Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lovers' Duets - New Lovers

Luke Rimmelzwaan presents the first of a series of articles on Duets.

Lovers, Villains and Fools

During the process of Seven Brides we discovered that we had a cast of most excellent singers and that afforded us the opportunity to explore to format of a musical. This allowed us to go a little bit further than having a narrative spiced up with an occasional song to using duets, trios and group songs to enhance the characters and their story.

Perhaps the most successful part of this was the duets, and certainly on the night they were some of the more popular fare. During the rehearsals I was offered the opportunity to be vocal coach, and as part of that I developed some shorthand styles to help people into the musical genre, particularly those who are less familiar with the conventions of the form.

We split up duets between three types: Lovers, Villains and Fools. This doesn't mean that foolish characters can't do Lovers duets or that mean characters can't be part of a Fools duet, it just gives a context to a type of duet. That being said the character archetypes will tend to fall into that sort of duet, and I will generally be using the archetype point of view in these examples. In this article I will talk about Lovers Duets, the general styles that we used and give some examples from existing, mostly easy to source, musicals as well as how we used them in the show.

A Whole New World - New Lovers and the Duet

The basic concept behind this Lovers duet is the moment the love begins to bloom. They might not declare their love outright but we can see what's really going on, can't we. This sort of duet gives us a chance to set up some motifs the lovers can use throughout the show, be it a lyric or phrasing or musical cue.

A very good example of this is A Whole New World from the Disney movie Aladdin. This song starts with one Aladdin singing to Jasmine, setting up the style and tone of the song. Jasmine then responds in kind and they start singing in unison more as the song progress. In very Disney fashion it has a lot of upward key changes and keeps building and building until it pulls it right back on the ultimate line. In impro it would be difficult to do a song so complex but there are some valuable methods we can pull from this song.

So using a male character and a female character, a basic format might look like this:

Male - Verse1
Male - Chorus
Female - Verse 2
Female - Chorus
Male & Female - Chorus, Coda

Of course the song could be longer if it needs to be but this format gives a hint to the audience that as they come closer together musically they are emotionally coming closer as well. Also key changes can be used in the last chorus to build a bit of oomph and the coda can be a patented big finish, but as seen in A Whole New World it can be just as effective if they drop it down a bit after the chorus. If the singers have a good ear it is also a great place to have a harmony, but probably just on the coda.

A good example from One Bride for Seven Brothers is In This Lake With You (recently featured on Musical Hotspot). Nancy (Amy Currie) and Golly (Tristan Ham) each take a verse, then collaborate on the choruses, with finally a lovely, delicate slow coda.

Photo by Al Caeiro

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