Our latest EP was created for the play
The Mountaintop by Katori Hall.
The music draws on the Memphis sound, Stax Records, Chicago, Motown, Jimi Hendrix, the Sound of Philly, and takes the audience to church with gospel singers praising the Lord.
Part One: 1968
Our challenge was to recreate the energy of 1968 through music and sound: a great drum groove, full moving melodic bass guitar, a couple guitars left and right, organ, Fender Rhodes or Wurlitzer keyboard and vibraphone. Of course, we had to add a string and horn section paying homage to the big productions of the time. The result is the deceptively simple and unmistakable sound of 1968.
Part Two: Take Me Up
Our other goal was to create an original song that would convey the heart of the dialogue and echo the notable words of Reverend King and what he achieved. That had the biggest impact on us as writers and we asked ourselves “how can we elevate the importance of the performance and the message of the play?” Tragedy. Sadness. Hope. New beginnings. In the first recording (the “demo”) John sang the guide vocals. Dan recruited Richard Allen Perry, and with script in hand, he contributed another set of lyrics that lifted the song to another higher level.
John had worked with a group of gospel singers from Coatesville, PA in a production of The Gospel of Colonus at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia. Carla Harvey was in that production, and she was a dear friend of John’s. “I knew I had to call on Carla to bring the Church to this production and lift the audience up,” John explained. Carla brought us to the attention of the First Calvary Church in Coatesville, PA and enlisted Pastor Roland Holmes to sing lead vocals with Carla, Roberta Scott and Ella Marie Mobley on background vocals. The session was magical and culminated with the Pastor Roland Holmes, Jr. spontaneously improvising on a last take with gospel hymn, Higher Ground.
Part Three: The Chorus
In Classical Greek drama, the main action of a play is described and commented on by the Chorus, a unified group of actors, utilizing song, dance, and recitation. We wanted to create a type of Chorus with the words “The baton passes on…” A perfect function of spoken word telling the important story.
Part Four: The Journey
In the final piece, we chose to rely on a broader and edgier sound of heavy electric guitars, big pulses, and impacts. Brent, an orchestral double bass player himself, recorded his re-harmonized version of The Star-Spangled Banner, leaving the last line “O’er the land of the free…” unresolved, hanging in the air. There is still work to be done. In 1968, Jimi Hendricks’ All Along the Watchtower was on Billboard’s Top 100 Hit Chart. The times were indeed rapidly changing, and the music traces the journey from then to now.
Finally, going to church where we all can feel the goodness, the truth, hopes and dreams that can be dreamt from The Mountaintop. “Take me up…the baton passes on.”
The words of playwright Katori Hall and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. have been an incredible inspiration to us in our creative process.
MLK once said “Small groups of creative and dedicated people make the world better”. This has been my experience with The Mountaintop. The collaborative approach of each team member has taken this production from the page, to the stage, and into our hearts. It has been a wonderful experience watching this vision expand into reality. The leadership and dedication from Uptown has brought an experience that will move the audience. I am grateful and humbled to be part of this production and look forward to a continued relationship with Uptown and future projects. ...Dan
Working with Uptown, Carmen Khan, and Ryan George has been a great experience and a collaboration of total artistic trust. We invested a lot of time and effort into understanding Dr. King’s humanity and his legacy. The music was created to sound like it would have been on the radio on the day the story takes place, using the instruments and tools of 1968.
We are so grateful to be a part of this incredible design team and ultimately, this production which resonated so strongly with us. ...Brent