The Evolution of a Song
Aaron A. Lehman May 13, 2012
“A Year in Review”
This song began as the first line of a Haiku. “A year in review” is 5 syllables. The next line came to me as “gives mixed emotions” but it needed 7 syllables. The next line came as “from fire and flood,” 5 syllables and the next line came as “brings fears and tears or remember the fears/tears. I liked the words, but it was not going to make a Haiku. I decided to just write it as a free verse poem.
A year in review can’t fathom the loss, dreams and aspirations lost in a moment.
A year in review can trigger periods of sobbing, trying to remember the things that we lost
A year in review brings memories of the heroes, many sacrificed their own to save a neighbor’s home.
This continued for another 11 stanzas and ended with: Come help us celebrate the gains we have made, just come and help us celebrate a Year in review.
I presented this to my Writers Group friends and they gave me some suggestion. First, take out some of the “A year in Review” lines. Condense it into fewer stanzas and make it more of a song. What? How can I do that?
A week later, the group liked the revisions and said I should write the music for it. I can’t write music, but I do play a guitar and have tunes going through my mind at times. This was different. It didn’t seem possible. Then one time, when I was just practicing some chords, a short segment of a tuned popped into my head and I rushed to my lap top and recorded the first phrase, “A year in review brings mixed emotions, from fire and flood we remember the tears.” Later, I tried to arrange the words of the other phrases to fit this tune. It all seemed to fit, except the last stanza. I tried different ways and it just wouldn’t work. Then, I realized this could be a chorus and I could alter the tune and rhythm. It still didn’t fit until I tried altering the rhythm and the whole notes. It worked!!
Come help us remember
The gains we’ve made
Just come help us (hold for two whole notes)
Celebrate a year in review
I revised and practiced this and then recorded a first attempt on the lap top and saved it on a memory stick. My voice range didn’t fit the tune I had, so the high note was a bit shaky.
I was representing the Writers Group at a banquet following an all-day Wellness Conference in Slave Lake on May 11, and I asked if I could read this song. I said it could be sung at the banquet if I found a good singer. They recommended Leigh Sinclair, the pastor at the Slave Lake Ecumenical church and after a bit of persuading, she agreed to sing it, if I played the guitar with her. We agreed to one practice and then performed the song at the banquet. We received a nice applause. I think it is a good summary of the events leading up to the one year anniversary of the worst wild fire in Canadian history on May 15, 2011. It expresses the pain we feel, yet promises hope for the future.
Aaron A. Lehman