Saint Aggie's '84

The history of a new musical as it comes to be…

Archive for Chris Wynters

Ready to Go at the Winspear

Tech went well at the Winspear Centre this afternoon. An hour an twenty-five minutes to showtime. Better get ready. More pictures later.

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Saint Aggie’s ’84 at the Winspear Centre

Just a quick note to remind everyone to come and see an excerpt from SA84 at the Winspeare Centre on Monday, April 11. We’re there as part of the 24th Annual, Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts. It’s such an honour to be a part of this amazing night and to perform in such an incredible venue.

February 5th: Saint Agatha’s Day

Tomorrow is February 5th which just happens to be Saint Agatha’s Day. How about that. I will celebrate tomorrow in much the same way I’ve celebrated everyday this week, plugging away and writing the show. I finished “The Obligatory School Song” today. It still needs some verses (right now it’s kind of “third verse, same as the first”) but those will come. And musically everything is getting placed into the libretto, which helps me to understand the rhythm of the whole play. Important at this point in the process.

The song is quite cynical, but I think the f#@* you attitude is appropriate for the the play, both musically and contextually. And I think the characters really feel like that. The chorus is completely aware that they are the chorus in a MUSICAL set in HIGH SCHOOL. They are aware of the history of MUSICALS set in SCHOOLS (Grease, Merrily We Roll Along, Spring Awakening, High School Musical, etc..) and they are not afraid to acknowledge that there is a certain amount of irony and perhaps even cliché in singing a song like this. It is not meant to be disrespectful in any way, I mean, there have been some seriously great songs written on the subject. Maybe I’m just a bit intimidated. In any case, the thought of writing a song for the chorus to sing about being in school just had to go to this place for me. And it’s fun! Here are some lines from the song.

GIVE US A MINUTE
YOU CAN’T GO WRONG
BUT YOU KNOW WE’VE GOT TO SING
THAT OBLIGATORY SCHOOL SONG
WE’VE JUST GOT TO SING A FEW LINES
WE’LL SAY WE’VE DONE IT THEN WE’LL MOVE IT ALONG
WE COULD CHANT LATIN
OR CUBE ROOTS OR SQUARES
WE COULD AIR ALL OUR DIRT
ON THE CURRENT AFFAIRS
BARK OUT LAWS OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND
UNDERSTAND WE’LL ALL BE MILLIONAIRES
IT’S JUST THE DRILL
IT’S JUST THE JOB TO BE DONE
BUT PLEASE FORGIVE US IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS BEFORE
YOU KNEW WE’D GET TO THIS
BEFORE THIS BEGUN
KNEW IT WAS COMING WHEN YOU WALKED IN THE DOOR
AND THERE’S NOBODY
THAT’S HOLDING A GUN
BUT YA GOTTA DO IT IF YOU WANT TO BELONG
AND OH WE WANT TO BELONG
HERE’S THAT OBLIGATORY SCHOOL SONG

On a sad note, my friend Lindsay Thomas passed away yesterday after a bout with cancer. She was an insanely talented actor/singer/dancer, gracing stages all across Canada and the USA. She was also a lovely, positive person. She was a regular leading lady at the Stratford Festival for the past few seasons, had a stint on Broadway and toured North America in “Hairspray” and she was recently cast in the Toronto production of “Jersey Boys”. I had such a great time pretending to be a high school kid with her at the Citadel a few years ago, in the 2003 production of “Grease”. She was way too young to have to go…but she did a lot with time that she did have. We all must try to do the same.

Let’s all try to have good Saint Agatha’s Day.

1st Music Rehearsal

A few hours ago we finished the first music rehearsal for Saint Aggie’s ’84. It wasn’t really a rehearsal, I guess. Rehearsals for the show won’t start until early summer. It was more of a chance for all of us to get together and hear what everything is going to sound like.

And everything is going to sound pretty good!!! If I don’t say so myself. Big kudos to everyone!!!

I must say, it was very exciting for me to hear everyone singing together. Nothing like 30+ voices singing full out. It’s huge. I’m still entrenched in writing this piece, and sometimes it feels like it’s just me and a keyboard and the orange box (my laptop). It was so refreshing to change gears for a bit. Can’t wait to get started for real.

Well, back to work…

Charts and Minds

Less than a week to go before we sing through some of the Saint Aggie’s songs with the band and (hopefully) most of the cast for the first time. I’m really looking forward to hearing what the whole thing is going to sound like. I’m charting the score out like crazy for the songs that we are going to be working on. My brain hurts. It’s not really my thing, but I’m getting better at it every time I write one of these shows. Quite a few of these songs I’ve written right out of my head and onto the page in front of me (well, virtual page – thanks Sibelius 5), which is convenient in the sense that the song is charted out already, when it comes time to perform. It is, however, at the same time, somewhat scary, as the only way I’ve heard the music at all, is in the form of the cheesy midi patches in the Sibelius program or, at best, with the midi info playing Sampletank or Reason patches within the Pro Tools environment. I can tell you, it’s not like hearing real people playing music at all.

I remember when I was working on writing WedLOCKED with Bridget Ryan for the Mayfield, the whole show was written in this manner, right into my laptop. I remember the first time Jen Kinghorn (the piano player) came into the studio and played through all the songs, all the pages of piano music I’d written but never heard. She was playing and I was singing and I was feeling so relieved that it sounded like music. I guess that sounds kind of crazy, but it’s true. And that show was going to be mostly piano/vocal, so the piano parts had to be good. I can write music a lot better than I can play it when it comes to the piano. It was a huge revelation to me when I realized that, and since then it has been so liberating not to be bound by my own limitations as a piano player.

In Saint Aggie’s I also have the luxury of some strings. I’ve never had to chart out parts for violins and cellos before, but it’s definitely a skill I am going to acquire rapidly, and with much enthusiasm.

The Chorus as a Character (or perhaps, the Flies on the Walls)

I’m still working on “the Silent Song”. It’s been five days of work now. It’s really proving to be quite a challenge…but I like a challenge. The song has just about got it’s structure, but still needs a whole lot of fleshing out…and probably several rewrites of lyrics before it is presentable. It’s just a really important scene, and the climax of the play. And it’s got to be funny! I have Tim Ryan’s voice in my head constantly right now, telling me over and over, “Make it funny, Chris!” (Thanks for that Tim, I mean it. Because you are so right…and always have been.) I’ve also just realized that this is kind of the finale of this version of Saint Aggie’s ’84, albeit a false one. (I think it might not play out quite the same way in the two act version of this show that will eventually come to be). It is the first of two false endings…and the second one might actually end up being a REPRISE of this song. So it’s a pretty heavy piece of music. No pressure.

The Chorus in this song is going to be very important, not just for the fact that hearing all 40 voices singing together will add to the celebratory height of where the girls are emotionally (not to mention that it will just sound pretty cool), but that the comedy in the song comes from the element of each of the girls being caught out. Having the whole school bare witness to their secrets will up the stakes in the scene. I’m thinking that the chorus in “St. Aggie’s” will be just that, the eyes and ears of the school…the flies on the walls, the gossip going round, the spirit of Saint Agatha herself. I want the Chorus to be present all the time, able to comment at any moment. The Chorus is going to be an important character.

Saint Aggie’s ’84 Promo Flick

Made this little promo movie for the show…just for fun.

I’ve been working really hard all week on the “big discovery scene”, and I guess I needed a break.

That song is going well, though, but it is very complicated, and it’s such an important scene (and a very well know scene in Shakespeare), so I want to get it right. At the moment, the title of the song is “Silent Song”, which seems to be working as the girls have all been keeping their feelings very well (or not so well) hidden, so they have been singing a silent song, in a way. The song is not very silent, though. I like how the title is kind of a paradox. How could you have a silent song? Obvious? Perhaps. But I’m liking it for the moment.