- MUSICAL PRODUCTIONS - Part 2
In any musical, each part of a production must be strong; No sags! It must build to a climax, and have a socko ending—a great finale.
Musicals consist of several kinds of songs:
•Book Songs are least likely to be sung apart from the musical. They carry detail about the plots and characters, further the action, and replace dialogue. In opera, this would be recitative.
•Takeaway Songs, also called “step-out songs” or “lifters. ” Usually, these are not specific to the musical and may be “lifted” out to use for concerts or albums.
In a Book musical, Takeaway songs are the hardest and most satisfying to write. They must say something about the characters or situation, while being general enough to use elsewhere.
These are songs about commonly shared experiences: love, disappointment, happiness, heartbreak, faith, longing, victory. They provide fresh material for recording artists. If your melodies are strong, they may be done in different styles during a long lifetime. (Think of “Memory” from the musical “Cats.”)
•Charm Songs are meant to be just that—charming. They are sometimes called alphabet songs or laundry lists or patter songs. They’re often Takeaway Songs, popular on their own. Within the musical these songs may set an atmosphere or mood, or prepare us for upcoming action in the story.
Whether you’re writing a musical or putting together a concept concert or an album, you’ll need first to find your focus and develop an outline.
Decide where you’re going. Where do you want things to end? This is “Point Z,” the climax, the point the whole presentation is building toward.
Now find “Point A,” the place where those with the least understanding of your subject will be able to grasp your teaching. Lead the audience from “A” to “Z” in the most logical and enjoyable manner possible.
On your way from A to Z, look for the key emotional, dramatic, or spiritual points in your story or teaching, and put songs there. Let the songs carry the message. One event with its song leads logically into the next event and its song.
Know your goal and find the flow. Above all, keep the energy up and keep things moving. A musical production, like a song, must go somewhere and build in its impact as it goes.
In your outline, note the emotion of each key point, so you’ll know what mood you need there. Pencil in titles, keys, tempos and moods as you write or select each song, to avoid having too many songs in a row in the same key, or too close in tempo or theme, or a song that doesn’t go with the emotional flow. Naturally, you’ll make changes to your outline as you go along, but you’ll have a view of your goal and a map to get you there.
Pacing—Continuity and Variety
A presentation, whether a musical or a concert, needs frequent changes of mood, rhythm and musical keys. Linking the emotion of your story or narrative with the kind of song that keeps things musically balanced is no small feat.
You want a series of climaxes, or tensions and resolutions, all leading to the grand climax at the end, like a series of minor ocean waves preceding that really big one.These waves are the dramatic high points of your musical, and each needs a song to capsulize its feeling.
Writing an Interactive Teaching Musical requires special effort in outlining. The audience must be able to follow the progression of your teaching or message with ease.
Once you’ve found the focus, gradually lead toward the strongest or most reverent music as your climax, depending on what you want the congregation or audience to experience at that point. It could culminate in awesome, down-on-your-knees worship, or ringing, hilarious praise, or even spiritual warfare, declaring the power of the risen Christ.
You might put in some up-tempo praise songs that lead into more dramatic, emotional songs as you go along. If you’re opening a Solemn Assembly kind of service you might begin with a song that brings people to their feet in worship and invites them to enter in and give God glory; and then segue into a “Majesty” type song that will lead them into an acknowledgement of the reigning God.
You might use one or more great dramatic hymns, “Crown Him with Many Crowns” or “Immortal, Invisible,” or “Fairest Lord Jesus,” for example. Most people already know and love them and join in readily. These can be focal points that strengthen your theme.
You may use any number of styles and feels and varieties of presentation: soloists, groups, instrumentalists—just don’t let it sag.
You must be spiritually logical rather than merely reasonable. Spiritual logic is grounded firmly on a solid body of scripture, not on one lone verse dragged by its fingernails from its snugly fitting context in, say, Zephaniah.
If you don’t lay this foundation, you won’t earn the ear of the church. If your doctrine is iffy, you’ll hear about it loud and clear, and your credibility may be damaged. So check out your scripts and songs with pastors you trust, and pay attention if they run up a red flag.
Your hardest job is to make the musical, emotional, and spiritual high points hit at the same places.
We’ll develop this more in Part 3, next time.