The George Theater Lobby
I had an interesting experience recently on a holiday trip to Houston, Texas. The amazing and beautiful George Theater in Houston provided this unique opportunity, and I was thrilled to know that the arts are important enough to continue building gorgeous facilities in which to provide citizens a few hours of enjoyment and artistic expression. Yea!!!
The Jeannette and L. M. George Theater is the home of the AD Players, a group of actors in the Houston area that was formed to perform primarily Christian-based themes in theater arts. I attended an evening performance with a friend, and wouldn't you know? The play was entitled "It's a Wonderful Life." I thought I was seeing the "usual" production of this classic holiday story, but I was incorrect. It was definitely the same story as the traditional movie, but it was done as a radio show. The actors all had different voices for all the characters, and several actors might have had three or so characters to portray through their voices.
All at once, I felt as if I were in touch with my Mom, who often talked about her experiences in listening to dramatic readings and "radio shows" with her family as a little girl. I took a trip to the 1920s and 1930s, enjoying the dialogue with a friend from Houston who had graciously invited me to a special evening.
All at once, I began to think about my music writing. This version of It's a Wonderful Life was nothing like I had expected, but it was the uniqueness of its presentation that brought a freshness to the old familiar story and filled it with life.
A Great Evening!
With every arrangement or set of lyrics, I am trying to find a new way to express the familiar melodies of public domain literature that might "speak" in a new way to my clientele. Sometimes it isn't easy, as numerous other composers have arranged many of the tunes and lyrics that appeal to me most. However, sometimes I find myself in a bit of a "whim" of creativity that has not been explored by others, yet seems absolutely natural to my ear (hearing a piece in 5/4 meter instead of 4/4, etc.).
Whatever the creative "twist," at some point I must decide if the new twist is in-keeping enough with the traditional interpretation of the piece that listeners will not be "jolted." That is unpleasant for many. I can hear my mother say, "That didn't sound like any version of 'Down in the Valley' I've ever heard!" As always, I am looking for the right amount of familiar mixed with the right amount of different.
So....as I head into 2019, I renew my interest in writing music, finding great joy and challenge in this delightful process that has become my joy and song. I strive to find that tune that speaks to me gently, uproariously, energetically, or amazingly. I want to spend time with the familiar, giving respect and evaluation to any "out of the box" whim that might enter my brain.
That's my process...that's my joy...that's my song. And...it is indeed a "wonderful life!"
The George Theater "Familiar" Tree
The George Theater "New Twist" Tree