Ever wonder how a song is written? Does a composer write the melody first and then a lyricist set the words to the notes? Or is it the other way around? In the case of songwriting team Suzy Hallett (lyricist), of Nobleboro, and Aaron Robinson (composer), of Alna, it was the latter.
On April 5, Hallett wrote Robinson a whimsical email that read: “I have a bee in my bonnet. Maybe it’s from listening to too much Cole Porter, but what would you think about writing a song together? I’ll write the lyrics and you write the music. If this idea doesn’t make you want to throw up – let me know.” The idea didn’t make Robinson want to throw up, and he replied promptly: “Send away!”
Within a few days, Hallett sent off her first set of lyrics entitled: “Let’s Make Music”; the title of which Robinson chuckles at now because, as he recalls, “I had been thinking the exact same phrase!” The very next morning, much to her surprise, Hallett received in her inbox, the song – complete.
This began an outpouring of creativity, inspiration, and collaboration that generated 23 songs in just under six weeks. Hallett would send a new lyric, sometimes in the morning (in which case Robinson would send back finished music by the end of the day) or in the evening, in which case Hallett would wake and find a new tune waiting in her email.
The team never met to discuss their writing in person. “We didn’t have to,” Hallett said. “Every time I would send a lyric to (Robinson), the melody, style, and feel of the music that he chose for each song was exactly how I had envisioned it sounding.”
So what do a couple of songwriters do with 23 songs? Put on a show, obviously!
At first, Hallett & Robinson thought they would simply offer a musical soiree privately in their homes, open to a few invited guests. But once the show began taking shape, they realized it was something much more than just an afternoon of songs between friends.
Contracting four exceptional and seasoned musical theater singer-actors both locally and from the greater Portland area, Hallett and Robinson threaded together 21 original songs celebrating love, life, and laughter (in the styles of Cole Porter, Stephen Sondheim, Burt Bacharach, and Comden and Green) into a fresh, new, and exciting musical revue.
The program includes everything from 32-bar chorus jazz tunes, a Christmas ballad that will soon become a holiday classic, tender waltzes and cabaret songs, lively up-tempo boogie-woogie-style jumps, and company numbers that rival any Broadway score. One song in particular is the Finale to Act Two, “Wondering Why,” which continually asks the questions of the world today that never seem answered. The performance of this number will be dedicated in memory to the victims of the recent tragedy in Las Vegas.
The cast includes Kristen Robinson, Kyle Aarons, Nancy Durgin, and Jeffrey Caron. “Words & Music” will debut Friday and Saturday, Oct. 6 and 7, at 7:30 p.m. There is one matinee: Sunday, Oct. 8 at 2 p.m. For reservations, call 882-6335. Tickets are $15 and will be sold at the door: Porter Hall at Skidompha Library, 184 Main St, Damariscotta.