Tag Archives: marriage

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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Looking for a Home, from Leading Lady (Day 134)

The final moments of Leading Lady in a duet that I wrote for the 2013 workshop. The idea is that Mae and Frank have taken a bad loss at the Metropolitan, and that Mae blames Frank. She’s found a tumbledown place, a wreck of a theater in Kensington, and proposes moving the Mae Desmond Players there. He is initially skeptical about the prospects for the building but eager to show contrition to his wife. After their duet, they embrace affectionately and are reconciled. The company appears and the theater is magically “renovated” before our very eyes for the final moments of the song.

This a crappy composer’s demo of a beautiful duet. Gosh, I’m trying to remember if it ever even got performed for an audience. (Clare and Bryan, was it you two in the band room at Drexel?) Maybe this should go in the program for my birthday concert on July 13 so there can be a proper recording of it. My singing may make you cringe a little at the climactic points, but give a poor composer a break!

MAE: See, it has character!
FRANK: No, it’s just old!
MAE: Look at these moldings —
FRANK: And look at that mold!
BOTH: (after a pause.) It has… potential.

FRANK: Kind of old-fashioned.
MAE: No, I’d call it “quaint.”
All that it needs is a good coat of paint.
A new place,
A home.

Lately, I’ve been looking for a home.
Looking for a place to put my heart.
Seems the place I had before
Was not so sure
And so, once more I start
Looking for a place where I belong.
Looking for a “fixer-upper!”
This place will do fine.
Best of all, it’s mine.
Look, I put my name up on the sign.

(spoken) Except it’s not my name, is it? I’m just plain Mary Callahan from Southwark.

FRANK: And a Callahan can do anything she sets her mind to do!

MAE: Once, I thought I’d found a home in you.
Thought we’d made a life together, too.
Was it all a mad charade?
Now I’m afraid
The life we made is lost forever!

Make something new,
That’s what I’ll do,
Just like I did before,
Hoping to make a home once more.

FRANK: Isn’t it close to the tracks of the “El?”
MAE: That means it’s close to our old clientele.
BOTH: (after a pause.) It has… potential.

FRANK: Looks as though you found your fixer-upper,
But it’s a lot to manage on your own.
Another pair of hands could come in handy
To do the things that you can’t do alone.

MARY: Frank, you can’t just waltz back in and take over!

FRANK: Who’s waltzin’? I’m on my knees, Mary. Can you forgive me?

I was sure I’d found a home in you.
We can make a life together, too
If we keep our fingers crossed
And mind the cost,
Our dream will not be lost forever!

BOTH: Make something new,
That’s what we’ll do,
Just like we did before.
Maybe we’ll make a home once more.

[They kiss. Their son, Francis, spies his parents being mushy and romantic and reacts.]

FRANCIS: They seldom go their separate ways
They’re far too busy doing plays!
Oh, no! It’s great to be together.

MAE AND FRANK: We make a perfect married team
Tho’ sometimes we’re a harried team
What ho!
It’s great to be together
I’m his leading lady,
He’s my leading man
Following and leading, we do the best we can

ALL [next five lines as stretto/round]
My love’s a flag I/they wave with pride
Our dressing rooms are side by side
Our loving looks proclaim our vows
We share our books, we share our bows!
We/they see the world with eager eyes,
And oh, how well we harmonize!
It’s plain to see, we pull our weight
We never get to sleep too late

FRANK & MAE: And when we’re busy, sex must wait

ALL: But as long as we’re together, together, together, together –
It’s great!

As Long As We’re Together, from Leading Lady (Day 133)

Frank decides – rather precipitously, in Mae’s opinion – that it’s time to quit the Chestnut Street stock company, and persuades Mae that their prospects are bright in the song By God Gumption, during which Mae and Frank travel to New York – well, Brooklyn – with their infant son Jamie and Frank’s mother, Maggie, in tow. This number chronicles the challenges they face as they adapt to life in a new city. Their big adventure in the Big Apple includes some big inconveniences, and yet they seem to triumph over adversity with one another’s help.

MAE: This flat’s a tiny two-by-four
MAGGIE: A walk up on the seventh floor
FRANK: And yet, It’s great to be together
MAE: We’re packed like sardines in a tin
MAGGIE: Do you suppose we’ll all fit in?
FRANK: You bet!
ALL: It’s great to be together!

(The rumble of a train is heard nearby.)

MAGGIE: My God, is that the El?
It’s twice as loud as hell
MAE: The noise will Make poor Jamie wake
And he’ll start to yell.

FRANK: Well…
MAGGIE: I’ll start some laundry in the sink
That is, if I can stand the stink
The chores, I think, will just have to Wait.

ALL: As long as we’re together, it’s great!

MAE: This room could use an airing,
But I think this window’s painted shut.

(She groans.)

FRANK: Let’s open it together.
This place just needs a bit of care.
You’ll make some pillows for this chair.
Now there!
ALL: We’ll fix it up together.

FRANK: This sofa should go here.
I’ll help you move it, dear.

MAGGIE: Some curtains made of lace will add a wee bit of cheer!
A bunch of flowers would be sweet.

MAE: I saw a florist down the street.

FRANK: Now, Mother I’m afraid we’ll be late.

MAGGIE: That’s all right, darling.

ALL: As long as we’re together, it’s great!

MAGGIE: They’re out the door each day at dawn
And I’m on duty while they’re gone
Oh, gee
It’s great to be together!
While they’re rehearsing night and day,
I get to stay at home and play
And with their Granny they will play
While we’re rehearsing, night and day
It’s great to be together!
He makes a lot of noise
And scatters all his toys
I do my best to keep things neat
But boys will be boys …

Jamie, your Granny’s just going to rest her eyes for a minute.

(She nods off. MAE and FRANK sneak in.)

At night, when Jamie’s tucked in bed.
And poor old Granny’s nearly dead
We tiptoe in because it’s so late,

(MAGGIE snores on the couch.)
And crawl in bed together –
It’s great!

[Mary and Frank tiptoe in, slip into pj’s and climb in bed. MAGGIE continues to snore.]

MARY: I can’t believe how loud she snores
It shakes the windows and the floors

MAGGIE: Snxnx!

[Alarm clock. Music suddenly faster. Pantomime of rushing to theater. BACKSTAGE. The dialogue overlaps like crazy.)

I’ve got a lucky star to thank
I get to spend each day with Frank
On stage
It’s great to be together
We’re called the darlings of the day
Just like two lovebirds on display
You bet!
It’s great to be together.

[aside.] He’s rather prone to flirt
And watch a passing skirt
But he’s been taught, if he gets caught,
He’s going to get hurt.

I’m happy that my love is near
[Music pauses while they kiss]
Although he sometimes smells of beer
And alcohol’s the one thing I hate
But long as we’re together
It’s great

FRANK & MAE (and COMPANY): We never go our separate ways
We’re far too busy doing plays!
Oh, no!
It’s great to be together.
We make a perfect married team
Tho’ sometimes we’re a harried team
What ho!
It’s great to be together
FRANK: She’s my leading lady,
MAE: He’s my leading man
BOTH: We’re following the leader just as best we can

ALL [next five lines as stretto/round]
Our/their love’s a flag we/they wave with pride
Our/their dressing rooms are side by side
Our loving looks proclaim our vows
We share our books, we share our bows!
We/they see the world with eager eyes,
And oh, how well we harmonize!
It’s plain to see, we pull our weight
We never get to sleep too late

FRANK & MAE: And when we’re busy, sex has to wait

ALL: But as long as we’re together
It’s great!

Talk It Through, from BGDF (Day 90)

This is a song from my 1984 musical BGDF, my first adventure into the world of self-producing in New York. The singers are D’Arcy and Gregg Edelman, who play Pat and Ted, a married couple who work together at an advertising agency. It’s a song about what happens when your problems at work start to spill over into your marriage. Both husband and wife address the audience directly when they sing, voicing their thoughts as they progress from self-deluding platitudes to growing despair; in the dialog sections, they speak – or, at any rate, try to – directly to one another, and their conversation repeatedly runs on the rocks of misunderstanding.

This is one of a number of songs that I’ve written about the challenges of being married. I wrote it the first years of our marriage, when I was a pretty lousy husband, if the truth be told – self-absorbed and uncommunicative, a constant source of frustration to my high-spirited partner. Somehow, amazingly, we hung in there; I managed to extract my head from my ass a bit more often and participate actively in our relationship, and 35 years later, we’re still together, older and wiser and often happier. I’m still a work in progress, however, and I’m sure my self-absorbed behavior continues to tax the patience of those who are closest to me. I’m so sorry about that!

I think I’ve written elsewhere about Gregg Edelman, who was not long out of college when we cast him in BGDF, a graduate of Northwestern who had recently arrived on the New York scene. It’s been wonderful to observe the trajectory of his professional career – he appeared in the premiere productions of City of Angels and Passion and major revivals like Into The Woods, Wonderful Town and Drood.

We have the perfect arrangement as man and wife.
You’ll understand once you’ve seen us
When there’s a problem between us.
We talk things out like mature adults do.
We get results, too,
Wait and see.
Listen, honey…

There is no better prescription for married strife.
When there are signs of dissention,
We try an ounce of prevention.
Being frank will keep things tranquil,
That’s a guarantee.
We share our views enthusiastically.

TED: It’s better not to let things fester.
If something has distressed her,
Pat is certain to reveal it.

PAT: If there’s a burden, then we share it.
Who wants to grin and bear it?

BOTH: It makes no sense to try to conceal it.
So here’s our simple solution for wedded life:
Not talking kills like a cancer.
Communication’s the answer!
You can bet that we don’t let our pride get in the way.
That might jeopardize our repartee.
When we’re feeling blue,
We just talk it through.
All we have to do is…

[Dialog – their conversation doesn’t go as well as planned.]

TED: I never lose my composure at times like these.
We’ve just a minor delay here.
Let’s see now, what can I say here?
Something that oozes with warmth and candor.
I understand her,
I aim to please.

PAT: It’s hard to say why I’m feeling so ill-at-ease.
You mustn’t get the impression
I’m on the verge of depression!
I fell almost sure that our rapport will save the day.
We’ll speak our mind and love will find a way.

TED: I can explain my hesitation.
This sort of situation has all kinds of dangers in it.

PAT: I know it may sound like a dumb thing,
But if we don’t say something,
I’m gonna lost my mind in a minute!

BOTH: Won’t you do something to end this?
I’m on my knees!
I’d start if I was prepared to.
The simple truth is, I’m scared to.
I’m afraid the fact is we don’t practice what we preach.
But talk to me,
We still can be okay.

TED: I’m as scared as you.

PAT: Can’t we talk this through?

BOTH: All we have to do is…

If you missed them, these are the songs already posted on Project 194; the links on the right are songs chosen at random from previous posts. Want to contribute to my interactive composition, “Hear My Song?” Read more here. Want to receive daily songs delivered direct to your inbox? Sign up here!

Listen, Friend, from BGDF (Day 44)

As Valentine’s Day draws closer, it’s only right and proper that we hear from my Valentine, the one and only D’Arcy Webb, who made her off-off-Broadway debut singing opposite Gregg Edelman in my musical BGDF in 1984. This was the first foray into New York for both of us, and it was a hair-raising experience, but luckily we got a lot of help from our friend Richard Aumiller, a classmate and pal of mine from Delaware days who’d made the move a few years earlier and established himself in a Hells Kitchen walkup. Dick not only agreed to direct the show (and wound up doing a lot of the heavy lifting of producing an Equity-approved showcase) but came to our rescue when the apartment we sublet turned out to be an unspeakable chamber of filth and saved the day with a mop and a sponge. The one redeeming feature of our grimy sublet was that it had a piano, on which I composed this tune. Give it a listen, and I’ll meet you down below the lyric for a few afterthoughts.

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