I know, Cole Porter wrote that one, not me, but I wanted to share a couple video clips from this morning’s opening of The Brave Little Tailor. We were in neither Philly, Boston or Baltimo’, but rather in the heart of Chester County, a drive of more than an hour early on a Monday morning. The audience of kindergartners was super-attentive and responsive – what a great payoff for the months of work that have gone into this project! It’ll play in schools in Philadelphia and the five-county region for the next two months – bring a kid and come enjoy it!
A third task awaits the Brave Little Tailor, one that will put his vaunted bravery to its ultimate test. After the Tailor returns to the palace to report that the two giants have been successfully dispatched, the King and the Courtier are at a momentary loss about what challenge to give to the Tailor next. Circumstances come to the rescue, however, as a terrified villager bursts in shrieking warnings about a dragon on the loose. The King tells the Tailor that, if he successfully slays the dragon, he will receive not only his daughter’s hand but three-quarters of his kingdom.
In Enchantment Theatre’s version of this tale, the Princess plays a surprising role in the Tailor’s success. The Dragon is a formidable opponent, and things are looking grim for the Tailor, when suddenly a mysterious warrior appears, brandishing a sword with which the Dragon is quickly dispatched. After the Dragon disappears, the warrior reveals herself to be the Princess in disguise! She swears the Tailor to secrecy and they return, separately, to the palace.
The dragon battle was a particularly enjoyable piece for guitarist Christopher Farrell and me to work on. I encouraged him to crank up the overdrive on his guitar to produce a blistering distorted tone, and then he improvised various guitar flourishes while watching a video of the battle scene. To this, I added the voice of Aaron Lathrop, the creator and operator of the dragon puppet, growling and laughing, and then pitched those sounds down substantially to create a beastly tone. All in all, it turned out to be a compelling final “boss battle.”
Random Post Roulette: my “Random Post” menu has presented me with two of the most attractive songs on the site. Have you listened to Gregg Edelman sing The Truth Will Make Us Free, from BGDF? Or Robert Picardo sing Concrete, from Gemini the Musical? You won’t be disappointed! Or try a random post of your own from the list on the right.
The Tailor manages to capture the rampaging rhino with a combination of ingenuity and luck, and leads his captive back to the palace. The King and the Courtier are dumbstruck that their plan didn’t work, but quickly come up with another impossible challenge: get rid of the two giants whose robbing and bullying have dismayed the peasants. The Tailor feels confident that his skills are up to this task.
As in the first Giant scene, the music here is a version of the Tailor’s Seven In One Blow song, slowed down to a swaggering funk tempo. I recorded the actors who play the two giants but used Garageband to lower the pitch of their voices to a more giant-like register. Of course, this scene isn’t nearly as much fun without the visuals: the two giants have enormous puppet heads and enormous shillelaghs which they use to pummel one another, and the scene ends with choreographed flying body parts.
The Tailor is escorted into the presence of the King and his daughter, the Princess. The Courtier is eager to get rid of this rival, and he and the King cook up a plan to give the Tailor an impossible task: capturing a fearsome Rhinoceros that’s been terrorizing the peasants. The Tailor pulls off this feat with a mixture of good luck and ingenuity.
The Princess theme is reprised briefly as the Tailor finds himself in the presence of the girl of his dreams, but those dreams are interrupted by a Plotting theme that recurs each time the Courtier and the King scheme up ways to get rid of the Tailor. The musicologically inclined among you may notice that the melody of this theme begins with the same triadic pattern as the Princess theme, but with this transformation: Sol-Do-Mi (the top, bottom and middle notes of a major triad) in the Princess theme becomes Sol-Do-Me (the minor triad) in the more conspiratorial mood of the Courtier’s plot.
There’s a little two-bar harmonic riff in this Plotting theme that I borrowed from, of all places, Uptown Funk. (Listen for its first appearance around :32 in the first cue on this post.) There’s also a little figure played by low flutes around :55 that quotes the final “one-two-three-four-five-six-seven” of the funky Seven In One Blow song. These little details are the secret “Easter eggs” that I’ve hidden in this music to amuse myself!
Random Post Roulette: The African Rondo is the final scene of A Is For Anything, a show that’s come to mind any number of times while working on The Brave Little Tailor. I created that show in 1988, when my boys were little, and though the technology has changed, they’re both shows for young audiences performed to pre-recorded tracks. Of course, in 1988, the steps involved in creating and playing back that track were more cumbersome. The music required painstaking effort using drum machines and the services of a studio engineer (the estimable R. J. Miles) as a MIDI midwife, while the final product was played back via reel-to-reel tape deck; the machine I used for playback on the tour sits in my office now, a bit of legacy technology I keep around until I’ve digitized the music, mostly original, that I’ve still got stored on R-to-R tapes. Fast forward more than 25 years, and I’m still using a Mac for music-making, but everything else is so different! Garageband makes the mingling of MIDI and live audio a breeze, and I can do amazing things with it without ever leaving my home studio. The digital files can be played back via any number of devices, including my phone! O brave new world!
Tired after his long journey, the Tailor falls asleep outside the castle. Two villagers come upon him and, reading “Seven In One Blow” on his sash, decide that he must be a great warrior, and hurry to tell the king. The king decided that this brave warrior should be his general, and sends a courtier to bestow that title on the Tailor.
The story of the Brave Little Tailor includes a number of moments where people jump to conclusions. The Tailor’s impulsive decision to advertise his fly-killing prowess leads others to believe he is much braver than he really is, and he’s only too happy to play along with their mistaken perceptions. “General? Why not!” he thinks, when the Courtier arrives to inform him of the King’s decision. I find the loopy logic of the story quite charming, and the music, which chugs along propelled by various loops of guitar and rhythm, seems to convey that same sense of casual but inevitable momentum.
There’s not much in the way of trunk material in The Brave Little Tailor, but the heroic music that plays when the Tailor is made a general is an exception. I wrote these phrases as part of a song for Realities called I Have To Stand, in which Alex, the main character, tries to summon his courage to face his rival, Miles. Later, I tried it out in Gemini the Musical, as the basis for a song that Francis sang before smashing his birthday cake called Here’s To You; that song got cut after an early workshop. The music rose from the dead last year, when it seemed appropriately heraldic for Shakespeare’s Scottish warrior, Macbeth, though only a sliver of it wound up in the score. Here, it sounds like a quotation of something portentous, but I’m just quoting myself.
Random Post Roulette: Pump It Up asks the musical question, “What do you do when you’re stuck in a slump?” Do you ever click on the Random Posts links on the right? With over a hundred songs in the queue, there’s always an intriguing selection of songs to choose from!