Excuse Number Two: A Moving Christmas

Inspiration

Kerri’s family is experiencing a truly “moving” Christmas.  Her mother has taken a job in Medicine Hat (Alberta) and the rest of the family is expecting to move to join her there during the Christmas holidays.  As school comes to a close and her fellow students anticipate the holiday season, Kerri is facing the prospect of saying farewell to her friends, her school and her home town.  Her imminent departure forces her to look at the significance of the season in a new way.

(from the synpopsis written for A Moving Christmas)

As I indicated in the previous post, my musical motivation for writing a musical was the absence of “good untried Christmas scripts” for the intermediate division (grades 7 and 8).  The plot idea came in the previous school year (1988).  I still recall being out on one instance of the perpetual recess “yard duty” which afflicts teaching in the elementary system.  I overhead a conversation  in which one of the students revealed that her father was probably being transferred and she would be moving away in the next several months.  Her desolate tone and the commiseration of her classmates suggested that this might be a topic with which intermediate students could relate.  I tucked that thought away and, when summer holidays arrived, I closeted myself in the basement and wrote a script based on a student facing a similar situation.  As I did so, I considered what kind of songs would suit and where they might be inserted.  By the time I was finished, I had come up with six songs- including A Christmas Wish (a generic seasonal opener for the choir), Christmas Unwrap (yes, a holiday rap song) and How I Feel (a song of teen angst).

Christmas Wish had two features which I was looking for- it sounds Christmasy and it provided some easy harmony for the choir.  It sounded something like this…

 

 

 

At this point I should recognize Jane’s (my wife’s) role in this enterprise (and its descendents).  I relied on her editing skills and advice in the preparation of the script and music and also collaborated with her on several songs in school productions.  I intend to address this more specifically in an upcoming post.  

How I Feel is the one song which has stayed with me from this musical.  I think that’s because it was the one song where the lyrics and music complemented each other most effectively.  If you recall my previous mention of the limitations of the computer’s sound capability, you may remember that I had only 8 tones at my disposal.  So, with How I Feel, I chose to use a bass line (1 tone), the piano (5 or 6 tones… no damper pedal!) and a harmonica (1 or 2 tones).  Thus, a very restained arrangement.  The version I play below doesn’t have the same constraints tonewise but I have limited my instrumentation to that  used in the original.  Lyrically, the song is sung as a duet with Jeff (a classmate of Kerri’s) standing outside her house, wanting to tell her of his fondness for her (before she leaves) but with characteristic adolescent reticence.  Kerri sings from inside the house echoing a similar sentiment.  And, of course, at the end of the song he departs, lacking the courage to knock on her door.

 

 

How I Feel

(Kerri)

 Don’t know the words to tell him

Haven’t the nerve to tell him

I’ve got to try to tell him how I feel

 

Wanted to say I like him

That there is no one like him

Can’t say goodbye till he knows how I feel

 

Maybe he’ll call

Or maybe he’ll write

Maybe he’ll come by to see me

All that I hope and all that I ask

Is just one chance to tell him

 

Till then I just keep waiting

Watching, anticipating

The moment when I’m stating

How I feel

 

(instrumental)

 

(Jeff)

Maybe I’ll call

Or maybe I’ll write

Maybe I’ll go by to see her

All that I hope

And all that I ask

Is just one chance to tell her

(duet)

Till then I just keep waiting

Watching, anticipating

The moment when I’m stating

How I feel.

 In hindsight, there are alterations I would probably make both to the script and musical selections of A Moving Christmas.  That said, it was a rather satisfying creative experience and seemed to be well received by the participating students and audience.  That was enough to encourage me to try it again a year later, albeit with a different inspiration and a different division.

 

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