The Adventures of Olrs Lph
I hope that you will use this music as your own, change it, add to it, and perform it all around the universe. I want nothing in return except that you please try to let me know when your performance date is, so I can come sit in the audience!
The story of how this musical project transpired is at the bottom of this page.
How this Musical Project Came to Be
"The Upward Spiral" was inspired by the Unitarian Universalist Church's "Seven Principles". I was sitting in my UU church (in Melrose, Massachusetts, USA) during one Sunday's sermon, having participated in the congregation for the better part of a decade, when suddenly I realized "like a thunder clap" that even though all UUs agreed that the Seven Principles were acceptable "dogma", that not one of us knew the Principles by heart. I have never found one! Not me, not nobody!
Wouldn't it seem important that the core beliefs of a church should just roll of the tongues of its parishioners?! Well that is the goal of "The Upward Spiral" project, to teach these seven core values.
I also knew in that same "first thunder clap" instant that the presentation had to be in a long-ish musical "operetta" format. The only way this project would succeed was if the children as well as the old codgers in the church were to be found humming the melody as they walked out of the first performance. It had to be long (and repetitive) enough so the audience would remember its basic elements upon hearing it the first time. Music was the only vehicle that could etch memories so expediently. Children should ideally be the core performers in the piece. So the music had to be simple and joyous and FUN to sing. Also, there had to be some story line acted out on stage to fill out the repetitive nature of the song, so the audience's interest would never wane.
So my first task was to read the Seven Principles, and see if in fact they were 1) worth remembering, and 2) set forth in any way that they could be remembered by us common folk. What I found was quite startling and wonderful. Actually Kathy Keleher, a fellow parishioner, pointed out to me in coffee hour on that "first thunder clap" day that "Did you know that the Seven Principles all build upon each other like a story?" I went home, and immediately reread them, and sure enough, this was going to be a project in story telling!
So I set about writing a bulleted outline about the story line, and even made iconic pictures for each of the Principles. (Also here is a highly formatted set of 8-1/2 x 11 story boards intended to be printed out and mounted on foam core boards and posted for congregational viewing.) The goal was to commit the Principles to memory, so that I could then set about writing the story. This task lasted a few months, during which time I enlisted help from friends and family, wherever they would entertain my obsession. I was visiting my mother, Ellie Quaile Legg, down in Georgia, and she actually took such a start from reading (and helping with my outline) that she suddenly decided to switch churches away from her lifelong Episcopal church, to UU-dom! So my work of telling the story was already having an impact on people around me, and I hadn't even started writing the music yet!
The "second thunder clap" event happened at a special party that our friends Doug Dick and Ann Easterbrook threw. Earlier in the year, at our church's annual auction, they had purchased a performance of classical music on renaissance instruments. Coincidentally the performing duo was Kathy Keleher and her husband Tom Kurtz, playing many different recorders, each with a special set of resonances. There were about twelve people at the party, including Kathy and Tom. When performance time came, in Doug and Ann's living room, out of the weather so the special instruments would not be too affected, I found myself reclining on an elbow on the carpet in front of the "stage". That is when the thunder clapped a second time! The fifth piece Kathy and Tom played was the "Sonatina in B flat major" by George Frideric Handel (MP3, MIDI). Immediately my heart raced. The piece was all of 63 seconds long, but I knew immediately that it was very probably the perfect set of melodies and harmonies around which to write the operetta. It was chucker-bluck full of joy, had wonderful uplifting harmonies, and had simplicity just oozing out of its beauty. I allowed Kathy and Tom to finish performing the other pieces of their wonderful presentation, despite being absolutely beside myself with excitement. At the end of their playing, I got them to allow me to run upstairs and photo copy the single sheet of the Handel Sonatina. After the party, I raced home and found a two-track piano MIDI file on the web for the piece.
The next many months were filled with writing the core lyrical story line. I had a Korg Toneworks PXR4, a hand-held four-track recording device. I separated the two recorder parts that Kathy and Tom had played onto the first two tracks, so that I could play them back in different volumes to learn each of them by heart. On tracks three and four I then wrote and recorded... and re-wrote and re-recorded so many times that I cannot count... the lyrics. Remember this was a study, and is unfinished, crude, etc, and only 63 seconds long. Here is a MP2 file of that "basic lyrics" study piece (and a WMA file), as well as the PDF of the sheet music and the MUS Finale Notepad file.
Then came the "third thunder clap", which came from a totally unexpected source. A young man named Arthur Brock presented at the Ethos RoundTable, which I co-host once a month in Cambridge Massachusetts. Ethos invites people to present new uses of technology that either measure or share ethos, which is the spirit or core beliefs of groups of people. Art was the very first presenter at Ethos, and frankly is a Wizard geek. We corresponded many times after his presentation, and one day totally un-announced a package arrived for me at my place of employment, at Boston College's Center for Corporate Citizenship. It was a DVD named... you guessed it "The Upward Spiral", by a man named Paul Krafel. You can watch the 3-minute YouTube version, but I totally bid you to watch the full-length version. This is not a normal video. I highly suggest every person on the planet watch it. Take heed that it starts out very slow paced, and "on the slower side" of spiritual. But keep watching, because it is a revelation. Thank you Arthur for sending me the video. So that is where the title of the piece, and the three most important words in the lyrics, came from.
The UU's Third Principle, which incidentally is perhaps the core, and most momentous of all of the Seven Principles
We believe in acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.
was so well embodied by this concept of the Upward Spiral that I had no choice but to accept this third thunder clap for what it was; the crowning jewel of my multi-year piece of work.
Once I had written the basic lyrics, totaling 63 seconds of song (although as I am sure you will agree, it is so totally compressed as to be unintelligible and overwhelming), then I set to the main task; writing the operetta. Writing the operetta took a few months of elapsed time, and the final product turned out to be a bit over 15-plus minutes in length (PDF, MP3, MUS). It is intended to be sung with a core chorus of CHILDREN. There are male and female solos, and accompaniments. Costume and stage entrance notes are written into the PDF sheet music score. Also the starting point of each Principle is marked with the words "FIRST PRINCIPLE", etc.
Next I realized that a 15-plus minute operetta would probably only be performed a few times a year at most, if the project was completely blessed. I wanted to hear it WAY more often than that. So I set about writing a couple of three minute versions. There are currently two versions:
In each version the starting points of the Principles are marked with "P1", "P2", etc. These are far more complex pieces of music than the operetta. The close harmonies made me realize things like "oh my goodness, I have the key signature wrong!", and "gee wiz, I guess children can't sing those high notes that George Frideric Handel had played quite effortlessly on the right side of his piano!"
- an arrangement for Saprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass (SATB) (PDF, MP3,
email request for MUS Finale file
- and one for male voices (Tenor 1, Tenor 2, Baritone, and Bass - TTBB) (PDF, MP3, MUS)
Gail Carey, also from my church, was the one who sat me down with the basic "63 second" lyrics and sheet music, and told me "Children can't sing that high! You'll need to transpose this down." I had heard the word "transpose" before, but never had I been responsible for transposing something. Oh my. Well, I took a whack at it. It still may be too high. Feedback please!
Anyway, so that is how I birthed this musical story of the UU's Seven Principles. Let me know if you perform "The Upward Spiral". If I can't make it to your performance(s), then please send me a recording (video or audio) or even just a prosaic recounting. Let me know what you think!
Please take full liberty to change, strike, add, and cataclysmically redo any and all parts of these works. None of them have been produced/performed as of May 24, 2007, so my preconceptions are untested and very likely high falutin.
Also if anyone produces other files that might help groups to produce an Upward Spiral performance, then please send them to me so I can post them here for future adventurers who follow in your footsteps. I will give you credit of course.
Also please let me know if this music helps people learn those elusive Principles! Golly, who knows if I will even come close to achieving that end goal?!
contact Josh Shortlidge
132 Bay State Road
Melrose, Massachusetts 02176, USA