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Seven for Ed

I just sent off my submission to New Dramatists for the Kleban Prize in Musical Theater. Named for Ed Kleban, who earned an unexpected sackful of swag when A Chorus Line became a hit show, the prize is awarded each year to one lyricist and one librettist. The blind judging calls for each applicant to submit 5-8 song lyrics, and I took this as an occasion to identify some of my top work as a lyricist. All of the songs I chose were among the 194 that I posted last spring during my “Project 194” blog-a-thon, and the links to them are below:

From Gemini the Musical: Concrete, The Hunk With The Funk, I’m Gonna Jump

From Leading Lady: Good Show, Just Known, Who Wants To Be Married

From A Tiny Miracle: I’m Growing

If you’re new to the site, or interested in a curated list of “greatest hits” to guide your listening, you can’t go wrong with these seven. Still curious? The list in the right hand column will guide you to a random selection of other items from Project 194.

Bloom Where You’re Planted (Day 194)

Sparklers for 60 Welcome to the 194th post of Project 194! It’s the thirteenth of July, 2015, my sixtieth birthday, and in case you need reminding, I started posting a song a day on this blog back on January 1, at the beginning of the new year. Along the way, I’ve revisited a lot of work from my archives, and it’s been enormously gratifying to reacquaint myself with the projects and artists that have filled my days over the past years. I’ve also continued to create new work, and have shared some of that, including the score for The Brave Little Tailor, which was presented dozens of times in May and June.

It’s only fitting that I wind up this endeavor with an original song, one that appears here for the first time. The phrase “bloom where you’re planted” is one that I hit upon as a potential title years ago; I thought it might belong in A Tiny Miracle, a story about growing and about discovering one’s purpose in life. Later, I thought it might serve in the ending of Leading Lady, since that story ends with Mae’s decision to stay in Philadelphia and try to make a go of things at a modest and dilapidated venue in Kensington called (appropriately enough) the Peoples’ Theater before it is renamed the Desmond Theater. That was the occasion when I began work on this particular tune and the first few lines of the lyric. It was only recently, though, when I was inspired to finish the song, an unexpected gift from my muse whose message serves nicely as an epigram for Project 194.

The last 193 days have reminded me that all sorts of things have bloomed under my stewardship in the past years. D’Arcy is familiar with a certain sigh that I emit each year in early June at the end of the Tony Awards broadcast, a sigh that can be translated as, “Oh well, no Tony for me this year.” Indeed, it is all too easy to dismiss the work that has “devoured my days” (as Brecht’s “The Doubter” puts it) as being of little consequence when measured against the arbitrary standards of Broadway. But this blog contains nearly 200 blooms of creativity, some quirky and misshapen, others elegant and quite fine, each one a reflection of its maker and his collaborators.

I offer a grateful salute to all those who’ve helped me make this work. There are so many who’ve said “yes” to me over the years, “yes” to my proposals and my requests and my (sometimes harebrained) ideas. If you fall into this category, please know that I owe you more than I can ever repay, though this brief song may serve as a credit against the balance due. Leonard Bernstein said, “I’m no longer quite sure what the question is, but I do know that the answer is Yes.” That seems like a fine thought to hold in my heart as I begin my seventh decade. “yes is a pleasant country,” to quote a favorite lowercase bard, e. e. cummings. Yes, I will bloom where I’m planted. Yes.

Bloom where you’re planted
Don’t take the benefits of home for granted.
There’s a grace to be found in a place that you know,
One that helps you grow

So you better mind where your roots are.
That’s where you’ll find the most remarkable fruits are.
Each kind of field has its bounty to yield
If you have faith and dig in.

Everyone should have a chance to roam.
Helps you to appreciate what’s there at home.
If you just can trust what you’re made of,
You’ll find nothing to be afraid of!

Bloom where you’re planted,
Where conditions are the most enchanted.
Though your spot may not seem like a lot,
You’ve got room,
Room enough to zoom!
You should just assume when you’re planted
You’re gonna bloom!

You can have your own special Eden.
All it takes is some care and feedin’ and you’ll
Bloom where you’re planted
Where conditions are the most enchanted.
Though your spot may not seem like a lot,
You’ve got room,
Room enough to zoom!
You should just assume when you’re planted
You’re gonna bloom!

Making It Up As We Go Along (Day 193)

On the next to last day of Project 194, another song that’s very close to my heart. I wrote this for a revue that D’Arcy and I created called Happily Ever After, a collection of songs about married life, mostly by other composers. We had big fun performing it here and there, most memorably in the conservatory at Longwood Gardens one summer evening on our wedding anniversary. We got asked to perform it on a few special occasions, including a tribute to Bob Doss, the minister at the First Unitarian Church in Wilmington, and at the wedding of our dear friends Stretch Wesolowski and Lucy Siegel. And then we incorporated it into the cabaret version of Watch The Birdie, the one we did at Don’t Tell Mama in NYC and The Bourse in Philly, with Harvey Price on drums and some very fancy sequencing on my trusty DX-7 to fill out the arrangement. That’s the version you’ll hear on this track.

The idea of married life as an improvisation seems to be a really powerful metaphor, and the lyric “following the changes” has multiple layers of meaning for someone who’s both a musician and a traveler on life’s journey. D’Arcy and I have been married now for 35 years, and I’ve been married for considerably more years than not. The decision to marry was one of the biggest we ever made, and I’ve returned to the subject again and again in my songs to re-examine that decision, but I always come to the same conclusion: it was the smartest and best thing I ever did, and it’s one of the most important reasons that I grew up and became the person I am now.

Although I’d had it in my head for weeks that I wanted this to be my penultimate post, somehow I forgot that I’d already posted this song months ago, back on Day 90! This is what happens with a project of this scope, I suppose – sometimes, you get mixed up. I fixed it, though, by replacing my Day 90 offering with another marriage song, Talk It Through, featuring D’Arcy and Gregg Edelman back in 1984 in my musical BGDF. By all means, check it out!

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A Dream for Christmas (Day 192)

The last three songs I’m planning to post on Project 194 all have a particular personal meaning for me. I wrote “A Dream for Christmas” as a Christmas present for D’Arcy many years ago. This is a composer’s demo of the song with me in a particularly soulful mood. I know, it’s the middle of summer, and Christmas is the last thing any of us are thinking of, but there’s so much love and so much truth in this song that I have to share it now!

Looks like we made it through another year.
Let’s share some Christmas cheer,
What do you say?
Although our future’s not exactly clear,
At least we made it here
And we’re okay.
It’s Christmas Eve at a quarter to two.
The kids are sleeping, and there’s plenty to do,
But come sit with me by the Christmas tree
And you can open up my present to you.

I want to give you A Dream For Christmas
And wrap it sweetly in a song,
A dream of comfort and joy
To make our holidays seem beautiful
And last the whole year long.

I know the money isn’t always there.
There isn’t much to spare,
God knows its true.
We’ve learned to manage with the cupboard bare,
Though we try not to care,
Sometimes we do.
Though means are meager, we seem to get by
‘Cause dreams are always in ample supply
And the dream we share is a gift that’s rare.
It brings up happiness and harmony
That’s sure to linger when the Christmas tree is a memory.

I want to give you A Dream For Christmas
And wrap it sweetly in a song,
A dream of comfort and joy
To make the holidays seem beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
And make each day a holiday all year long.

MacGregor’s Garden, from Peter Rabbit Tales (Day 191)

TaleofPeterRabbit8Counting down the days on Project 194, we’ve reached the Final Four! Today, a bit of music from my current work-in-progress, Peter Rabbit Tales. This is an excerpt from the score for the newest Enchantment Theatre production, slated to begin performances late in September and to hop in to Philly for three weeks at the Arts Bank at Christmastime.

This particular bit of music accompanies one of the most iconic moments in Peter Rabbit – the moment when Peter gorges himself on the vegetables in Mister MacGregor’s garden. When he gets caught in the act, he has to flee for his life, leaving his jacket behind him. The music begins with Peter’s arrival in the garden, and there’s a minute or so of cheerful music as he stuffs his face. When the music turns minor, the birds are warning him of Mr. McGregor’s approach, and then you’ll hear an agitated chase section as Peter flees. Then there’s a bit of an epilogue that occurs months later, as Peter is recounting the incident for his cousin, Benjamin Bunny.

The music is output directly from Finale, so the sounds are MIDI cheesy, but the score will eventually feature a chamber ensemble of seven instruments. The score will be recorded in late August, so as you can imagine, I’ve got my shoulder to the wheel trying to get this finished in the next six weeks. I’ll post more here in the coming weeks, though it’ll be after Day 194!

Music for MacGregors Garden