Posts Tagged ‘Margaret Dorn’

Update On “Is Anybody Listening?”

Saturday, December 26th, 2015


The news is all good.

Our RocketHub crowd funding campaign succeeded on several different levels. Though we did not meet goal, we ended up with $15k plus that we did not have before we started. We not only paid the costs of the campaign, but also ended up with a substantial profit to move forward over the next few months.

We also learned many things about our constituency, our tribe. We learned what kinds of people cared about what we were doing and what kinds did not. We learned who our true fans were and we learned who is content to just watch. And we learned about the types of people that we will cater to and those who are simply just not that involved. This was hugely helpful.

Because of what we learned, we shifted the project and pointed it in the directions of interest. I’ve always said, “We serve you. Tell us what you want in the way of inspiration and inspirational music, and we’ll do our best to provide it.”

You spoke; we listened.

In meetings just recently Watchfire Music will now partner with the Sheen Center For Thought and Culture, NYC in producing a wide variety of inspirational music both as live events performed in and webcast from New York City, and also as a series of 20-minute video modules that can be repurposed for a myriad of events ranging from theatrical to corporate and from church to charity productions.

These modules will address a myriad of world problems, inspire in a most entertaining fashion with pertinent songs and arresting visuals, and tune the ear and eye to a better sense of listening to the heartbeat of the world around us.

“Is Anybody Listening?” will focus the imagination and attention of people around the world on the problems that we face and the solutions that are at our fingertips, and is a clarion call to the world to pay attention.

Our focus audience and clients:

Individuals Seeking Inspiration


Fund Raising Benefits

Theatrical Presentations

Nonprofit Charitable Organizations

Church Groups

Here are just a few examples of the issues that the modules would address:

Water — Global Water Crisis

Healing Response to World Tragedy

The Intercession of Science and God in the Universe

Corporate Promotions and Public Opinion Issues

Shootings and Gun Control

Spiritual Awareness

Healing Depression


For those of you who donated, we are working now on fulfilling our obligations to you and clarifying your part in this endeavor over the next few weeks. Thank you and welcome to the fold.

We now have well over a hundred dedicated people working on this project. Our goal is to now add some zeros to that 100. We need each of you to reach out to others who share these interests and would like to help.

These monies and these ideas are just a start, but there is a strong professional foundation underlying this project that insures its success. Between the Sheen Center and Watchfire Music and other great professionals that we will attract, this project will move forward and through music will inspire the world to better listening and therefore better action and reaction.

Join us. It’s a most exciting road we travel.

A Language Of Its Own

Saturday, November 21st, 2015
Margaret - Back Then

Margaret – Back Then

I’ve had the rich opportunity to work with many great pros during my career and one of the best of them over 4 decades has been a superb musician and fantastic lady, Margaret Dorn. We first met when I cast her in a leading role in my rock opera, The Wedding Of Iphigenia, that played both in London at the Old Vic and in New York at the New York Shakespeare Festival’s Public Theater.

In the years since, Margaret and I have worked on countless projects together. And in that time she became one of the top call studio singers and vocal arrangers in New York in a great career that spanned decades.

Here’s a short list of some of the many she worked with as a vocalist, an arranger and a keyboardist both in the studio and in concerts around the world: Celine Dion, Bette Midler, Jennifer Lopez, Carly Simon, Lionel Ritchie, Donald Fagen, Michael Bolton, Boz Scaggs, Willie Nelson, Barry Manilow, Jessica Simpson, Michael McDonald, Garth Brooks, The Chieftans, and Diana Ross.

So when it came to doing this Duets album, Margaret was the first woman we thought of. She has such an incredible ability to sing in just about any style, so I was having a hard time nailing down a song for her because there were simply too many directions we could go. So I kept waiting for just the right impulse.

Then, when we were close to finishing the CD, sadly I learned that she was not available to work with us. This was a crusher to both Julia and me. How could we do this album without Margaret?

One day I was searching through some old files trying to find some old tracks to a song and I came across the TV Tracks for my album, Thru Me, recorded about 15 years ago. (A TV Track is a mix of a song with everything on it except the lead vocal, used when the singer might need to sing without her band.)

Margaret had both done the vocal arrangements and sung with the other background singers on the album. I played through the TV Tracks one day and was blown away by all of her fine work on the CD. I was listening one day in the car driving and I got to one song called Playin’ The Fool and remembered that Margaret had come to me and asked me if she could handle the background voices on that song by herself. She said that she had an idea for an approach that might be interesting. I agreed instantly and when she did the session solo she basically just came in and sang emotional riffs in between the lead vocal lines on the song. She used no actual words – just sounds like “oh” and “ah” an “ooo”. It worked great.

So there I was driving in my car, 15 years later, listening to what she had done way back then, and I was so struck by the mastery and beauty of what she had done that day that I had to pull off the road and stop and listen to the song 3 more times. I couldn’t even remember what I had sung as the lead vocalist. I couldn’t even remember how the song went!

Later I played it for Julia and she had the same reaction to Margaret’s mastery.

Then Julia came up with a brilliant idea! “Why don’t you use this track on my Duets album and I’ll sing along with Margaret?” I’ll have to admit that at first I was not too enthusiastic about the idea. Who wants to hear a song with a couple of women singing “ooo” and “ah” throughout?

Several days later I was out taking my walk and thinking how I could satisfy Julia’s insistence, and the thought just came to me that Margaret simply blew me away with pure emotion and no words. There is so much music in that woman that she doesn’t even need words to touch the soul.

The phrase, “Music is a language of it’s own” came to mind, and I knew I had a starting point. I rushed home and dove into the finished track – finished 15 years earlier. It was good that I did not remember so well the original song that I wrote because I wrote a completely different song to this already finished track. I no longer had the multi-track files of the original song, so I had to work only the finished mix of the TV Track, but the ideas came easily. Margaret always led the inspiration.

Julia was thrilled … and then thrilled me with her gorgeous performance. It certainly is one of my favs on the album.

Margaret - Today

Margaret – Today

A Language Of Its Own

Music and Lyrics by Peter Link










[Margaret – 4 bars]

So many languages

So many tongues

So many people tryin’

To touch each other’s lives

And missin’ just the words to say

But music has a language of its own

And everybody hears it

And everybody understands

[Margaret – 4 bars]

So may I introduce you

To my ol’ friend Margaret

[Margaret – 2 bars]

This lady can sing sing to the world

[Margaret – 2 bars]

Sing it Margaret

[Margaret – 4 bars]


She doesn’t need words

To get right down to your soul

She doesn’t need language

To pierce the heart


Cuz the universal language of music

Is a language of its own

And everybody knows what you’re sayin’

And everybody knows how you feel

So sing to us of love Miss Margaret

[Margaret – 6 bars]

Oh yeah ee

Yeah ee yeah

Yeah ee yeah

Yeah ee yeah ee yeah

[Margaret – 3 bars]

Oh oooo yeah

[Margaret – 2 bars]


Yes the universal language of music

Is a language of its own

And everybody knows what you’re sayin’

And everybody knows how you feel


Let’s talk.

[Margaret (Interlude 6) – 4 bars]


[Margaret – 1 bar]

[Julia answer]

[Margaret – 2 bars]

Do dah do dah do dah do

Dah ee yah ee yah ee yah ee do dah day

[Trumpet solo – 2 bars]

Now give it just that classical touch

That makes me love ya’ so much

And brings the tears to my eyes

[Margaret (Soprano Solo – 4 bars]

Sing it to the world now, Margaret

[Margaret (Wah ooo) – 6 bars]











But the language of music

[Margaret – 2 bars]

It really gets ya’ goin’

[Margaret – 2 bars]

It really gets ya’ goin’

[Margaret – 2 bars]

Yes the universal language of music

Is a language of its own

Yes it do

Ooo ooo ooo

[Trumpet solo]



“I’d Like To Improve Your Music”

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

sheet-music-Recently I received a letter from a nice church person who suggested that he’d “like to make some improvements” to one of the settings of an arrangement I did for a Julia Wade CD that eventually ended up as WFM digital sheet music.  He even suggested that he had, in fact, already made these changes and performed them in a church service.

Both I and my staff were a bit taken aback by this suggestion, but totally understood that this person had it well in mind that they were doing a good thing and probably that I would be most happy to address his fixes of my composition.

There followed a series of letters back and forth in which I tried mightily to explain the awkwardness and actual legalities of the request.  In retrospect, since this sort of thing has happened several times previous to this time, I have decided to reprint portions of my attempt at explaining the “facts of life and music” to this dear man who only had it in his heart to “improve” or “better” my composition.  In the following, the names are changed to protect the innocent.

And so I wrote:

“Oddly, I wear two hats here – one as Creative Director of WFM and the other as Arranger of the work in question.  I’m going to try to approach this moment with my Creative Director hat on as much as possible. 

First, music is an interesting medium.  There are rules, and rules to be broken.  There are tastes and taste changers.  There are styles and evolutions of style.  And then there are the people, the audience, the listeners – each with their own particular tastes, and responses to genres (some people like Country music; some don’t.).  One thing I’ve learned for sure is that “ya’ can’t please all the people all the time.”  That said, we here at WFM were a bit taken aback at your suggestion to “do some improvements to the There Is A Balm In Gilead setting.” 

Let me also mention that it’s not the first time we’ve had to deal with these kinds of good intentions.  In fact, it comes up all too often and if you are a reader of my blog you would know that I do address the legalities of these kinds of good intentions from time to time.

The more concerning part of this is “We used it recently, and I thought of some ways to enrich the connective/transitional material and unify it.” This implies that you have already done this and performed it with the changes in your church.  If I am reading this implication wrongly, I apologize.

One of our staffers brought forth this metaphor in a staff meeting discussion: “It’s as if a teacher decided to rewrite sections of Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell To Arms” before she read the novel to her class.”

Now I’m not putting myself at all on the mastery level of an Ernest Hemingway, but the point here is that he is a published author whose work is intellectual property governed by U.S. Copyright laws and international agreements.  It cannot be changed.  Not one word; not one comma.  No one would try to rewrite or have the right to rewrite Hemingway or any other published author, for that matter. (more…)

A Composer’s Education – Part 7

Friday, September 7th, 2012

Les Girls of Iphigenia

This is Part 7 of a multi-part series of posts.  I suggest that you start with Part 1 if you have the time and really want to appreciate the full effulgence.

Les Girls of Iphigenia:

Twelve young starlets play one classic role in the same opera.  Twelve variations of the same young girl facing her death at the hands of her father all in the service of her country.  We wondered if it would work, if the audiences would ‘get it’.  They had no trouble with the concept and the musical/rock opera rode on the giant wings of these twelve amazingly talented women in every performance.

How I loved these women!  Twelve of the top talents in NYC to work with, to write for, to arrange for.  It was a composer’s dream come true.

Over the couple of years of the run, first in workshops in NYC, then in London and then again in performances back in NYC, there were a number of other women who came in and out – understudies, swings and replacements, (Broadway star Patti Lupone was one) but the core twelve were something special and over the years, after the run of the show, I had the gratifying opportunity to watch nearly every one of them blossom into a star on a major scale.


Julianne — Julianne Marshall was our rock.  She was there for the entire run of the show and I can’t remember that she ever missed a performance.  She was a beautiful presence on stage, one of the quieter side of Iphigenia, but the leader of the kettle drum choir – six of the twelve learned to play timpani and would erupt periodically throughout the show in a grand tattoo of rhythmic pounding which represented the war around them.  Julianne would radically change in an instant from demure to powerful when she got those mallets in her hands.


Nell – Nell Carter was our trumpet.  With a voice that would cut diamonds and shatter glass she was a tremendous presence.  There were moments when I could put Nell on the melody and everybody else on the harmonies and Nell’s voice would still cut through the other eleven and state the theme.  And she was funny – probably our one true comic relief in the cast – with her wide body and her crazy spirit, she could have handled the role by herself in another production.

Nell in Ain’t Misbehavin’

Nell went on to win a Tony Award for her performance in the Broadway musical Ain’t Misbehavin’, as well as an Emmy Award for her reprisal of the role on television.

She also received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for her starring role in the long-running 1980s’ sitcom Gimme a Break!.






Sharon – Sharon Redd was simply beautiful and talented.  She had the fire and had one of those classic R&B voices that you heard on the radio.  Often it was Sharon, singing on commercials, as one of Bette Midler’s Harlettes and finally having a most successful career as a background vocalist, most notably with the group Soirée, which also included among its members Luther Vandross and Jocelyn Brown.

Trish – Trish Hawkins was the vulnerable side of Iphigenia.  Trish always felt to me like a fresh breath of air from the country.  She was the strongest actress of the group and, consequently, the turn-to girl that handled most of the spoken lines.  I secretly fell in love with her in the course of the run because of her natural beauty and great presence.

Trish with Judd-Hirsch

Later in life she became Lanford Wilson’s female lead in his Pulitzer Prize winning Broadway play Talley’s Folly, as well as his Broadway plays The Happy Hooker and Fifth of July.









Marion – Marion Ramsey was the energy!  Here was a blast-‘em-through-the-roof R&B/Gospel singer with serious chops and the great ability to get the audience standin’ up and clappin’.  Her big number was a song called Gate Tender which never failed to bring the house down.

Marion in Police Academy

She seemed always happy and ready for a laugh and was one of the most popular among the girls. She was later a regular on the TV series Cos but is best known for her role as the timid Officer Laverne Hooks in the Police Academy movies.




Pam – Pamela Pentony was our Janis Joplin.  The music of the show covered many pop genres and Pam’s number, I Wonder, was a screamin’ gut wrenching rock n’ roll moment that she just tore up every night.  One wondered how she could sing like that whiskey-voiced and rockin’ and rollin’ night after night.  How could her voice possibly hold out?  But it did – 8 performances a week for a couple of years.  Pam was special.  Everybody loved her because she gave it everything she had night after night, night after night … (more…)

A Composer’s Education – Part 6

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Bonnie Guidry, Linda Lawley, Marion Ramsey, Pamela Pentony

This is Part 6 of a multi-part series of posts.  I suggest that you start with Part 1 if you have the time and really want to appreciate the full effulgence.


The plane ride to London was a blast.  An excited cast of twenty some gorgeous theatricals hangin’ over the seats, yellin’ and laughin’ back and forth and so excited about flyin’ to London.

I always kept my guitar in the overhead when I traveled and at one point I took it out and we serenaded the passengers for about a half hour with songs from the show.  At one point half the ladies were struttin’ up and down the aisle singin’ and doin’ their makeshift choreography to a bewildered, but totally entertained and enthralled audience of passengers.

A number of those people on that flight even came to see the show and came backstage afterwards to reminisce about that memorable flight.  Two months later on the flight back to NYC everyone slept the whole way home.

Theater in London is a whole different world than in the U.S.  There, there is history – a rich deep culture to draw from that the people – especially London’s theater lovers – are proud of and most knowledgeable.  After all we were now doing our classic show in the home city of one Will Shakespeare and this was a fact that meant so much to all the members of our cast.

Also at the time, Vanessa Redgrave was largely considered to be the leading actress in the Western world and everyone knew she lived in London, and on top of that her pictures adorned the walls of the Old Vic where she had starred in many of their productions.  So the girls were always a-buzz about Vanessa this and Vanessa that.

There was also some nervous speculation by all of us Americans as to how our show would be accepted in London, this great city of culture and theatrical history.  Would they put us down for being American and trivial?  Would they castigate us for turning Euripides masterpiece into a rock opera?  Would they turn up their British noses to us? (more…)

A Composer’s Education – Part 5

Friday, August 17th, 2012

This is Part 5 of a multi-part series of posts.  I suggest that you start with Part 1 if you have the time and really want to appreciate the full effulgence.


The casting of Iphigenia would be problematic because Doug Dyer, the director, and I had decided that only three people could speak in the piece – Agamemnon, played by Manu Topou who had played the king in the movie “Hawaii” that at the time was so popular, Clytemnestra, played by Madge Sinclair, who you might remember from long-running stint in the 1980s as nurse Ernestine Shoop on the series Trapper John, M.D. opposite Pernell Roberts.  She received three Emmy nominations for her work on that show, or perhaps in 1988, she played Queen Aoleon opposite James Earl Jones‘ King Jaffe Joffer in the Eddie Murphy comedy Coming to America.  Achilles was first played by a young Tommy Lee Jones.

All three were classically trained actors, perfect for the roles and would not sing in the show, but would handle the minimal Euripidean dialogue with aplomb.

The tough casting choice, however, was Iphigenia.  She would have to be a young, beautiful rock/pop/folk singer with powerful acting chops and she would have minimal dialogue, but a tremendous role to sing.  And we wanted a real authentic rock n’ roller – not some theater chick who thought she was hip enough to do it.  We also needed to cast 12 ladies in waiting to be the Greek chorus.

We saw some wonderful talent.  In that day everyone wanted to work at The Public, so the turnout was fantastic.  We easily cast our Greek chorus with 12 of the top twenty-something ladies in NYC.  I was absolutely thrilled with the potential of that chorus and could not wait to get into rehearsal.

But we could not find our Iphigenia.

Finally Joe Papp told us to go into rehearsal without our leading lady for he suspected that she would emerge in the course of our rehearsals from our wondrous chorus.  When Joe said it; you did it, and so that’s what we did.

In the first week of rehearsals I taught only the music.  At the end of each day Doug, Joe and I would meet and discuss our leading candidate for our starring role based on who had been our favorite that day.  And at the end of each day we had a different choice.  By the end of the week we were no further in casting our lead than we were on the first day of rehearsal.  Then Joe had a fascinating idea. (more…)

I Stood In The Wings… Part 3

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

This is Part 3.  If you haven’t yet read Part 1 & 2, I highly suggest you do so first.

For a little more than five years when I was in my late 20s and early 30s I was composer-in-residence at the NY Shakespeare Festival (The Public Theater) working with producer Joseph Papp in what was, at the time, the most creative theatrical hot spot in the country.  Joe Papp and his plays and musicals had an amazing run of success during the 70s that we haven’t seen the likes of from a theatrical producer since.

It was at The Public where I learned my craft having the opportunity to work on some 40 shows in those 5+ years working as composer for Joe.  Besides many other theaters in The Public complex, the NYSF also produced two Shakespeare plays per summer at the outdoor Delacorte Theater in Central Park.  I created incidental music for a number of these productions and I remember one particular production of Shakespeare’s Comedy Of Errors where I was backstage standing in the wings one night.

An older actor was on stage in a scene with one other actor one night when the older actor simply stopped in the middle of one line and kind of slumped over, still standing, into a frozen position.  The long pause brought us all to quick alert.  His fellow actor fed him his cue again to no response.  The stage manager in the wings downstage of me also fed him his lines in a stage whisper several times to no avail.  The audience began to buzz and we all quickly realized that there was something very wrong with the older actor.

Truth is, he had had a small stroke.

The stage manager, taking charge, simply walked out on stage calmly, and taking the arm of the older actor, led him slowly off stage.  Then the stage manager went back on stage and announced to the audience that we would take a short intermission and resume the play after 15 minutes.  The audience, still abuzz, did as they were told to do peacefully.

Backstage it was anything but peaceful.  Rather, it was a pretty wild scene as the older actor was addressed and cared for, an ambulance was called and his understudy was frantically preparing to go on in the older actor’s place.

The costume mistresses scurried about preparing the understudy’s costume changes, I got in his face discussing his musical cues and the stage manager ran through a litany of reminders for the young, inexperienced understudy. (more…)

WFM Learning Lab – Grand Opening!

Friday, February 25th, 2011

OK, now you get to use your imagination.  Imagine those multi-colored triangle pennants flapping in the breeze surrounding the marquee “Watchfire Music Learning Lab – Grand Opening”.  Add some triumphant music played by a brass band and people flocking into the store excited to buy.  What are they buying?  Knowledge.

The WFM Learning Lab is now the real deal.  Staffed by top teachers and professionals, here is a specialized music school of most interesting classes developed to further the intricacies of modern music making.  Want to learn how to better your midi rhythm section arranging in your home studio?  Here’s the place to improve your skills.  Want to fine-tune your auditioning skills as a performer?  Here’s the place to get over that hump and start to nail down those jobs.

Most of these classes will be private classes – one on one with the teacher, but a few may evolve into group study though kept small and personal.

Pricing will be kept affordable. Private classes (one on one) will be held at $50 per hour.


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