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Topic: Beginning to compose "Rivertown" now

  1. #1

    Beginning to compose "Rivertown" now

    This week I am beginning to write songs for the musical I have been commissioned to write for the bicentennial of Madison, Indiana in 2009.

    Saturday I met again with the theater arts director of Madison High School and a local Madison historian at the public library. Janice, the historian/genealogist was a tremendous help to us.

    I had previously laid out the story line from 1809 - 1909, but had questions about some of the events I am writing songs about for the show. Most of my ideas were confirmed to be historically accurate, but I will have to tweak an idea or two. An example - there was an orphanage in Madison at one time. I had heard that many of the children were brought to Madison from Chicago - so I immediately thought of writing something in the style like "It's a Hard Knock Life".

    As it turns out, the children were nearly all local, with some even being dropped off by their parents because they could not care for them. But I did learn that the children could be "loaned out" to say, a farmer who needed help with planting or harvesting. So that song will can still have some of the flavor of what I had planned on.

    I had made "song cards" using colored 3 x 5 note cards to organize the show. We spent some time discussing the pacing of the show - styles - moods - fast/slow, etc. for the entire show. A very interesting process. We had to decide when to "kill off" the patriarch's grandson who dies in the Civil War in the Union Army. The end of the first act was the best place to do that, so we could be more upbeat opening the second act with a big production showboat scene.

    So we now have the musical, more or less, laid out and I am beginning to write the songs. The fellow writing the "book" is actually writing the script to fit the songs & story line I have laid out. Not the normal way of doing things, but it works for us. His job is to tie the story and songs together in a logical way to make the musical work - in other words, to "get us from here to there".

    One advantage he has is that the old town patriarch is basically a narrator who will often set up each scene - not every scene, but many. The script writer could not make it to this meeting, but actually that worked out OK. We were mainly dealing with my song ideas and how to place them in the show anyway. We meet again in a few weeks.

    The show premiers on October 9, 2009 at 7:30, with other performances on
    October 10, 11, 16, 17 & 18. Aaron and I are excited and a little terrified all at once. We also agree that this is an incredible opportunity that few people would ever receive and are grateful.

    We also needed to to name the show and we did. I recently decided that I wanted the name "Rivertown" and I told Aaron that I really thought that would work best. As it turns out, he had that title on his list of possiblilities - so that was it.

    So I have about 20 songs (and orchestrations), more or less to have done by April, 2009 for a workshop reading with the students in Madison. I plan on having a demo CD ready by then using some of my former students who are now in high school and have great voices. And my Garritan virtual instruments will definitely be on that CD. Ready or not, here I go.

    I am still working on my year and a half $25,000 Lilly Fellowship project, but I need to start on this as well. I have received permission to extend the deadline for the project from August to the end of December, if needed. That helps with some of the pressure on me right now. Good pressure though. My plan is to make that deadline though and keep going.
    MacPro 2.66 - Tiger & Snow Leopard / 16GB RAM / several TB of HD space/ Garritan Libraries / EWQLSO Platinum PLAY / Omnisphere/ Kontakt 2 & 3 / Finale 2010 /DP5/ a VERY patient wife!

  2. #2

    Re: Beginning to compose "Rivertown" now

    Wow, sounds like fun! Thanks for sharing the process you have gone through, it's very interesting! So when are you going to start on Indiana's bicentennial musical? You only have 8 years!!!
    Michael Obermeyer, Jr.
    youtube channel
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  3. #3
    Senior Member bigears's Avatar
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    Feb 2005
    Central Illinois

    Re: Beginning to compose "Rivertown" now

    Hope all is well over your way regarding flood waters. I wish you the best of luck with your project(s)! I remember long ago attending an event for the 75th year of Wyoming statehood, and I can still remember a bit of the historical pageant or play that was staged on that occasion. One thing I would recommend, is that you or the writer remember to add just a bit of humor somewhere appropriate in the text, history can be funny too. Please keep us informed here on the forum of your progress. Regards, John

  4. #4

    Re: Beginning to compose "Rivertown" now

    Humor? This musical is FILLED with it.


    In the late 1800's, Madison switched over from mule/horse drawn trolley cars to electric ones - get this - with women conductors - very rare for that type of job to be performed by women in 1896. This will be a funny scene with the ladies singing about their job and men complaining about "women drivers".

    Madison's major industry for years was hogs. Hundreds of thousands of hogs over the years were driven down the streets of Madison to the many packing plants. Later it was referred to as "Porkopolis" - so there will be no problem injecting humor into this scene - "that smell you complain about is the smell of MONEY!"

    Volunteer fire companies were a big deal in the day in Madison. There is a scene with competition between the companies about why somebody should join their company. Will be very lighthearted.

    So, yes, I have plenty of humor in the show.
    I could not do a show without it!

    Indiana's bicentennial in 2016? Yep, already thinking about it.

    I will be marketing a coffee table book with photos from my current Lilly Fellowship - ( http://charlesmoman.smugmug.com/ ) before then as well as a DVD that will come of this project too. Also a series of posters and maybe greeting cards too.

    I already have a musical for children called "Indiana, That's Where I Belong" that I market - over 300 Indiana schools have performed it. I also got to be a part of the last governor's inauguration with 30 some kids singing songs from that musical on stage at the fairgrounds. I have know Becky Skillman for several years - she is the Lt. Gov. of Indiana.

    I am planning on a new musical for the bicentennial for elementary schools and am considering doing one for high schools. We'll see how the Madison one goes first.

    No flooding at my house, but a 100 or so did receive various amounts of damage from minor to total in Seymour and elsewhere in our county.
    MacPro 2.66 - Tiger & Snow Leopard / 16GB RAM / several TB of HD space/ Garritan Libraries / EWQLSO Platinum PLAY / Omnisphere/ Kontakt 2 & 3 / Finale 2010 /DP5/ a VERY patient wife!

  5. #5

    Re: Beginning to compose "Rivertown" now

    Excellent news! I knew you'd be gearing up for this big project soon, but it was sounding so far away - now the deadline really isn't all that distant! Time enough, for sure, but you will be a Very Busy Guy now.

    --Just avoid coming up with things that are like the numbers in "Waiting for Guffman"--hehe.

    Randy B.

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