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Throwback Thursday~Eliza Loses Her Voice in My Fair Lady!

My Fair Lady, Bonnie Anne on the sofa

This week’s Throwback Thursday takes us waaaaaay back to 1974.  In preparation for the opening night of My Fair Lady, my high school’s musical production that year, I had been in rehearsals for months.  The entire 4 night run had almost been sold out, with nearly 500 people an evening having already purchased their tickets.  The student body and local community were extremely supportive of our top notch productions, so every effort was being made to make this show as professional and entertaining as past shows had been.

As Eliza Doolittle the female lead, I was required to sing a good portion of the show in a brash, belting alto at the bottom of my range, then with Eliza’s transformation from a cockney flower girl into a proper young lady, I would switch to my classically trained soprano voice at the top of my range.

I, my leading man, and the supporting characters rehearsed every day after school, then all day every Saturday with the entire cast.  The week before we opened, the head of the music department felt I needed more work on the timing for some of Eliza’s songs,  so I spent even more grueling hours polishing my vocals.

A few days prior to the opening night, my voice began to feel scratchy.  “Don’t panic!” I told myself.  “Just rest your voice and everything will be OK.”  Impossible to rest your voice as you go through the final dress rehearsals, but I did my best not to over-sing and put on a smile, hoping no one would notice.

The adrenalin pumped like mad on opening day morning!  Everyone was excited…everyone but me.  I woke up that morning knowing that I was in trouble.  My voice was as raspy as an 85 year old chain smoker’s! Tittering and whispers began in the hallways and the choir room as word got out that I had lost my voice.  I called my voice teacher and asked her what I should do.  She advised me to drink lots of hot water with lemon and honey.  OK.  I did that.  She also told me to gargle with salt water.  OK.  I did that too.  I drank the hot water and lemon tonic all day long, praying that somehow when I stepped out on that stage my voice would miraculously be restored.

When school let out that afternoon I went home and cried (which did not help the situation at all)!   I was beside myself, wondering what would happen when I opened my my mouth to caterwaul that first, “AEowwwwwwwwww!”  I took a nap, had a tiny bite to eat and headed back to the theater for makeup and hair.  Everyone kept asking, “how is your voice?”  I would simply nod my head, still hoping for the best.  But despite my brave efforts I knew I was done for.  There was no way my voice was going to make it through the demanding My Fair Lady score.

Back in the dressing room, my hair was styled into a messy bun and I was costumed in a pair of vintage lace-up boots purchased from a thrift store, an ankle length skirt and apron, a calico print blouse, a worn out wool jacket, and a straw hat festooned with milner flowers.  Before I made my way backstage, my choir teacher drew me aside and handed me a little vial of liquid, saying that it might help my voice.  I asked him, “what is it?”  He answered, “Just a little brandy.”  That stuff burned like acid as I swallowed it down!  He wished me luck, told me not to tell anyone he had given it to me, and off I walked onto the darkened stage.

The orchestra finished the overture, the Covent Garden scene was underway, and I held my breath, waiting for my cue….”AEooooooooow!”  I screeched out as Eliza. “Two bunches of violets trod in the mud.…”

Well, some sort of voice managed to bark out those first few lines, but it was a disaster!  Throughout the remainder of the first act I screeched through my songs and dialogue until my voice diminished to barely a whisper, then went off to my dressing room in disgrace, trying to keep the tears from ruining my makeup.  Then someone came in and told me there was to be a meeting during intermission.  There was no understudy for Eliza, so I just assumed they were going to call off the rest of that night’s performance.  I knew there was NO WAY I was going to step out on that stage with my Carol Channing voice and sing “I Could Have Danced All Night!”

I met with the directors who came up with a radical solution to save our opening night.  As the intermission began, Brenda Sloan, a friend of mine with a trained soprano voice who knew all the material, was sent up to the light booth where she could watch me down below on the stage.  When the curtain opened on the second act, there was no announcement made.  I went on as Eliza as if nothing was amiss and croaked out my dialogue as best I could.  From the light booth Brenda sang all my songs into a microphone, watching my mouth and matching as I lip-synced my way through the rest of my songs!  Amazingly, it worked!  Many in the audience were fooled and we received a standing ovation.

The next day my mom took me to the doctor.  I was found to have no real damage, just a lot of inflammation that would require complete vocal rest for at least 2 weeks, or risk forming nodes on my vocal chords.  I thought for sure the directors would replace me, but I got a call from my drama teacher who told me they had decided to cancel the next 3 performances, then reopen the show in two weeks when my voice would be in top form.

So that’s what we did!  I wouldn’t say I was in top voice 2 weeks later, but I was at about 75 % when I took to the stage for the second opening night.

I hope you enjoy this clip from the second opening night of Sunset High School’s 1974 production of My Fair Lady!

As she enters the ballroom, Eliza is to gracefully ‘swan’ down the staircase in her beautiful ball gown.  Well let me tell ya!  On that first opening night having swallowed down that vial of brandy, I’m pretty sure I WOVE my way down that staircase.  First liquor I had ever tasted in my life!

2)  Our local news crew came to school and filmed a story about what happened with me losing my voice and the reopening.

3)  About 10 years following my graduation, I went to see another production of My Fair Lady at my old school.  Would you believe it?  The same thing happened to that Eliza!  It was opening night and her voice was nearly gone when I went back stage to meet her!

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Toni Gibson ~ A New Voice

Toni Gibson
Toni Gibson

Immortal Aria is a bit unusual for a music group.  In fact, we haven’t quite defined what we are yet.  We are not a band in the sense that we don’t perform our music live, neither are we a singing group, yet we write and produce songs that are meant to be recorded.  Although I am a singer, over the years I have not kept my voice in shape while I pursued other artistic passions, therefore, I write songs that require vocalists other than myself.

We decided early on that we wanted to collaborate with undiscovered talent.  Artists who are exceptionally gifted, but who may not have been recorded yet, and who have not yet gained a large following.  This led us to begin searching the web for talent that could give my songs the right heart and voice.

I actually began writing the songs for this CD back in 2006. It has been a slow process, as during the time Nathan and I have been working on the album, I have also been writing and polishing my 3 part novel series-which is the inspiration for all the music our CD contains. Upon composing The Bleeding Rose, I knew I wanted a little girl with a trained voice, so I began searching  youtube for fresh and undiscovered talent.

Along the way I discovered Jackie Evancho‘s channel. At that time she was only 8 years old! As a fan of Phantom of the Opera, I was enchanted by a talent show performance of her singing Wishing You Somehow Here Again. Initially I had intended to contact her parents about the possibility of her recording my song, however, real life intervened and our work on the CD was set aside for a time.

When we were finally ready to work on the project again, by then Jackie had come in second place on AGT-and as they say, the rest is history! She was suddenly swept up and signed by a big label, and I knew she was then out of reach.

I also happened to come across the youtube channel for a darling young lady from New Zealand called Toni Gibson. At the time I was searching for a little girl voice, so although Toni’s was the most remarkable and beautiful voice I had ever heard in my life-she was not a child. But I was enchanted and kept returning to her page to listen to her home made live performance videos, then finally got brave enough to contact her and ask if she would be interested in singing as “my Christine”.

At the time Toni felt the logistics would be difficult, as I am in the US and she is in New Zealand and did not have easy access to a recording studio.  Via emailing back and forth she informed me that she would be unable to record for us, despite the fact that I practically begged her!

I then decided to hold a competition through my website and invited young female vocalists to submit samples of their vocal skills through my email, hoping to find someone of Toni’s quality. I was stunned by all the recordings and youtube videos I received and although I heard some truly beautiful voices-I could not get Toni’s voice out of my head. I wanted her, and only her! So I contacted her again and fortunately we were able to work out the logistics!  She was able to record our material during the sessions for her own CD which was also beginning production.

She agreed to record The Bleeding Rose, and as I continued to write more songs, Toni eventually contracted with us to record two more pieces for the Chanson de l’ange CD.  Nathan and I are very honored to have an artist of Toni’s calibre as one of our collaborators.  We feel that our music and her exceptional vocal talents are a perfect match, and we hope to work with her again in the future.

As I post this article, Toni has just begun the first leg of a New Zealand concert series to promote Echo in my Soul, her debut CD, released in May of this year.  I believe that one day we will see this young lady perform in fully staged concerts; complete with elaborate costumes, special effects and all the theatricality her talent commands.  Like Sarah Brightman, Toni possesses a magical “dark and light” combination that makes her as intriguing to watch as she is beautiful to listen to.  She is truly an artist of the senses.

We invite you to visit Toni’s website to discover for yourself a voice that comes along once in a generation:  Toni  Gibson

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Throwback Thursday~A Musical Passion

In the year 2000 I got a crazy idea to write both the script and songs for a fully staged musical drama entitled YESHUA. It was a wild adventure that began with a small, one act Good Friday presentation at our church, then ballooned into a two and a half hour two act show, complete with sets, dancers, a full choir and lots of bells and whistles (including a 500 year old dried out tree).  We presented YESHUA for 3 consecutive years at a local performing arts center.

My goal in writing this production was to do something different with what we commonly refer to as the Easter story, so I flavored the show with elements of the passion story’s historically Jewish roots through Hebrew dance, authentic Hebrew costumes, and a musical score laced with Jewish melodies.

Early on in the creation of YESHUA, Nathan and I decided that we wanted music to back the entire show, as if it were being presented on film.  More than orchestral accompaniment for all the songs, we wanted scene music that would set the mood, the time and place; music that would enhance the emotional ebb and flow of the story.  As I wrote the script I worked with Nathan on the timing of scenes so that the action would move smoothly from scene to scene, the pace driven by music.  It was, at the time a novel concept, made possible because Nathan was able to create the entire score on his keyboard.  During our work sessions I would read through the scenes aloud, and together we would decide what type of music the scene and dialogue required, how much music there should be, and when to leave blank spaces.

Nathan Allen Pinard
Nathan Allen Pinard hard at work.

Nathan then created CDs that contained all the scene music and song accompaniment.  We began rehearsing with the CD right from the start so the actors could learn their cues and work out the timing of their dialogue, scene changes, and the dramatic flow.  This was especially effective in the trial scene where I required the actors to speak their dialogue in a rapid fire confrontational style.

Going into rehearsal, we were not at all sure how this would work, but the entire cast and crew were thrilled by the result! As the director of the play I was able to get more out of my actors because Nathan’s music is very emotive.  There is gorgeous scene music when Yeshua (Jesus) prays in the garden and when he sings the modern aria I wrote for him.  A suspenseful percussion-heavy score beats behind the trial scene, and the crucifixion scene allowed Nathan to compose the music of tears.

We are happy to share this clip from the crucifixion scene; with music by Nathan Allen Pinard and dialogue by Corey Bretsch and Brian Knapp with Vocals by Bonnie Pinard.  This particular piece of music contains a lot of dark sound and vocal design with a celtic feel at the end, because well-Nathan likes to work outside the box!

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Music and Lyrics ~ The Birth of a Song

Photo by docentjoyce under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

I often wonder what the circumstances were when the very first song was created by a human being, and which came first…the lyrics or the melody?  Who discovered that one could combine a melody with words?  Were there instruments involved or just a voice and a thought, a feeling, an idea or a story?  No one knows for certain.  Somehow the notes and words merged into one and something remarkable happened.  A song was born.

Each individual songwriter works under their own process, but I can only tell you about mine.

For me the lyrics almost always come first, I suppose because I began writing poetry long before I became much of a singer.  Like many songwriters, I started writing poems as child to express myself and to explore the world around me.   I find songwriting to be a fantastically personal, spiritual and intimate experience.  I never start out writing a lyric or poem for anyone but myself.  I never even think about whether or not there is a commercial market for a song idea, and I never give a thought to following a certain set of rules or strong structure.  I simply write about what moves me, what I care about and what I am feeling.

This is perhaps why I have never had a “hit” song?

For me the lyrics are either inspired or they are not.  I don’t formulate or force song lyrics-they just come into my head.  An idea for a song will strike me, then I’ll sit down with my computer, set up a file and type the first few lines and a title.  From there the words start to flow, with most of my song lyrics written in a matter of 5 to 10 minutes!   Once the flurry of emotion has been expressed and I get across what I am trying to say, I will then break the song down-work on the language and images, work out the cadence as the melody often begins to emerge at this stage.

There are times however, when a song idea just doesn’t work.  I get the initial inspiration, but for unknown reasons, it doesn’t go any farther than that.  Those go into my “pending” file, and I have been known to revisit old song ideas to “borrow” from bits and pieces of rejected lyrics.

I find writing the lyrics much more enjoyable than composing the melody, but there have been rare occasions when a melody floated into my mind, so strong and so pervasive that it begged for a lyric, reversing the process.  I can think of once such instance.  I was standing at the sink doing the dishes, just staring out the window.  Suddenly out of nowhere comes this melody into my mind.  I start to hum it.  It sounds vaguely familiar.  I think to myself, “where have I heard this before?” I flip through the catalogue of known music in my brain.  Can’t name a song or piece of music that sounds like this, so I figure it is original.  It is mine.  I stand there humming this melody with tears streaming down my face because it moves me so.

The melody was eventually paired with a lyric, which then became a prayer, then a fully orchestrated song performed by soloists and a choir in our musical drama, YESHUA.

But that was a rare happening in my songwriting life.  That was special.

To compose songs, to write song lyrics that tell stories, explore human emotion, and make people feel something is an honor and a joy!

I would like to share with you a a song lyric I wrote a few months ago.  It is a “music orphan” and has no melody as of yet-but when it does it will become a song, clothed in Nathan’s exquisite orchestration, recorded by a beautiful voice and featured on our next  CD.


The Acorn Box
Bonnie Anne Pinard
copyright June 6, 2013

She removes the box from a secret place
Opens the lid with a smile on her face

The metal flashes in the window’s light
Soon the pain will make everything alright

Father in the next room, drunk and unaware
Plays the starring role in every nightmare

The box hides the blade like her smile hides the fear
No one else knows what goes on in here

Chorus: A shiny blade, the ribboned skin
To keep the pain from seeping in
A slash of red is all she needs
She’s pure again when she bleeds

Her friends only see the smile she fakes
They all believe in the lies she makes

A made up dream, it’s all pretend
She believes in magic when she cuts again.

Her mother’s gone, left the acorn box behind
Her friends don’t understand, seems the world is blind

The only way out is to feel the purge
She tries to stop but can’t fight the urge

Chorus: A shiny blade, the ribboned skin
To keep the pain from seeping in
A slash of red is all she needs
She’s pure again when she bleeds

She rolls up the sleeve, marks her aim
Takes a deep breath and welcomes the pain

She closes her eyes, starts the fall
It’s better to hurt, than feel nothing all

(interlude to change the tone)

Outside her window, it’s mid July
She spies the flash of a butterfly

She turns her head for a better view
Watches it swirl in the sky of blue

Bridge (an angelic choir repeating) :
hold on, stay strong
choose life, choose hope
fly free soar high
like the butterfly

Monarch wings reflect the light
She drops the blade to watch its flight

She stands to her feet, sets the box aside
Unlocks the window, opens it wide

She holds out her hand, the creature comes near
Through the window it flies, it has no fear

Ever so softly it lights on her arm
Where the blade tore her flesh,
Upon the scars of self harm

(an angelic choir repeating) :
hold on, stay strong
choose life, choose hope
fly free soar high
like a butterfly

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Throwback Thursday~The Shepherd’s Call

One of the greatest joys a musician can have is participating in the creation of music. For composers, songs and music find various pathways into the listening world. Some argue that writing music is a technical process which involves a certain mechanism of the human brain…but there are some melodies that when first heard, resonate so richly in the heart and the ear that you may think you have heard them before-or that they have always been.

I can think of several well known melodies which fit that description: “O Danny Boy” comes immediately to mind; “Silent Night”; Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday”, and for fans of classical music, well known arias like “O Mio Babbio Caro”. These pieces are imbued with an emotional component that, depending on your personal taste in music, can easily evoke a special time or place in your life.

This was my experience when I first heard Nathan’s composition The Shepherd’s Call. I remember hearing the first strains of this Celtic inspired piece years ago wafting up from our basement home studio. I literally stopped what I was doing and drew in my breath at the beauty of it. And not just the beauty of it, but the haunting familiarity of it; as if I had heard that melody before, long ago-like the resonating sweetness of a beautiful dream one faintly remembers upon waking up. I listened as Nathan orchestrated the track then recorded the solo part on a 10 dollar penny whistle. I racked my brain trying to recall where I had heard that music before and figured it was from some popular film soundtrack. It was instantly hummable and it delicately hurt my heart-but in that good way music can sometimes hurt.

Later when I questioned Nathan about what he had been playing, when he told me it was his own composition I was floored. Not that I didn’t think him already capable of writing gorgeous music. I just didn’t know he could write THAT kind of gorgeous music.

Although the piece has been performed live twice; once by a full college orchestra and once by a small church orchestra-The Shepherd’s Call has been under wraps for a number of years, just waiting for the world to discover it. Our intention for this piece is to turn it into an actual song to be recorded by Celtic vocalist

The lyric has not even been written yet, and who knows if it will even retain the working title of The Shepherd’s Call, but please enjoy this rare recording of the instrumental version, certain to transport you to a familiar, heart tugging moment in time…and have a musical day!

Bonnie Anne~the IA team

946808_61fb7d94Photo © Copyright Nigel Mykura and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.