Democratic Women’s Caucus gig

March 29, 2009

Just got back from the Kaia gig at the Democratic Women’s Caucus and am still flying high. We performed Not One More Day and got our first full standing ovation! It stopped the show!

Angela called it a “timeless anthem” and said we’ve got to get it on record somehow. I agree! I’ve been thinking lately that that and some of our other post-Get Down, Rise Up! material really needs to get video’d so we can put it on YouTube. We hope to use her camera and get something put together in the next couple weeks.

That song is a non-stop combination of punches to the gut. People are so moved by it but then can’t clap along for fear they’ll miss the next set of lyrics. There’s virtually no dead space musically or lyrically — it just keeps going!

The tune is based on a spiritual that comes from that treasure trove of the civil rights songs, Voices Of The Civil Rights Movement. The lyrics are all mine. I remember having many combinations of lyrics and just working and working until they seem distilled to their essence. The words are my truth. They come straight from my heart. They are what I think and what I believe.

(I also can’t help but think of the Doonesbury cartoon I carried around with the draft lyric sheet. It showed two characters discussing the toxic Bush legacy. Not One More Day hits on almost every topic.)

It is so hard to believe that the Bush presidency even happened. So much has changed so quickly. President Obama has been moving like a chipmunk on speed to turn things around on all fronts. He listens and changes strategy based on what he hears so he can be more successful. It’s 180 degrees from the Bush arrogance and single-minded drumbeat of terror, terror, terror. 

There may come a time when Not One More Day isn’t needed anymore. For me, it’s inextricably linked with the Bush presidency, even though it deals with much larger themes. It speaks to who we are as America, and who we want to be.

I think that’s what people respond to — not just the critique of the war, but of the clear message that “we are better than this.” We want to be better. We want to be called to be better. Bush failed utterly in that regard. Obama has made great strides in the big picture (“Yes, we can”) but it remains to be seen if he’ll make this song obsolete.

I’m still trembling slightly from all the excitement and the feeling of all that energy rushing from the crowd to us at the end of the song. I wish there were some way to thank every person for hearing and responding. Dear Lois Sabo-Skelton just came right up at the end of the show and gave me a huge hug — bless her! It’s a way of closing the loop, of not just acknowledging applause and praise but of giving it back and saying thank you.

I wish I could have stayed late and hobnobbed with the crowd afterwards. They are incredible people — on their own merit in addition to their achievements — and it’s an honor to be invited to share that common ground that music creates. Thank you, Democratic Women’s Caucus!

On Our Way To Freedom Land

November 22, 2008

SSAAA with solo. African-American gospel. Crank it up! This hard-driving gospel tune was adapted during the civil rights movement to inspire activists. My version retains the call-and-response style but with more rhythmic diversity and an extremely active bass line. This piece requires soloists who really know how to wail.

All The Pretty Little Horses

November 22, 2008

SSAA. American folksong. Co-arranged with Paula Gutiérrrez (my sister). The most traditional “choral” arrangement in my repertoire. Minor key, lovely harmonies, very legato and (deceptively) technically challenging. A difficult piece for an accomplished chorus.


November 22, 2008

SSA. Jonatha Brooke/The Story. Sopranos and mezzos lead while altos accompany and make comments. Hilarious critique of dieting. The voices play off each other, one gamely convinced that being thin is the best thing and the other voicing the anguish of constant hunger. Alto part could easily be string bass. Note: This piece only works if the singers are big hams.

It Ain’t What You Do, It’s The Way That You Do It

November 22, 2008

SSA with drum. Up-tempo, upbeat, fun-to-sing and fun-to-hear song from 1939. Cab Calloway made it famous. This arrangement based on a Fun Boy Three arrangement from the ’80s. Lyrics are just what the title implies. Best performed this wearing chic sunglasses.

Strange Fruit

November 22, 2008

SSA. Lyrics by Lewis Allan (Abel Meeropol). Haunting arrangement based on a 1990s version by Siouxsie and the Banshees. Very different and more lyrical arrangement from Billie Holiday’s classic rendition, dispensing entirely with the original melody as written by Sonny White. It’s almost a lullabye with nightmarish bits suddenly emerging.

Ah, Thou Night

November 22, 2008

SSA. Russian folksong probably written around 1900. Sad song about a woman who is an orphan, all alone in the world except for her love, but alas they don’t get along very well. Slavic love angst! Russian transliteration.