while flying across the country for the umpteenth time to visit a distant love. The sun was slowly setting, casting colored lights through the clouds. It was the longest and most beautiful sunset I’d ever witnessed. Within a minor tonality, the harmonies shift over a pedal tone with varied upper chords above to give the feeling of light and darkness. Soaring eighth notes in the piano accompaniment create a feeling of weightlessness. There is room for rubato in the interpretation, but also a forward motion. While the lyrics give way to sadness, there is also a sense of peace and acceptance within the song.

For more information, click here.

Sweet Dreams

John Bucchino, Music & Lyrics
John Bucchino, Music & Lyrics

I was walking down Hollywood Boulevard and a bus pulled up. Two people got off, a young man and woman in their early twenties. They each had on a backpack – the big framed kind. They looked like their entire lives were on their backs. The image of them stayed in my head, and I went home and wrote what I imagined their story might be. I’ve found that the most effective (and affecting) perspective from which to perform this song is to become one of the characters and follow the emotional arc you’d imagine they’d be living.

A most amazing thing happened when I was recording this song with Judy Collins for my Grateful CD. I was at the piano, and Judy was singing in a soundproofed booth across the room. In my headphones, I heard her glorious voice singing MY song, a dream come true. I was so enraptured that I literally forgot I was playing and just listened to Judy Collins singing my song. Luckily my hands kept moving, and that’s the take we used.

For more information, click here.

We hope you have a wonderful holiday and a New Year full of beautiful stories!  Check back often – we’ll have lots more to share with you, including our first ever “vlog” (video blog) in January!

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Visit www.contemporarymusicaltheatre.com for more information on over 180 contemporary musical theatre writers and 550+ songs, all searchable by voice and song type.

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