I wrote my first song after my first piano lesson as a 7 year old. It was a cute little ditty on the black keys only. Somehow, I could hear songs in my head – even though they were not yet written. I would pick them out on the keyboard and scribble down the music, just for fun!
In the late 50s, we lived in a town called Reseda, in the San Fernando Valley. They were throwing housing tracts together like burgers at that new hamburger franchise, “McDonald’s”. In our neighborhood, we were surrounded by celebrities – Johnny Carson, Chuck Conners (The Rifleman) and Dick Kesner (who played a Stradivarius violin with the Lawrence Welk Orchestra). But, one neighbor was Don Robertson, a professional songwriter – and member of Nashville Songwriter’s Hall of Fame!!! I’ll never forget one Christmas Season when I was in Don’s house. On his mantle were several Christmas cards. I went over to see them and I was blown away! One of the cards read, “Merry Christmas, Don! You keep writing them, and I’ll keep singing them.” It was signed, ELVIS PRESLEY! Holy cow! I knew someone who wrote songs for Elvis!
I only mention these things because when you are in the company of creative people, it rubs off on you. In my heart, I just knew I had to be a songwriter – not a famous songwriter, just a songwriter. I loved to tell stories with music and I have done so for a long, long time!
In 1999, a friend, Doral Allen, said to me, “Why don’t you kick your music up a notch. You should write a performance piece; maybe something in Latin?” I thought she was joking, but that night I went into my home studio and wrote music for a Latin prayer that I found in my late mother’s St. Joseph Roman Missal. As I started to write, I was overcome with a sense of awe and inspiration that led me to write new music for the entire Mass. The working title was, “A Mass for the Millennium”. After the attacks of 9/11/2001, I changed the name to, what has become, “A Mass for Peace in the Third Millennium”. Writing that Mass changed my life forever!
Another dear friend, Sharon Girard – a musicologist with a PhD in sacred music, presented my score to Maestro Michael Morgan, Conductor of the Oakland East Bay Symphony. He said it was doable … so, we did it! With the grace and guidance of The Holy Spirit, we put together a chorus of over 90 singers and, along with the symphony orchestra, “A Mass for Peace in the Third Millennium” had its World Premier on September 12, 2004 at St. Joseph the Worker Church in Berkeley, CA. It was providential that, after 4 months of rehearsal, the first time the work was performed by the full orchestra and chorus was on September 11, 2004 at the dress rehearsal, the night before the concert … 3 years, to the day, after the terrorist attacks!
The concert was an unexpected triumph as the audience leapt from their seats and gave a joyful 2 minute long standing ovation! It was an added blessing when the concert performed, and graciously received, the next year, in 2005, at the famed Paramount Theater in Oakland.
Months later, with John Kendall Bailey conducting, we recorded the CD at George Lucas’ world class studio, Skywalker Sound, followed by several sessions at Studio 880 with John Lucasey as engineer and producer. Michael Denton did a great job mixing and mastering the CD.
My next inspiration was a musical based on the life of St. John Vianney. Once the script and score were written, once again, Studio 880 opened its doors for us and John Lucasey pulled off another “miracle”. The CD, “The Curé of Ars”, was recorded to help finance a future stage production. The CD cast, featuring James Locke, Elizabeth Hunter-Ashley, Eoin Harrington, Melissa Reese and Andrew Alcaraz, was fantastic! You can “meet” these outstanding talents when you scroll down on “The Curé of Ars” PAGE … below the MUSIC SAMPLES.
The story of St. John Vianney, “The Curé of Ars”, is amazing, and it needs to be told. Please pray for this project – it will be wonderful!