My newest writing work in progress is unlike anything I’ve done before. I am writing lyrics for the traditional English folk song, Greensleeves. I heard four variations of the song in December and January, including, What Child is This, and I know there are many more.
I sang, The Cherry Tree Carol, at a Christmas Eve service. If you know the song, you will be aware that Joseph comes off badly. I think he gets too little respect so I added two verses that redeemed him. The song is so simple and repetitive that writing verses was no problem at all.
When my choir director/singing coached asked me to consider what I wanted to sing next, I decided to see if I could write new verses to Greensleeves that would reflect the season of Lent.
The structure of the song is not complicated, which allows relatively easy adaptation of alternative lyrics. One verse contains a sequence of two tunes, which use many of the same notes and rhythms. That’s handy, but I had trouble at times identifying exactly where I was in the song. The time signature is the meter of the piece. Each bar has the same number of beats, expressed in variable notes and rests. Whatever the bar looks like, it has to fit the pattern of beats, making checking what I wrote easier.
I had a “plot” in mind before I started. Rhyming was not difficult although I had to stay flexible because of all the elements that came into play. In addition to making sense and having grammatical accuracy, one of the more difficult aspects of writing lyrics for me was insuring the natural musical stresses fell on important words. "Of" "the" and "a" often popped up in the wrong places.
My singing coach was immensely helpful with all musical aspects of writing lyrics. I could not have done it without his help. He talked about, “painting a picture using notes and words.” That was a familiar concept.
Like with my writing, I did not count the hours or the number of versions I composed. My idea is to work until the piece takes a shape that I am willing to share it with others.
What have you been working on lately?
PS Happy Friday the Thirteenth