Diary of an Orchestrator – Mission Estate Concert project, day 8

Friday, 17 January

Checking in exactly the same time as yesterday at 9:42 p.m. Scored another song in one day: Leo Sayer’s “More Than I Can Say.” I asked for this song especially from the Music Director, and was pleased to get it for two reasons: first, when I listened to it while vetting the list of 200+ songs for the Mission Estate Concert, I could hear everything laid out in front of me like scenery as to what the song needed orchestrally. Second, I appreciate the history of this song, which is all wrapped up around Buddy Holly’s death and his ex-bandmates’ attempts to move on.

Strange to say, but The Crickets are still going strong as a band after 57 years. Anyhow, they wrote and recorded this song right after Holly’s plane crash, and it was a minor hit. Then Bobby Vee covered it and it placed very well in the charts, though essentially the arrangement of the recording is nearly identical to that of the Crickets. The difference is Bobby Vee’s vocal, a somewhat watered-down emulation of Buddy Holly. Then even stranger, Bobby Vee himself was discovered by a talent agent desperate to fill in replacements for Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper, and Richie Valens for the tour during which they died. So it’s all a big circle.

Orchestrator's humor: dovetailing seamlessly from a very subtle type of scoring to the most blatant sledgehammering. The strings here...

Orchestrator’s humor: dovetailing seamlessly from a very subtle type of scoring to the most blatant sledgehammering. The strings here…

...and the winds for the same exact passage.

…and the winds for the same exact passage.

Not a huge amount of things to say about today’s arrangement. I found some fun things for the strings to do, pushing the cello and viola higher than usual (but not too high for the average pro players). I scaled down the orchestra, omitting the heavy brass, timpani, and percussion. One part that I though was funny: for the break, I just went for it with the most obvious, basic orchestration I could think of: upper strings and upper winds playing the verse melody in soaring octaves, lower strings and lower winds holding down the bass in octaves, and the horns playing a fat chorale in the middle. That’s about as brute force as I ever orchestrate, but what’s hilarious is that the rest of the arrangement is pretty subtle and carefully layered, but dovetails seamlessly into this bludgeoning passage. Orchestrator’s humor.

Eyes did better today. Still carless for the next few days, I manned up and walked 3 miles across Wellington to the gym, and then soaked in the spa. But that’s not what I feel proud about: rather, after all that, then some delayed bus connections back to my house, I still had the wherewithall to score the second break through to the last bar of today’s song. But no way will I be able to pull off tomorrow’s song in one go like that – Billy Ocean’s “When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going.” In its performance version, it’s nearly six minutes long, with multiple syncopations to a shuffle beat. Not hard, but fiddly. Two days at best, I’m guessing.

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