Diary of an Orchestrator – Mission Estate Concert project, day 15

Sunday, January 26

Today is a red-letter day in the project. In 7.5 hours I completed song no. 10: “There’ll Be Sad Songs” by Billy Ocean. My tenth song was supposed to be “Mná Na h’Éirann” by Sharon Corr, but I moved up that add-on song I was given a few days ago. I’m sure I could easily roll on into the Sharon Corr tomorrow and call it finished except for final tweaks and parts, but this morning I got an e-mail from the MD saying that he’d saved me a few more arrangements if I wanted them. Yes, I do.

The Billy Ocean song was pretty straightforward – I orchestrated an amalgam of his latest live version and his original studio version. As is typical with a maturing voice, the live version is dropped a whole step from A to G major, which seems to be the “B-flat” of live pop key signatures. To tally them up, out of the first 10 songs, the keys are like this:

Am: Tubular Bells – Overture

G: “There’ll Be Sad Songs” – Billy Ocean; “Both Sides Now” & “If That Were Me – Mel C; and “When You Say Nothing At All” – Ronan Keating

Gm: “Never Be The Same Again” – Mel C

G#m: “We Could Be Lovers” – Sharon Corr

D: “When the Going Gets Tough” – Billy Ocean and “Take A Minute” – Sharon Corr

A: “More Than I Can Say” – Leo Sayer

So that’s 50% of the music using G as a tonic, and 80% in sharp keys. Oh, and “Mná Na h’Éirann” is E minor dorian, also one sharp plus a sharp 6th (I will probably just score it in two sharps). Yesterday I felt like I was being besieged by one sharp, but I’m not complaining, not really. Even if the next few songs that I get handed are all in G, I’ll do them happily. This has been an enormously fun project from the first bar.

At this point, I think I’ll put this journal on a bit of a hold. Instead of spilling my guts at the end of each song or day’s work, I’ll try to keep it brief, and just make a quick note of anything that stuck out as I orchestrated. For today’s song, for instance, the bit that caught my attention was in mimicking the sound of a DX7 electric piano sound using harp, glockenspiel, and sometimes flute. Not that the MD will need this in order to take the pressure off his keyboard playing! Not at all. But it’s nice to back such moments up, and give him the option of pulling back, or even dropping out in places.

Harp and glock covering DX7 lines
Harp and glock covering DX7 lines

So stick around for the final entry, coming right up as I complete the job this week.

Thomas Goss is a professional composer and orchestrator with an international roster of clients. He has worked with such talents as Billy Ocean, Melanie C, Sharon Corr, and Nikki Yanofsky. His compositions, orchestrations, and crossover arrangements have been performed by such ensembles as Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony Chamber Ensemble.

Thomas lives and works in Wellington, New Zealand, with his wife Erica and son Charlie, and one very unappreciative cat.

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