Every two weeks the Home Grown Spotlight will shine the follow-spot on one of the Aussie originals available for purchase on the Home Grown website. Featuring fun interviews with writers and performers to give everyone some backstage insight into what it takes to create new Australian musical-theatre.
This week we’re talking with…
Composer: Katie Weston
Song: One Small Spark
Where to find it: http://www.homegrownaus.com/store/one-small-spark
This video of ‘One Small Spark’ features the performing talents of Ghost the Musical’s Samm Hagen (King Kong, Ghost), and Drew Weston (Mary Poppins, Ghost), who also happens to be Katie’s brother!
Question Time with Katie Weston
Tell us about the process of writing ‘One Small Spark’ and what inspired it?
The opening melodic theme came to me one day when I sat down at my piano for a brief moment of creativity in mid 2014.
I remember falling in love with the electricity of the floating melody over a simple ostinato. The harmony seemed to fall into place effortlessly.
The darker middle section of the piece and inspiration for the song’s lyrics came in August 2014, in the week after actor Robin Williams died. Depression is a very real condition for so many people. Some manage it better than others. Some deny and hide it, never asking for help. Knowing it’s okay to feel this way, that you have support and hope are the lyrical themes of ‘One Small Spark’.
So this is the first piece you wrote for this show. How has this beginning inspired the rest of the show? And what challenges have you faced trying to build around it?
Melodic and harmonic themes come very easily to me when I’m in the right mindset. I have an ongoing collection of themes-in-progress that wait patiently to be watered with further inspiration and fleshed out. I think ‘One Small Spark’ was the third or forth theme that I’d come up with for what was beginning to take shape as a Song Cycle. I continue to work on these songs, inspired by lyrical content that is stand-alone or that could potentially link through a narrative I have also been drafting. ‘One Small Spark’ has inspired the show to approach very real, humanistic psychology and existential connectedness while keeping the surface material relatable and contemporary. A personal challenge have been making time to sit down at the piano with an unforced, creative mindset to further the project. Making time takes time.
That cello line is beautiful. Do you write your own orchestrations? What is the orchestration process like compared to writing the song?
Being a graduate of the VCA Composition degree, I developed a large folio of orchestrated works, both chamber and orchestra, big band and contemporary stage and rock instrumentation. For me, the music ALWAYS comes first. I admit to being influenced by chocolatey, acoustic and rock orchestrations by music theatre composers Jason Robert Brown (The Last 5 Years), Tom Kitt (Next To Normal) and Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening).
In the case of ‘One Small Spark’, the cello line manifested itself simultaneously with the piano arrangement. It was another musical character waiting in the wings. Much like the male character in the middle section of the work, the cello supports the piano by gliding between the harmony. I also adore the tone of the cello and was my first and only choice for a song of this musical aesthetic.
Find the sheet music to ‘One Small Spark’ at www.homegrownaus.com, along with many more Australian songs from some of the country’s top writers. See you in two weeks!