Week 6 – This Unfinished Song

Thankfully, my swollen eye subsided a little today and I managed to record this week’s song this evening. Yup, Sunday night is the absolute latest to upload my song for the week, and I just made it. Phew!

It’s been a loooooong week. The 13:34 musical on Thursday night was a blast, but it was tiring no doubt with all the rehearsals. Plus my eye infection didn’t help much. On Saturday, we took our cat Kooshie to the vet to be sterilized, and the poor boy has been limp and feverish all weekend. It’s quite worrying, not to mention heartbreaking, to see him like this. He’s lying beside me right now with a plastic cone round his neck, looking very pathetic.

Anyway, with everything going on this week, it’s a miracle I managed to finish the song at all. I actually wrote it on Tuesday because I knew I’d be busy with rehearsals after that. I would’ve recorded the video on Friday, like I usually do, but I decided to give my eye a rest and do it tonight instead. Everything worked out fine, thank goodness.

This Unfinished Song is literally about songwriting. It’s tongue-in-cheek of course, but I think fellow songwriters might be able to identify with it. It is about the challenges I face as a songwriter in finding my “muse”, so to speak.

Sometimes, inspiration leaves you high and dry and I can sit all day with my guitar and come up with nothing. Then the next day, all of a sudden, something hits me and a new song is born in 20 minutes. The process of creation, the spark of inspiration when an idea pops up in your mind, exploring different melodies until something sounds right – that’s why I love songwriting.

Have a great week ahead everyone!

This Unfinished Song
© Music and Lyrics by Marcel Lee Pereira, 8 June, 2010

I sat down with pen and paper
To write a letter to my muse
For she seemed to have deserted me
And left me all confused

My guitar won’t give me a tune, I said
Stop running, I implored
But the notes kept playing hide and seek
They wouldn’t form a chord

Chorus
I thought maybe it’s not meant to be
Maybe I just don’t belong
I guess I’ll just move on
From this unfinished song

With a silence ringing in my head
And a hollow in my chest
I tried to be like Dylan
And find something to protest

But my angst has come and gone
And so have all my rhymes
Synonyms and conjugations
Have escaped my mind

Chorus
I thought maybe it’s not meant to be
Maybe I don’t belong
I guess I’ll just have move on
From this unfinished song

Where are you?
What am I supposed to do?

So I looked for inspiration
I tried to improvise
Movies, posters, advertisements
Were all a bunch of lies

I picked up the papers
They were full of hate
And I flipped through the Bible
But I couldn’t find the faith

Chorus
I thought maybe it’s not meant to be
Maybe I don’t belong
I guess I’ll just have to move on
From this unfinished song

Maybe it’s best to move on
From this unfinished song

***

P.S. I’d like to leave everyone with a quote from American author Jack London, which I find very meaningful in my songwriting journey: “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” How true.

Thoughts on 13:34, The Musical

Two days after 13:34, I finally feel rested enough to write a post about it. Just goes to show how tired I was 🙂

It’s a good tired, though, the kind which makes you feel that all the effort was worth it.

It was a long journey. There were ups and downs, countless burnt weekends, frayed nerves, and moments where I asked myself: “What am I doing here?” In the end, I told myself I was in this for God – not for me, but for Him.

Rehearsals began sometime late March, and in those early days, some of us were like headless chickens without a clue as to how we fit into the larger picture. Slowly, as the production took shape, it began to make sense. And in the final run-up to the show, when all the cast, dancers, musicians and choir came together to rehearse, what started off as only a vision became something beautiful and moving.

That said, on 10 June, what you witnessed at Hall 1 of the Singapore Expo wasn’t just the work of a couple of hundred people. It was through God’s Grace that the show went on – and quite smoothly too. From what I’ve heard, its message touched many of the people watching. That in itself is testament to His hand.

I feel like I’ve grown a little from this process too. You see, I had signed up really hoping for a singing part, but was asked to dance and RAP instead, neither of which I have any skill or experience in doing. So, extremely far outside my comfort zone, the only thing I could do was to try, and I’m glad I did. Because I realise that even though it takes me a long time to learn a dance move, with practice I’m pretty sure I didn’t stick out like a sore thumb; and I did get the chance to write my own rap, and perform it too. Yes, I was shaky the first few times, but I hope I did a decent job in the end.

I’m lucky to have met so many talented people on this journey, people who have taught me a lot. Not only about singing or dancing, but also about humility, selflessness, and trust in God. Also, it was great fun seeing Catholic priests hamming up with the rest of us. It’s something you don’t get to see very often, I tell you. In the words of “Fr Gerard”, they’re “as human as the next person”.

Yup, that’s about all I have to say. It has been a wonderful journey, and great fun too. “Frankie’s gang”, especially the guys – Peter, Thanakan and Glen – we had some good times 😉

The gang backstage with Mel our dance instructor - Thanks to Ysabel for the picture

Week 5 – Lullaby

Honestly, I’m quite relieved to be done with this week’s song.

It’s been a really, really hectic week for me and my band. Let’s see, there was a rehearsal on Tues, filming at Clarke Quay on Wed, and a gig on Thurs. So, I really only had today to work on the song, because most of the weekend will be taken up rehearsing for the 13:34 Musical, which takes place next Thurs!

I spent most of this morning and afternoon finishing up the song and working on the melody. I set aside the evening to record the video, with Carol helping me on the camera, as usual. I think I was feeling hard pressed for time, which is why I lost count of the number of takes I took to get the song right. It was frustrating, but after putting down the guitar and taking a short break (Carol made a snack, too), I finally got a pretty decent take.

The song “Lullaby” is indeed intended to be one. Carol has not been sleeping well for weeks. She keeps waking up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat (I blame it on the lousy air cooler we have in the room). There was one night when she startled me awake all of a sudden. In the dark, I heard her shout: “Look, red dots!”, and what freaked me out was that her eyes were wide open and she was pointing her hand at the ceiling. I looked up, half-expecting some monstrosity to be perched above me, but nothing was there. For a moment, I thought she had been possessed. I shook her awake to see if she was okay, and she groggily told me she dreamed she was walking past a row of cute canines and had actually yelled: “Look, many dogs!”. *Slaps forehead*

Anyway, in the hope of better sleep, this song is dedicated to her.

Lullaby
© Music and Lyrics by Marcel Lee Pereira, 4 June, 2010

Sleep easy my love
Close your eyes and
Drift into your space
Where I can’t find you

Rest easy my love
There are no monsters
Underneath the bed
I guarantee that

Dream easy my love
May you see wonders
Do amazing things
And not forget them

And when you wake up
You can take up
The story where you left off
Don’t worry, I will listen to you

Did you have a bad dream
Your sweat is cold
Put your hand in mine
Keep the light on

Did you dream that I
Was not beside you
Feel my caress
This is what’s real

High above the world
No one can find us
This room is our tree
This bed our nest

And when you wake up
You can take up
The story where you left off
Don’t worry, I will listen to you

And when you wake up
You can take up
The story where you left off
Don’t worry, I will listen to you

Sleep easy my love
Close your eyes and
Drift into your space
Where I can’t find you

***

I’d just like to say thanks to everyone for all the positive comments about the UK Songwriting Contest. It’s encouraged me a huge bunch and I really do need everyone’s support as I embark on this new chapter in my life. Actually, I am slightly worried about next week, because it’s the week of the musical and we’ll be frantically preparing for the show over the next few days. But I’m sure, with God’s Grace, I’ll have another song to share with you then!

Updates

Just got back from musical rehearsal. I think we’re finally getting the hang of the dance and rap routine, and for the first time we had a chance to run it with Fr Mike, the priest who is performing with us. (Yes, he will be rapping!). He’s really sporting and I’m sure it’ll be one of the highlights of the show 😉

After that, I had an interesting conversation with our vocal trainer, Jane. I noticed she had been warming us up with scales my own coach used for me, so I asked her if she was SLS-trained. Speech Level Singing (or SLS) is a technique I have been training with for some time now, and I was under the impression that there were only two certified teachers in S’pore. (Read more about SLS here). Jane told me however, that there were now about 5-6 SLS-trained teachers here, some of them pretty new ones. Well, it’s great that there are more choices now, especially in terms of price.

I’m just about done with the first song of my “song a week” challenge. Firmed up the melody and played it to Carol earlier today – she really liked it 🙂 Will try recording it tomorrow, if my voice holds up. Both Carol and myself are having bad throats, thanks to the Botak Jones’ spicy fries we had the night before. Had no idea it would affect us that badly! Won’t be having that in a while, I tell you.

But anyway, I was really encouraged to see the comments on my earlier blog post, and on Facebook. Thanks everyone for the kind words. This is going to be exciting!

13:34, the musical

I haven’t told many people about this, but I’ve actually got a small role in an upcoming musical called “13:34”. It’s organised by Cana – The Catholic Centre, in conjunction with the Year For Priests, and it tells the story of three young men and their struggles in answering the call of God. (In case you’re wondering about the title, its taken from John 13:34 – “Love one another, as I have loved you.”)

I’ll be playing one of the protagonist’s gangster sidekicks, and you will get to hear me rap a little bit! 😉

This is the first time I’ve been involved in a musical of any kind, so I’m thrilled to be doing this. Been spending almost every weekend since end-March running through blockings, lines and dance steps, but it’s been really fun. Yesterday, we did a full run of Act 1 and it was good to see it finally coming together. Yes, there’s still a lot of work to be done, but I know it’s gonna turn out great! I feel blessed to have met so many talented and friendly people on this journey.

13:34 will be held on Thursday, 10 June 2010, 7.30pm, at the Singapore Expo Hall 1. If you’re interested in finding out more, do visit our Facebook page.

See you there!