Several weeks ago, I was asked by the good folks at Jubilate Music (a division of Word) whether I thought I could take a particular piece of piano music and develop it into a choral anthem. The piece was Erik Satie’s lovely, impressionistic Gymnopaedie #3. Let me go on record: This was an innovative idea on behalf of Jubilate.
Satie was an impressionistic painter in the late 1800s, who also dabbled with music. The Gymnopaedie is his best known piece. Because of its relative simplicity, lots of beginner piano students are familiar with it. It has also been covered by various recording artists. My own introduction to it came from a Blood Sweat & Tears record in 1970!
Adapting the piece for choir was a challenge. And the first serious hurdle to jump was to write a lyric/text for it. There are times I might have tackled that job myself. But this time I wisely asked John Parker to give it a go.
The first thing John and I did was agree on a structure. The original piano piece was unwieldy because of its range and form. Together (over the phone – John lives in Baton Rouge), John and I plotted out a structure that felt more like a song-form. Then, I left John to do all the hard work on his own, while I read movie magazines and ate chocolate candy.
And that leads to the point of this post. (Not the part about the movie mags and chocolate.) John is a real pro.
As is typical in the print music world, we needed a relatively quick turn-around. No time for navel-gazing and flights of creative fancy. John delivered.
The first draft he submitted was good. Very good, in fact. It captured the distinctive mood of Satie’s tune very well. BUT – John knew it was a first draft. I saw the opportunity to strengthen the ‘hook” of the piece by repeating one of John’s prominent lyric lines. John instantly “got it.” He went through a couple of re-writes, nudging and tweaking the words. He fielded my questions and took all my suggestions seriously, with no bruised egos. (I didn’t ‘win’ all the arguments, btw. The re-write process is sometimes a matter of questioning, only to realize what is already written is good and works.)
John did all this with good cheer and an open mind. His craftwork is excellent. And he always approaches the writing as a collaborative effort. What’s best for the song is what is most important.
Plus – John understands this is a business. He wastes no time once the process is underway. He delivers work that is well-suited for the publisher involved. He is a team player.
It is no wonder that so many composers and publishers seek out this particular “pro” when searching for creative lyricists.
If you’re interested, keep an eye out for “My Soul Rests.” It will be released later this year. You can examine John’s work up close and see for yourself what I’m writing about here.