Sunday, January 15, 2012

Album Essays

After "My Lifelong Love" came out (about six weeks ago), I realized that the only people who were actually getting to see the fantastic digital booklet that Derek Bishop and I made were the people who downloaded the thing from iTunes. And we spent a lot of time on it! I'm going to upload it to my website next week, but in the meantime, here are the two essays that friends of mine wrote for the record. I love them. The friends, I mean. (But also the essays.) Enjoy.

from composer ERIC WHITACRE:

Georgia and I have been friends for nearly twenty years, ever since she and I spent a glorious summer together working summer stock theatre at Cape Cod’s ageless College Light Opera Company. She was an accompanist, I was an assistant conductor. We spent our days rehearsing singers and our nights playing raucous four-hand piano at parties. Georgia was always the brilliant one, able to play anything; I was always the assistant, which, if memory serves, meant that I spent most of the time getting both of us fresh drinks.

Even back then it was obvious that Georgia had ‘the gift’; music just flooded out of her, effortlessly. Soon she began composing her own music, and the songs she wrote were a perfect reflection of who she is: warm, passionate, funny, effervescent, and wicked smart. To know her music is to know her, every intimate emotional secret right there on the surface. Delicate, precious gems given with an open heart.

As a fellow composer - seriously, you should hear the two of us geek out about composing - I’m always most impressed with her strong sense of musical architecture. She somehow manages to blend a musical theater composer’s natural storytelling prowess with sophisticated ‘classical’ forms, a powerful hybrid that allows her pieces to blossom on multiple levels. She makes my favorite kind of music, seductive on the surface and infinitely richer as you peel away the layers, the kind of music that rewards you for digging deep. I find I can listen to the songs over and over again and always find something new, something surprising.

It has been one of my life’s great joys to know Georgia; I consider her not only a colleague and an inspiration but one of my best friends. As long as we are both around she can rest assured that I’ll be right beside her, fresh drinks in hand, glowing with love.

from Broadway star SUSAN EGAN:

Experts say we encounter an astronomical number of people in our daily lives – that because we now move so fast, the sheer numbers are astounding. I’m not impressed. Who cares how many jump in and out of our worlds? I am amazed by who stays – and moreover, who becomes a treasured traveling companion.

Georgia and I met in 2000, when I was still working on Broadway. I was researching material to record for my album, “Coffee House,” and hers was one of many demo CDs I had been given by Michael Kerker of ASCAP. I listened to hours and hours of new music that never seemed new, and then I popped in Georgia’s CD. Her song, “This Ordinary Thursday,” struck me on so many levels: the melody caught me right off, the structure was great, and the unfolding of the story captivated me – it still does. In the song, the singer has been viewing other people’s lives through the fishbowl-like windows of NYC, and now, because she is loved, her life is finally worth displaying, too.

I loved it. Georgia’s experiences as a single girl living in NY mirrored mine, so immediately I could relate, but Georgia’s point of view was distinctive. How, with the millions of love songs in existence, did she write one so completely unique? Michael set up a meeting, and Georgia spent an afternoon playing me her music. I ended up recording “Sing Me A Happy Song” on that album. [Shoshana’s version on this CD is spectacular!]

Once I understood who the “Jason” was in “This Ordinary Thursday” (no, I didn’t know), I thought she should keep that one for her album; lucky me that I got to sing it on that debut CD! About a year later, fate somehow brought us both to Los Angeles then played her part again when Georgia (really, a profes- sional acquaintance at the time) called me up one August, during her eighth month of pregnancy, to see if she might float in my swimming pool for an hour or two. She did. And that was that.

I am not really certain how or when we became such dear friends. I can look back at the incremental steps, but the whole of our friendship is so much greater than the profes- sional meetings, the moves out West, the friendly coffees, the synchronistic pregnancies (2nd time around), the mommy world, the concerts, the travel, the glamour and the goop. Georgia and I have not just shared a road on our individual journeys these last few years, we have literally at times linked arms, leapt over potholes, penned the traveling music, and more than once, gotten behind the other and pushed. Somewhere along the way, I actually think we influenced each other’s paths....

From my vantage point, I have seen Georgia in her many roles: mom, wife, blogger, busi- ness woman, producer, chef, and of course, composer. I am proud to know her – for- tunate to have borne witness to the creation of so much of the music you hear on this collection and even to recognize where some kernels of those song ideas sprouted from in her mind. I have heard first drafts through final mixes. I know her well, and still, the mu- sic surprises me, lifts me and takes me on unexpected journeys. Her singular and inspired point of view, I now know, is simply how Georgia sees the world. How lucky for us that she has the ability to articulate it so eloquently in music and lyrics. It’s everywhere here; enjoy it. Her Lifelong Love is now yours.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Why Are You A Writer?

I got asked to write a little blurb for The Dramatist Magazine. The Dramatists Guild is one of my very favorite organizations because they exist to support writers. Many of the people I respect most in this business are the people who are on the DG Council, the great playwrights and composers and lyricists of our time. Getting to write for the magazine felt very much to me like finally getting to sit at the grown-ups table.

The assignment was to choose one of these three questions and answer it.

1) Was there a play/theatrical experience that changed your life?
2) Why are you a writer?
3) Who would you choose to write the dramatization/musicalization of your life?

I chose number 2. Here ya go.

By Georgia Stitt

My high school yearbook says that I’m going to go to Northwestern and major in Economics. (I did neither.) I guess when I was asked about my plans for the future, the question came during the period of about four weeks in my senior year when I was trying to avoid the inevitable.

At age seven I asked my mother if I could take piano lessons. In middle school I signed up to learn the clarinet, and over the course of the next few years I taught myself every instrument in the marching band. People always knew about me that I was going to be a musician. I remember my parents saying, “It’s so easy for you. You don’t have to decide what you want to be when you grow up.”

They thought I was going to be a band director, and for a while, I did too, because that’s what musical kids in Tennessee grew up to be. At music camp one summer (yes, I went to music camp), a teacher suggested that since I knew how to play so many instruments, maybe I’d enjoy studying composition. His class was the first time I remember getting excited about a musical idea that came from me. I was fifteen years old, and I spent the summer writing a duet for my violist roommate and me to play on our recital. We performed it; the audience clapped. It was my first composition, my biggest hit.

Back in my hometown I became the music girl. I had a gift; I could do something nobody else did. And while that distinction was admired by adults, it also distanced me from other kids. So I read a lot of books. I practiced a lot of piano, especially Bach, which soothed my anguish. I wrote in my journal about how much I was growing to hate this small Tennessee town where nobody understood me.

The teenage years played themselves out. The scholarship (for music, not economics) arrived (to Vanderbilt, not Northwestern). While in college, I figured out that the poems I wrote in my journal and the music I wrote at my piano were all trying to express the same ideas. I became a songwriter. I played my songs for people and felt like I had found a way to be known. New York followed, then Los Angeles, where I now sit, once again trying to put words together on a page in an effort to make you understand me.

Now a writer of musical theater, I tell my stories through the points of views of other characters, but I’m still always hoping that by connecting to them, you’ll be connecting to me. When I am moved by a piece of theater, or a piece of music, or a great novel or an exquisite photograph, I feel like I understand something deeper about how the world works. I come back to my desk inspired to create something of my own. I write to be understood.