Jeffrey Harris, Music Director for A Long and Winding Road, talks to Daryl Waters, Arranger and Orchestrator of A Civil War Christmas.

    How did you both get involved in music?
    Daryl Waters: I'm a musician today because of a random, kind act decades ago. I grew up in a family without much money, living in a small two-family house in Cleveland, Ohio. My grandparents lived downstairs and my parents, 5 siblings and I lived upstairs in two bedrooms and a converted attic. When I was seven years old, the secretary at my family's church retired and was moving to Canada. She gave my mother her very old, very big upright piano, which we somehow crammed into a tiny living room. After taking a few piano lessons, my teacher realized I had a gift and recommended that I attend the Cleveland Music School Settlement. Because it was geared to income, I'd spend my Saturdays taking piano, violin, theory, and music lit classes with top-notch teachers for about $8 per week. I don't know where I'd be today without the gift of that first piano from Lydia Delvigs. In high school, I was recruited to play piano for our production of Guys and Dolls. The director, Fran Charnas (now at Boston Conservatory), subsequently asked me to conduct several summer theater productions, and I've been hooked ever since.
    Jeffrey Harris: I was adopted at five by my grandparents, Alice and Harry Harris. Alice had been a very successful singer and actress on stage in operetta and musicals in the 1930s and 40s. She also ran a school of the theater in Philadelphia at one point. Harry was a businessman with a great love of music. He managed a theater for a while with Alice in Yardley, Pennsylvania. Growing up with them, I was steered to the piano when I was eight, and around that time, discovered this big piece of furniture in the living room—Alice called it "the breakfront." Inside was her vast sheet music collection from the 1900s to about 1950. As soon as I could read music, I started pouring through all that literature—Rodgers, Kern, Porter—and I learned at an early age about song-form. To this day, whether it's playing, composing, or orchestrating, my biggest love is the American popular song.
    What is the work of an arranger or music director?
    DW: A successful arrangement in theater has to convey feelings that complement what's being seen. Having a chorus of voices for A Civil War Christmas gives me more choices. For example, the chorus can become the background to support a soloist singing the melody on quiet, somber numbers, or they can support a joyous moment by singing the melody along with full, glorious harmony. Working with a single voice is a bit more challenging since you don't have that extra arsenal, but a good arranger can make each moment just as fulfilling. From project to project, the key is to be sensitive to the material—and in the case of new shows—the performers.
    JH: In our show with Maureen, we are dealing with pop and rock songs from the '60s and '70s. My feeling is that pop and rock-based music is not inherently theatrical. Music from records and radio of that era all had steady drum beats, and not a lot of harmonic progression—very much a step backwards from Jerome Kern and Richard Rodgers—and a steady driving backbeat is very dull to me on stage. So, Maureen and I went through a long process of finding the songs from that era that have real quality, and infused them with our great love for American standards and jazz, and brought, I hope, a more theatrical bent to some songs that the audience has heard much of their lives, but in this show, are hearing in a new way and in a new context.
    Part of what makes both A Long and Winding Road and A Civil War Christmas so rich to watch is the link between popular music and history. Are there songs that are part of your own history?
    DW: Considering that pop songs by nature are an expression of sentiment, it's not surprising that they often reflect—and to varying degrees, chronicle—the times they were written in. I grew up in the '60s and '70s, and to this day, songs like Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On," concerning the tumultuous times of the Vietnam era, still resonate with me.
    JH: A lot of the songs in A Long and Winding Road are quite topical—very much from the times they were written in. The '60s were a time of great change and upheaval in America, and the writers represented in our show like Bob Dylan and Paul Simon reflect that. We do a very different treatment of Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'." When we first ran through that song, Maureen was shocked at how that song could have easily been written right now. I guess some things haven't been so much a-changin'!

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