Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Accidental Librettist

I've only recently become familiar with what a libretto is. And that is because I have accidentally become a librettist. So despite not particularly caring for musicals (except things like Little Shop of Horrors and The Rocky Horror Picture Show) I find myself working on one.

How could this happen to a person, you might well ask. Well, it started innocently enough. A few months ago I was reading some poetry at our local open mic and a musician friend asked if I could give him some lyrics that he could turn into songs. Of course I was flattered, but my poetry style isn't too close to lyrics most of the time. But I took it as a challenge, and there were a couple of ideas that I had been wanting to write as something more song-like.

So I did a fairly quick turn-around and sent him something. And within a couple days he sent back a song using my words. And by then I had something I really liked. A poem I'd been trying to write for years now came out as lyrics and I sent it off. And what came back was a really beautiful, haunting melody now called "Down in Ballarat".

Well, that continued with some more songs. And we soon discovered that we were starting to get a theme of desert/ghost-town songs. Then someone, I'm reasonably certain it wasn't me, said that we should write a musical. And so now we are.

And last night we got together and read through the very first draft. There are still some gaps, some missing songs, some missing "book" and a lot of rough edges. But the draft is done and we know what we need to work on next.

So I am collaborating on a musical. And collaborating itself is rather new to me. When I write by myself, I will generally hold something back until I think it is ready to share. But now I can't do that. I end up having to share before I feel ready. But I'm also finding that a new perspective can be very helpful. If I find myself "blocked" a quick discussion he can give me a new way of looking at things, and I find myself a way past the block.

 Well, tomorrow it will be time to get back to work on fixing the problems we found. We're planning for our "second" draft to be done by the end of May. And there's a lot of work to get done. Sounds like a good start for a song...


  1. What a great story! I am fascinated by the synchronicities that manifest in the writer cum blogger's life. In the past two weeks I have encountered several instances in which the writer of a blog has written of an incident in which his or hear blog post resulted in a connection or event such as you describe. It's amazing.

    I hope you will keep us in the loop as your musical takes shape. I love musicals and would love to see yours.

    Best wishes,


  2. Ah! I loved this. How exciting. I look forward to hearing more about your musical. Love the ghost town and haunting lyrical songs theme.

  3. Definitely intrigued! Of course I'm a huge musical fan so all you had to say was "musical" and it was guaranteed I'd read the post through. So this is some sort of ghost-town type musical? I'm again intrigued!

  4. I think that is a very cool thing. To work on a musical or to even just write lyrics is fascinating to me. I can't wait to hear more.

  5. Thanks all of you. I'm sure that this will be a topic that comes up again as I continue to work on the thing.

  6. Mark,
    Very facinating. It must feel great to hear your poems set to music. I look forward to hearing about the progress of your musical.
    By the way, I absolutely love "Little Shop of Horrors".

  7. This is pretty cool! I've always wanted to try turning some of my poems into songs, but they all come out sounding pretty ridiculous, haha. Maybe I'll try it again later.

  8. The play's the thing, isn't it? What I'm hearing is the joy of finding not just a creative path, but one that feels like a crazy, exhilarating ride down the funhouse slide. Enjoy the new vistas, may they continue to open before you.

  9. As someone who feels like he couldn't write a song lyric if he were on fire and that was the only way to turn on the water, I find this very interesting. The next Webber/Rice?

    1. I don't know about Webber/Rice... But hopefully a world premiere in a year or so...