The High Street Broadcast put on an amazing Christmas themed show for the month of December. As always the goals were set high — lots of songs, lots of story telling, lots of music!
From the composers standpoint, going from a creepy scary themed show to a happy and joyful show was hard this year. Maybe it was the amount of work that show #31 presented. Either way this show took some mental effort to get into the right mindset and right attitude.
There were several big songs for this show that were fun — from a musical-esque opening number to a beautiful choral arrangement of Auld Lang Syne to a straight up 1940′s ladies jazz trio — it seemed like we covered just about every genre.
The band was expanded even more — two woodwinds, two brass players, two pianos, upright bass and drums — so what was I to do but arrange a Christmas carol to feature the band only. And what Christmas carol should I do but Silent Night. After a long intro we went into the main theme — featured by the 2 piano players, myself and Becca Stankis. The brass and woodwind players went next followed by a summary with the entire ensemble. It was amazing.
One of the most fun underscoring moments I had was to arrange the same piece, Silent Night, only as if a Klingon from Star Trek was going to perform it. With the brass and woodwinds a merry tri-tone apart, power guitar chords from the 80′s being performed by a keyboard, cymbal strikes everywhere you could imagine… I think we got the point across.
Another great experience for me was to just let the band loose and do what they wanted. We ended the show with a dixieland version of Auld Lang Syne with each of the instruments taking and improvising over the melody. Instead of writing out specific parts I simply told them what I wanted, what key to perform in, and away they went. We had a blast doing it this way and it worked out well.
I know it’s early to be thinking about it but I’m already planning out incidental music for next year. Ideas that I wanted to do this year but were cut — or Christmas carols that we haven’t touched on yet. The High Street Broadcast’s Christmas show is always one I look forward to!
The High Street Broadcast took several months off after show number 30. This was to regroup, look at what we were doing right, what we could do better, and what could change for the future. One thing was obvious. We needed more funding if we were going to continue.
The City of Moorpark stepped up and said they would help out. That meant that we would come back with a bang for our big Halloween show. And come back big we sure did!
The overall idea of the show was to have a couple shorter bits lead into “The Tale from Autumn Knoll” The shorter bits all went very smoothly and we ended up with a jazzy number for everyone, some underscoring and a couple other short songs.
Then came the Tales part. It was a beast! 20+ minutes of a rhymed/metered poem a la Dr. Seuss. I knew right away that the music was going to be a challenge. It had to portray so much. The story was of a scarecrow who, through witchcraft, came to life for a day. He (of course) fell in love with a human but she could not follow him home for anyone in the field at midnight would turn into a scarecrow.
A beautiful story with a magical sense to the words. I sat down and started scoring.
Now doing this live presented a whole set of challenges. It couldn’t go too long — it couldn’t be through composed — it had to have themes for everyone to pick up on — it had to portray the emotions exactly — and it had to be learnable by the musicians in about a week.
We had many other challenges with the show — the show date was moved up a week, I was no longer living close and helping run rehearsals, there was never a full read-through with the score before the performance. But, for the most part, we overcame them all and pulled it off.
The band was augmented with the addition of another brass player and a second piano player (Becca Stankis, my duo partner). Adding a trombone player was amazing and extended the sound a lot.
I broke one of my cardinal rules for this show. I wrote music the night before the performance that the band had to sight read — or play with oly one run-through. One of these was a theme I wrote at about 3am for solo piano. The feel and way that Becca was able to perform this was absolutely stunning. It begs to be a finished piano piece (maybe I’ll get around to it soon).
Overall this show presented a ton of challenges and all the performers did an admirable job. I think this would be a great show to do a studio recording of and get it as near perfect as possible — just to show off what a group of talented writers/musicians/performers can pull off.
I knew that the High Street Broadcast’s show numbered 30 was going to be something special. When I was told that the subject was going to be War of the Worlds I was intrigued.
For previous shows the incidental music was always just brief reactionary music to the scene. Sometimes a vamp, sometimes just a brief melody that would be played to set the mood. But with show #30 I wanted to try and do it differently. I wanted it to be more like an orchestral score for a movie. I wanted themes that would play against each other and ostinato patterns that were quickly recognizable as “this is the bad guy” or “our hero just died!”
Of course there were several songs as well. I had a good ol’ swing song, a rock anthem/march, a straight up musical-esque number and the happiest song about annihilation ever written.
Jezebel was such a song and was super fun to write. It was inspired by Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and was a super fun song to write music for. The band had a blast playing it and it really got the show started.
While the monthly shows for the High Street Broadcast are taking a hiatus you can expect something spectacular for them in the fall. Something utterly amazing and that I am honored to be helping with.
Cannibal music? Yes.
I’m starting the work on the next HSB show. It’s coming together, albeit slowly. First piece of music to write is a slow ballad in 12/8 it turns out. My process for this music? I get a recording of one of the writers singing the melody of the song… this is then transcribed into Sibelius at which point I start figuring out what chords should be played when. Then it’s a (somewhat) simple job of actually arranging it for the band.
The process is sometimes tedious depending on the quality of the recording, singer, etc. I find that upbeat songs are easier to put together as takes less time to figure out the chord progressions the writers were thinking of. So I start with the ballads hoping to make them as close to what the original recording was like.
If you are around, come watch the show on September 27th! It’s always a blast!
The High Street Broadcast is a production performed live in the tradition of a 1940′s radio show with a modern twist and a sense of humor that speaks to today’s audience.
It’s unique hour format includes zany character sketches, original and classic songs and a half-hour serial, all with our signature HSB comedic twist.
Originally responding to a request for a pianist, Brent quickly stepped in and started writing small parts underscoring some of the sketches. Each month a new show is performed and recorded in front of a live audience.
As the new High Street Broadcast music director, Brent is in charge of transcribing and arranging the songs performed by the voice actors. He also underscores the dialogue to help emphasize the moods of the scenes.
The first full show that Brent wrote music for was ‘Thomas Madigan and the August Circus’ — the Broadcast’s 25th show. It included five songs and close to 35 minutes of underscoring music. With a turnaround time of just a month (including rehearsals) the requirements for a show of this size was incredible — but everyone pulled it off spectacularly.
While attending “The Room” premier, the film editor, Eric Reinig approached me about writing music for a short film noir project he had a CSUN. The only problem? I had less then 24hrs to get something done. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get something but told Eric I would give it a shot.
The next day I spent about 3 hours and came up with a good bass riff and a dirty barri-sax line to go on top of it. I added a couple other little accents here and there and drove the finished audio over to Eric later that afternoon. This was by far the fastest turn-around I’ve done on any project.
Eric Reinig approached me about writing music for a video he had written, directed and filmed for the film school at Cal State Northridge. I puzzled over this for several weeks as the music had to be the voice for the mimes.
Some of the music was thought out chord progressions (there were several days where I puzzled over what chord progression represented a box of chocolates). Some of it was just improvised. Everything was recorded live (mistakes and all!) like an old silent-movie.