Tag Archives: Shakespeare

O Mistress Mine, from Twelfth Night (Day 66)

Get your kicks on Day 66 of Project 194! There’s still more music from the Bard in store for today: another song for the Arden Theater Company’s 2002 production of Twelfth Night, O Mistress Mine:

O Mistress mine, where are you roaming?
O stay and hear, your true love’s coming,
That can sing both high and low.
Trip no further, pretty sweeting.
Journeys end in lovers’ meeting,
Every wise man’s son doth know.

What is love? ‘Tis not hereafter.
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What’s to come is still unsure.
In delay there lies no plenty,
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty;
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.

There seem to be quite a number of settings of this text, many of them featuring a conspicuously melancholy tone. In contrast, I took my inspiration from the atmosphere of drunken merriment in Act II, Scene 3; despite the fact that it’s after midnight, Sir Toby Belch is in the mood to party, and has enlisted the befuddled Sir Andrew Aguecheek as his drinking companion. Feste, the Clown, responds to their request for a song by delivering a love song fitting for their rowdy mood. The Arden’s production, directed by the estimable Whit MacLaughlin, imagined the “Illyria” of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night as a distinctly Italian resort community, hence the accordian and the vocal bravura of this musical setting.

Shakespeare’s gifts as a poet are abundantly evident in this text, especially the second stanza. “What’s to come is still unsure” is a resonant line for me, but Shakespeare’s response to the uncertainty of the future is to embrace the pleasures of the present, for “In delay, there lies no plenty.” Drink your wine, sing your song, kiss a pretty girl – these are all sure to lift the spirit and drive away gloomy contemplations about the future. Life is good!

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!

A Macbeth Miscellany (Day 65)

Macbeth Cauldron

This is some of my most recent work, a selection of the cues that I wrote for the production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth that was presented by the University of Delaware’s Resident Ensemble Players in the fall of 2014.

Macbeth BattleThe photo above shows Macbeth and the three “witches” (played by three puppeteers) in the Cauldron scene, while the one on the left shows you Macbeth and Macduff in their final fight to the death. The production was directed by Leslie Reidel, to whom I owe considerable gratitude for this commission. Leslie and I have enjoyed a very happy collaboration over the past few years at Enchantment Theater, where we have two projects currently in development. It was Leslie’s decision not to treat the song-like texts in Macbeth (like the witches’ chant “Double, double, toil and trouble” in the Cauldron scene) as opportunities for singing; instead, the actors infused Shakespeare’s text with compelling spoken expression, and the music functioned as atmospheric underscoring.

Like the work I did with Leslie on Harold and Sylvester, the music for Macbeth was created while the piece was in rehearsal, and tailored to the stage action. In some cases, like the final Mac vs. Mac swordfight, that meant recording the stage action on video and then scoring it film-style. Because I was creating the music using digital tools, the final tweaking of the score took place during tech rehearsals. This process enabled an unusual fastidiousness of detail, which in turn made a significant contribution to the overall impact of the theatrical event. The occasions to work this way are lamentably rare in the life of a theater artist, where too often we are fighting a losing battle with dwindling resources of time and money, and I have found that my response to these constraints has been to settle too soon for a less-than-perfect result. I consider myself fortunate to have had a few occasions where the constraints were less dire, and where the producer (in this case, Sandy Robbins at the University of Delaware) took pains to make sure the artists had sufficient resources to deliver a first-class product.

Come Away, Death from Twelfth Night (Day 64)

More Shakespeare? I know you want more! This is one of the songs I composed for the Arden Theater’s production of Twelfth Night. (I posted a previous one here.)

Come away, come away, death,
And in sad cypress let me be laid.
Fly away, fly away, breath;
I am slain by a fair cruel maid.
My shroud of white, stuck all with yew,
O, prepare it!
My part of death, no one so true
Did share it.

Not a flower, not a flower sweet,
On my black coffin let there be strown.
Not a friend, not a friend greet
My poor corpse, where my bones shall be thrown.
A thousand thousand sighs to save,
Lay me, O, where
Sad true lover never find my grave,
To weep there!

A Lover And His Lass, from As You Like It (Day 63)

Today’s Shakespeare jam is the last of the songs I composed for the 1998 UArts production of As You Like It, A Lover And His Lass.

IT was a lover and his lass,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
That o’er the green corn-field did pass,
In the spring time, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.

Between the acres of the rye,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
These pretty country folks would lie,
In the spring time, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.

This carol they began that hour,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
How that life was but a flower
In the spring time, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.

And, therefore, take the present time
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
For love is crown`d with the prime
In the spring time, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.

Big River 1For some reason, I thought of the songs of Roger Miller when I faced the challenge of setting this text. My musical tastes have always been wonky, even from my teenage years, and I owned an LP of Roger Miller’s songs. Musical theater types know Roger Miller wrote the songs for Big River (which D’Arcy and I appeared in with Forrest McClendon a few years ago), and music lovers of a certain age may recall King Of The Road, but I got a real kick from his comedy novelty songs like Chug-A-Lug, Doo-Wacka-Doo and You Can’t Roller Skate In A Buffalo Herd. (This, by the way, is the magic of the Internet – that I can think of Roger Miller and be looking at a list of 22 of his albums in no time at all.) My collection of LPs also included Tiny Tim (“Tiptoe Thru the Tulips” was weirdly intriguing to me after I saw Tiny Tim sing it on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In) and The Bee Gees (actually, pretty mainstream in 1970), along with the discs of Stravinsky and Samuel Barber that I borrowed from the county library. God bless my parents, they never seemed too alarmed by my abnormal musical curiosity. Anyway, the ding-a-ding-ding part of Shakespeare’s text got me thinking about Miller’s playful use of funny sounds and words, and the result is what you hear here. As with the previous demos, you need to supply the proper instrumentation using your imagination – guitar and banjo would be the ideal combination, with a thumping upright bass on 1 and 3.

Wedding Anthem, from As You Like It (Day 62)

This morning, a song that honors marriage, one the comes from Shakespeare’s As You Like It (like the songs I posted yesterday and the day before):

Wedding is great Juno’s crown,
O blessèd bond of board and bed.
‘Tis Hymen peoples every town.
High wedlock then be honorèd.
Honor, high honor, and renown,
To Hymen, god of every town.

This song was written intentionally in a gospel style, and we were fortunate to have a terrific young singer, Wynter Spears, to deliver the message. On this track, you’ll hear me trying to approximate the stylings of Mahalia Jackson, and I’ll leave it to you to be the judge of my effectiveness.

For a contrasting point of view on the topic of marriage, listen to Who Wants To Be Married?, from my most recent musical, Leading Lady. Actually, this song is a bit of a head-fake: it is skeptical about the idea of marriage until the end, when the two characters experience a change of heart.

As a guy who’s been married for nearly 35 years, I consider myself an experienced commentator, and I’m definitely a fan. Of course, marrying the right individual is key, and luckily, I managed to do that. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine two people more dissimilar than D’Arcy and me, and there are still times, even after all these years of companionship, when those differences lead to conflict and unhappiness. Nevertheless, I remain convinced that what makes us different is part of what makes us great as a couple: we complete each other, we complement each other in countless ways, and that means we are greater together than we are separately. I wish more people could be as lucky as we are.

Hey, if you haven’t seen it yet, there’s a story about Project 194 on the website musicalmakers.com. The author is Carol De Giere, who’s the author of Defying Gravity, the definitive Stephen Schwartz bio, and her most recent book, The Godspell Experience, is a comprehensive resource for scholars and fans of that historic 1970 musical.

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!