It all starts with a dream, as some say. Nashville says it all starts with a song. Either way, if it’s a dream, you have to get out of bed and get dressed. If it’s a song, you have to get out your pencil and paper, or at least your recorder. Then you might want to play it for other people, put it on an album, put it out on iTunes. You can’t just lay around and “think” about these things.
Every year I dream of doing a Christmas show, and beginning in January, I know that December is coming and my show won’t happen with my head on a pillow dreaming about it. I can hear Auntie Em telling Dorothy “there’s work to be done.”
One element of planning a show is deciding how to tell other people about it. You can’t just hope that people will show up. “If you build it” a few might come, but just building it isn’t enough.
One day as I was brainstorming on the phone with a coach about all that there is to do, including the marketing, he said, “Why don’t you bring your audience in on the planning of the show. Give them a peek into the planning part.”
So I got to thinking; I wonder what my audience would want to know about planning a Christmas show. Instead of me trying to guess, why don’t I just ask them? I did and people responded.
Sorting through the questions, one in particular, catches my eye. I squirm in my office chair. I always struggle when someone asks this question: “What is your favorite song on the album?”
The problem is, it’s hard to pick one favorite. Songs are three-minute audio journals of my life. Each song has a unique significance and is part of the whole.
Though the question wasn’t specifically about the show, it’s a good question because the show actually started with a song. Ok, so Nashville was right. It really does start with a song.
It was a wintery January morning in 2000 and I was on my way to a local recording studio to record my first album. The snow was blowing and drifting across Route 696 in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania—a scenic road between two mountain ranges. I probably shouldn’t have been driving.
But I was in my element…SNOW!
The first line said it all…
Whispery winds of winter white
The blizzard-like winds seemed to applaud my bravery for driving in these conditions…
Dancing across the starlit night
Twirling and swirling and sweeping the lane
Whisking the blues of the season away
These are the portraits of white
I knew it [the song] was special the day I wrote it. I could hear the polished production of it in my head. Even though it would be years before I’d actually record it, I knew it would sound Enya-esque. I had just encountered the music of Enya, and her stacked vocal approach resonated with me. Every time I’d listen to her, I wanted to sit down and write music.
Years later, when I decided to record a Christmas/Winter album this song was a definite favorite. I learned to respect Enya’s music all the more during the process of recording. It’s not easy to stack vocals. You must follow every single intonation and nuanced note of the original take each time you sing a new take. For some reason, I really enjoyed the challenge of this style of recording.
When it came time to choose a title for the Christmas album, Portraits of White felt the most magical. Portraits of White, both the song and the title would become the inspiration for my holiday show. If that makes it my favorite song on the album, then so be it.
The album title was just the beginning…