2013 TOP 25 SONGS – Volume 4

This blog is a part of The Directory of Contemporary Musical Theatre Writers, found online at www.contemporarymusicaltheatre.com

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We continue to roll our our Top 25 Songs, chosen by our wonderful celebrity guest judges (read more about that here).  Here are this week’s five songs.

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Sigh No More, Ladies

Music & Lyrics: Will Reynolds
 
Will Reynolds
Will Reynolds

Tell us about your song.  If it’s from a musical, set the song up for us.

Believe it or not, I have set this text 3 different times!  Thanks, Shakespeare.  The first 2 were for a musical currently in development, The Greenwood Tree – a contemporary telling of the secret story embedded in the Sonnets; Shakespeare’s most personal work, his journal, really.  The first was for the very first workshop of the show while at Carnegie Mellon.  This was vampy and jazz flavored, but the style seemed to be distracting from the heart of the story-telling.  So, when I was in the first round of revising the show for a NYMF concert in 2009 followed by a Kennedy Center “Page-to-Stage” Festival reading – I knew Sylvia needed more material, more colors, and something straight out of the heart.  When I first heard Nikki Renee Daniels, who played the role in both presentations and included the song in her incredible debut album “Home,” the song (re)wrote itself.  I then set it again for a production of Much Ado About Nothing for American Bard Theater Co. in NYC – on guitar.  In The Greenwood Tree, this is Sylvia’s final song, her farewell to the show’s troubled love triangle.

What are you most proud of with this song?

That I have set it 3 times!  I’m just waiting for the 4th … Shakespeare is a great writing partner.

What was the most difficult thing about writing this song?

Realizing I had completely missed the target the first time around!  As fond as I was of the song, it sent the show to a very different place, tone wise – and for Sylvia’s climactic exit, all that style was in the way.  And now whenever I dread rewriting/revising something, I think about this song’s journey and dive in.

What else would you like us to know about this song?

It was also song by the incredible Kerry Butler at Joe’s Pub for a benefit for Sonnet Repertory Theater Company, honoring acclaimed director Jack O’Brien – who blew my mind and wrote me a lovely note about the song the next day (AKA “the best day ever.”)

Tell us what excites you most about contemporary musical theatre.

That people want to do it!  That the writers, the actors, and the audience and are taking the same leap together at the same time.

What do you find to be most challenging about this business?

The hours. 🙂

What are you currently working on?

I just finished my fellowship at the Dramatist Guild, working with lyricist/book writer Eric Price on an original musical called Radioactive based on the romance between Marie and Pierre Curie and the discovery of Radium.  We were selected for the Rhinebeck Writer’s Retreat where we will spend a week upstate to continue developing the material, and there will be a presentation of a except from the show presented by the Dramatist Guild, Sept. 9th at Playwrights Horizons.  Along with Radioactive, my song cycle Poems & Moon Songs will be produced next in the fall by Penn State University, and I had the honor of Audra McDonald recording “Tavern” for her latest album, Go Back Home.

How can we keep track of what you’re up to?

On my website – www.willreynoldsonline.com and @willcreynolds on Twitter.  I hope to hear from you!

For more information on this song, click here.

Simple Way

Music & Lyrics: Micah Young
 
Micah Young
Micah Young

Tell us about your song.  If it’s from a musical, set the song up for us.

“Simple Way” was written to dedicate the 20th Anniversary of Miracle House.

What are you most proud of with this song?

I am most proud of the message in the song – that it speaks to hope in times of trouble.

What was the most difficult thing about writing this song?

Keeping it simple.

What else would you like us to know about this song?

It was originally performed by Terri Klausner.  I recently recorded it with Michael Winther. The recording is available on my website, along with the sheet music.  It is suitable for both men and women.  www.micahyoungmusic.com

Tell us what excites you most about contemporary musical theatre.

The chance to improve it.

What do you find to be most challenging about this business?

Honestly? The low standard of writing and the lack of nuance in the craft.

What are you currently working on?

I recently finished Crossing Swords at the New York Musical Festival, and won best Music Director in the Festival.

I am currently writing and recording a Holiday Album which will be available this Christmas Season.

How can we keep track of what you’re up to?

www.micahyoungmusic.com

https://www.facebook.com/micahyoungmusic

https://twitter.com/micahyoungmusic

Listen to the song here. For more information on this song, click here.

Smile

Music: Rob DelGaudio
Lyrics: David Alan Thornton
 
Robert DelGaudio
Robert DelGaudio
David Alan Thornton
David Alan Thornton

Tell us about your song.  If it’s from a musical, set the song up for us.

“Smile” is from an untitled summer camp musical that follows the story of a group of adults returning to their old summer camp for one last week before it closes for good.  Beth is the last to arrive.  She loved camp and is excited to see everyone but she recently lost her husband.

What are you most proud of with this song?

The lyrics and the melody are truly one in this song.  It is a very simple idea and the words and music echo in the simplicity and tenderness.  We want the audience to feel a certain way for Beth after hearing this song and we seem to have set it up just right.

What was the most difficult thing about writing this song?

The most difficult part of writing this song was zeroing in on what the character of Beth would say in her introduction song.  We knew what the audience needed to know about her.  She went through a big tragedy.  It took a few drafts and many hours of tossing ideas around before we came up with the idea of her pushing herself to smile.

What else would you like us to know about this song?

The first version of this song was called “Maybe I’ll Find Myself Lost.”

Tell us what excites you most about contemporary musical theatre.

There are a lot of possibilities within this relatively new art form.  It is exciting to see the mix of new musical styles, stories and ideas entering the palette.

What do you find to be most challenging about this business?

Hours, months and years of work often sits on a shelf.  There are many hurdles for a musical to go over to become successful.  It certainly keeps us trying our hardest!

What are you currently working on?

We are currently continuing work on this summer camp musical.  Additionally, Rob is working on a fundraising project called Campfire Songs.  The project is an album of original, fun, folky campfire songs and the mission aims to raise money for underprivileged kids to attend summer camp.  David is working on an original musical titled Crazy Tony’s.

How can we keep track of what you’re up to?

www.robdelgaudio.com

www.davidalanthornton.com

Listen to the song here. For more information on this song, click here.

So I Chased the Setting Sun

Music & Lyrics: Anna Dagmar
 
Anna Dagmar
Anna Dagmar

Tell us about your song.  If it’s from a musical, set the song up for us.

“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.

What are you most proud of with this song?
I like the gradual pacing of the story-telling and the simplicity of the pedaled bass notes.

What was the most difficult thing about writing this song?
The most difficult thing was coming up with the ending that would sound honest without being over-dramatic.

What else would you like us to know about this song?
I recorded it with my band – producer Ben Wittman, bassist Richard Hammond and guitarist Marc Shulman. First Richard and I laid down the piano and bass, then Marc added his guitar soundscapes. Next, I composed the woodwind trio to fit the phrasing of the guitar and the overall tone of the rhythm section. The winds are Kelli Kathman on bass flute, Christa Robinson on English horn and Ken Thompson on bass clarinet. Because I arranged the parts in the midst of the recording process, I think we were able to find a very cohesive and close knit sound.

Tell us what excites you most about contemporary musical theatre.
The opportunity to compose songs not just for myself, but for a myriad of different characters and voice types. Having mostly written singer-songwriter music in the past for my own voice, I am also excited about becoming involved in larger productions and being part of a creative team. I look forward to the opportunity to also be a music director.

What do you find to be most challenging about this business?
I am a relative newbie at understanding how to pursue rights for existing source material.

What are you currently working on?
I will be in the BMI Advanced Workshop this fall, continuing a full length musical project with lyricist Kevin Wanzor. Our musical is based on a film and we are beginning to look into obtaining the rights. Outside of BMI I am also writing string quartet + piano/voice arrangements for nine of my own songs. I will also be expanding the availability of my songs on the directory website. Very happy to be a part of this project.

How can we keep track of what you’re up to?
www.AnnaDagmar.com features tour dates and music. There you can also join my newsletter.

For more information on this song, click here.

Spring Cleaning

Music: Chris Miller
Lyrics: Nathan Tysen
Nathan Tysen & Chris Miller
Nathan Tysen & Chris Miller

Tell us about your song.  If it’s from a musical, set the song up for us.

It’s from our song cycle Fugitive Songs.

What are you most proud of with this song?

It is inspired by true events, keep reading…

What was the most difficult thing about writing this song?

Writing the second verse.  We wrote the first verse without thinking about the structure, and the rhymes fall in strange places.

 What else would you like us to know about this song?

“Spring Cleaning” was written one afternoon when I (Nathan) was house sitting for a friend with a to-die-for apartment near Washington Square Park.  Chris came over to take advantage of the Steinway Grand Piano in their living room and we set out to write a song.  The living room had large windows that looked down on a shared courtyard, as well as directly into the back windows of neighboring apartments.  Taking in the view, we spotted her: a stunning young woman, dressed to the nines, feverishly cleaning her apartment. She was really going at it.  We couldn’t stop watching.  At one point she contorted her body to slip out the bottom of a window and clean the outside of the glass—with a squeegee.  Who puts on a cocktail dress to clean?  Who EVER wipes the outside pane of glass? Who owns a squeegee? Dreaming up answers to these questions led us to “Spring Cleaning.”

Tell us what excites you most about contemporary musical theatre.

The endless possibilities.  Contemporary musical theatre seems to have an open door policy when it comes to musical genre.  Love the fact that Once, Here Lies Love, and Natasha & Pierre are all successful musicals.

What do you find to be most challenging about this business?

The waiting for things to happen, and the fact that you can’t actually make a living. But you have to be tenacious, persistent, and relentless always.

What are you currently working on?

Broadway-bound adaptation of Tuck Everlasting, and a circus for Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey.

How can we keep track of what you’re up to?

www.MILLERandTYSEN.com.

For more information on this song, click here.

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Be sure to check back next week for the last five Top 25 Songs!

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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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