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.