Scattershot Symphony Podcast
Episode #28: The River – Part Two
Episode #28: The River – Part Two
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Scattershot Symphony #28
The River – Part Two
The Music of Peter Link
This week being the twenty-eighth episode of this podcast,
I prefer to let the music do the talkin’. However, if you need to know more about me, please visit Wikipedia.com – Peter Link.
This episode is entitled
The River – Part Two
Welcome to The River — A Musical Revelation, concept by Peter Link and William Spencer Reilly, Music and Lyrics by Yours Truly. If you have not experienced The River, Part One, I suggest you go back first to Part One and start there.
As do most creative projects, The River started out as a single idea. One day, many years ago, this one line popped into my head.
“River run by and smile at me standin’ there.” x2
I wrote it down on a scrap of paper and kept it on my desk for a month. I liked the idea of the personification of the river and me having a kind of relationship. I loved the idea that the river was always on the move. It has a life of its own. It carries with it, life, and feeds life to the world through which it passes. It is made primarily of water and I, too, I’m told, am also – at least my body is made primarily of water. We have a kinship. We come from the same family … water.
“River run by and smile at me standin’ there”
Then one day I realized that there was a song in all this. And so I wrote:
And so I smile right back
And call to the river
Sing me up a little song
River says “I don’t mind if you sing along”
“I been a thousand miles
Seen a lot of faces
For a thousand years
Been a lot of places where no man has gone
Where there’s nothing but the traces of God
An’ I’m rollin’ on
Rollin’ to the sea
Come ye to the water
Lose yourself in me
Never to go back again
The song, The River, became a great passion in my life. I wrote it for artist, Jenny Burton, to sing. I spent a small fortune on it, hiring a Gospel choir and then adding a children’s choir to the recording. I even hired Richard Tee, known then as the world’s greatest Gospel pianist, to play on the session.
I wanted the message to be universal and so I went back to the roots of mankind, to Africa, to the rhythms and the sounds of original man. I knew of Babatunde Olatungi, the world renowned Nigerian African drummer and his 8 person drumming sensation. I tracked him down and hired him and his troupe to join us in the recording. Olatungi and I became fast friends and he helped me translate some of the lyrics of the song into the gorgeous Nigerian Yoruba language. He turned me on to African rhythms, African food, African robes, and African sensitivities that became part of my life forever.
The song was too large, too long, too different, to ever become a hit, but that didn’t matter to me at all. It, for me, was simply a great life experience of learning and evolution. I lost my old self in the song and never went back again. I stopped, as a composer, trying to write hits, and decided to just write my life as I experienced it. I moved from a commercial writer to simply “a writer.”
One day, after the song had been released, I receive a call from Bill Reilly, a dear friend and theatrical producer I had often worked with. He, at the time, ran the Triplex Theater at Manhattan Community College in NYC. He explained that a previously booked show in his black box theater had suddenly, just 3 weeks before opening, cancelled. And he was left with an empty theater. Did I have anything up my sleeve, in my trunk, that we could stick in there? I had nothing ready at all, but who am I to turn down such an opportunity? So, I said on impulse, “Yeah, Bill. I gotta show called The River.” And so, The River — A Musical Revelation was born — as a concert. Not a musical.
I pulled a great cast of Africal American Singers who I had known and worked with before, along with Jenny Burton and Lawrance Hamilton, who I always hired for studio work. I went to my song library and found songs I had previously written and recorded that would fit the theme, wrote a couple of others to tie things together a bit and went into rehearsal for the two weeks left before we opened.
We opened at the Triplex and actually got one critic to come downtown and see it and he gave us a rave review. We sold out all our shows, standing room only and made William Spencer Reilly a most happy producer. InstaHit! Somehow in the mad pace of it all we pulled something very special together. It was a limited run, meaning that after our 3 week run we had to close for another booking, so we had to close the hit.
Several weeks later, Bill called me with the news that we had an offer to do the concert at the Lincoln Center Out Of Doors Festival for three nights that coming summer. Wow, what an opportunity!
So then Bill and I went to work to create a piece of Theatrical Concert that could tour and record with no thought of ever making it a Broadway Musical.
I wrote, directed, staged and mixed The River Concert at Lincoln Center that summer. Too many things! Each of the three nights went great to the thousands that filled the plaza, but I was stretched waaaay too thin. My chief engineerat my studio, Jeremy Harris, worked with me on all the sound tech, but I knew the music backwards and forwards, so I mixed the first two shows with him sitting next to me. Before the last show, he said to me, “I know the show now, so why don’t you just go sit in the audience and enjoy your show?” I jumped at the chance.
I early on grabbed a chair somewhere in the middle of a thousand seats. I noticed as the crowd came in that there was a family of all ages of African Americans sitting to my right, two gay couples sitting right in front of me, a group of Spanish people sitting to the left of me, an older white couple of obvious New Yorkers sitting behind and a group of Asian women behind them. A true melting pot on a hot summer night. When the show was over, I knew that we had something very special as the standing ovation wore down and everyone around me started mingling and hugging each other. That had to be one of the most satisfying moments of my life. I stood spellbound and watched the people of the wold come together because of the music. And I thought of that line:
“River run by and smile at me standin’ there.”
So many stories! It’s hard to pick which one to tell. We’ll continue the concert from where we stopped at the end of Part One in just a minute. But I must mention one more special person.
I first met Mike Henry who sat on the left of me in the dressing room for two summers when I sang in the chorus of the St. Louis Muny Opera. I was still in college and thrilled to do musical after musical for two summers as a chorus boy and sometimes understudy. Mike Henry was in the dancing chorus. Mike was a very straight unobvious gay man. Sitting to my right was Nicholas Dante, who was another dancer who was about as flaming a gay man as one could get. I had the Ying and the Yang to the left and right of me. I was a very naive college kid having my first experience working in a very gay community of dancers and singers. I learned to love them both as friends for who they were. After the two summers, I lost track of both of them.
Interestingly enough, Nicholas Dante wound up writing A Chorus Line.
I knew Mike was a Broadway dancer, but a decade or so went by. As a well known Broadway composer, I kept tabs on many of my colleagues — costume designers, lighting and set designers, musical directors and choreographers. I often enjoyed the choreographic work of one Michael Shawn. That’s right, you guessed it. Mike Henry had changed his name to Michael Shawn. My old pal from Muny Opera days. When I finally figured this out, I decided that the Off-Broadway production needed skills far beyond mine. So I “Directed”, but Michael staged.
It was my best decision of the entire production. Since the entire show was all music, he was responsible for what went on on stage. And he was a total pro governing every movement, picture, and look and feel. He was one of my favorite collaborators of all time. Sadly, both Nick and Mike were taken in the AIDS epidemic that followed.
I gotta say, “I couldn’t have done it without Mike.”
All right. Thanks for indulging me.
We left you last, in Part One, hopefully feelin’ good. With Ms Burton askin’ Don’t it Feel Good. We take you now, still in the first act, back to Danny Madden, our fearless leader. We continue with …The River’s In Me
Where the Spirit of God Flows
By the way, sadly, within the Miracle of Jeremy Harris’s recording of the last performance, there came a flaw, a dropout of 35 seconds in the song that follows sung beautifully in the show by Valerie K. Eley. Fortunately, The song was the title song, The River, so we have replaced the Promenade Valerie Eley performance with the original recording sung by Jenny Burton.
But first …
The River’s In Me
Now back to Danny
Beware Mankind … A warning to all …
The Entire Company
Run River Run
And now, the First Act Closer
Ray Stevens and Company
Take us Over The Edge
We open with a Rap
Years before Rap became popular.
The indomitable Ray Stevens
Over The Edge
Thus ends Act One and Part Two of The River.
We are bringing you the entire show, the closing night, its final performance. Next, The River, Part Three, to follow …
Hi Peter! What a joy it is to re-live this journey! I even recall my audition, I was so nervous. Ha! Of course I saw both productions, returning over and over again to hear the wonderful music and hear my dear friends sing spectacularly. Thanks for sharing this memory. May God continue to shower you with blessings. Keep sharing your gift! ~Mona Wyatt
Again, great gratitude goes to Jeremy Harris, our most loved mixing and sound engineer, for capturing digitally this historic moment in time. Had he not had the inspiration to do this, The River would just be a fading moment in time for only a few.
The River, Part Three to follow …
Also, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts … etc.
A very special thanks also to Stuart Barefoot, our Associate Producer for all your invaluable knowledge and good vibes.
And a posthumous thanks to Ludwig Van Beethoven for your opening 4 bars.
(over playout music)
This podcast is presented with loving care by the staff at Watchfire Music. If you liked what you heard, we got lots more where that came from. In the meantime, you can find the songs you just heard on watchfiremusic.com. There you can purchase the singles or albums and have access to all the lyrics. Also, there you will find all previous podcasts and future scheduling.
If you just became a Scattershot fan, tell your friends and Stay tuned!
About The River
The River — A Musical Revelation, concept by Peter Link and William Spencer Reilly, Music and Lyrics by Yours Truly opened in New York at Off-Broadway’s Promenade Theater in January of 1988 to rave reviews by 23 of the 25 major critics who attended.
Included in that was a rave from the New York Times, the all important hit maker, who stated,
“The River is, in fact, a celebration, that is directly communicated from the performers to the audience. It is an abundant musical evening. It moves on to an even greater affirmation of the spirit of man. Join in the celebration! Join in the exaltation!”
This is Part Two (of 3). Listen to the spectacular closing night of the Theatrical Concert in its entirety!
The Men – From left to right – Danny Madden, Ray Stevens, Lawrence Hamilton
Back ground – Jenny Burton
The Women – L to R – Stephanie James, Valerie Eley,
Jenny Burton, Carol Dennis
Danny Madden, Carol Dennis, Ray Stevens, Stephanie James
Jenny Burton and Company – Don’t It Feel Good
Over The Edge
Let the Credits Roll!
Click to Learn More About Peter Link and Scattershot Symphony
Peter Link is an American composer, lyricist, music producer, stage director, and presently CEO/Creative Director of Watchfire Music, an on-line Inspirational record company and music store. During his career, Peter has been nominated twice for the Tony Award, including Neil Simon’s The Good Doctor and Joseph Papp’s production of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, won the NY Critics’ Drama Desk Award for Salvation out of which came his first million-selling record, “(If You Let Me Make Love to You Then) Why Can’t I Touch You?”, and worked, mainly as a composer in a number of entertainment mediums ranging from pop music to Broadway, television, ballet, films and Inspirational music.From Wikipedia/Peter Link
Join Peter Link as he presents his life’s work in his podcast, “Scattershot Symphony.” Each episode looks at a different movement in the symphony of his life’s work, which spans some 40 years. Though it’s roughly 90 percent music, Peter manages to regale the listeners with fascinating stories and anecdotes related to his music over the years. Tune in and subscribe to Scattershot Symphony — The Music of Peter Link.
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