One of Julia Donaldson’s best sellers, The Scarecrows’ Wedding, is now on tour and comes to Rose Theatre Kingston on 23 – 25 July 2017. Composer and lyricist Darren Clark describes his excitement at being a part of this family favourite show…
I was delighted when Eva Sampson and Scamp approached me about writing some music, and perhaps some songs for a potential production of Julia Donaldson’s book The Scarecrows’ Wedding. If I may be permitted to use a farm metaphor for a moment… writing songs for a show is a little bit like riding a tractor. It’s terrifying climbing up, exhilarating while you’re driving and sometimes you get stuck in the mud, break down and you need a bit of a push. But in the end you get there…
When Eva contacted me about writing the songs for The Scarecrows’ Wedding I was delighted and terrified. Eva sent me a copy of the book and I read it immediately and over and over a few times. It’s a funny thing, sometimes a story just connects with you in a special way and you just know how it could work musically. The charming, simple tale of two scarecrows who get married lent itself immediately to the simple but beautiful possibilities of acoustic folk music.
Whilst I am an eclectic composer and enjoy listening to and writing in a huge variety of styles, there is a special place in my heart for folk music. It’s what I write when I’m writing just for me. It’s not always right for every story, but it has an inherent truth and simplicity that seemed perfect for this one.
When Eva contacted me about writing the songs for The Scarecrows’ Wedding I was delighted and terrified.
I immediately started writing, sometimes I can’t help myself. The first song I wrote was a song for the wedding. The moment when everything is finished. In many ways, that was the only part of the story that I could absolutely guarantee was going to be in the stage version. After all, you can’t have a show called The Scarecrows’ Wedding and not have a wedding in it can you? The idea was to write something joyous and celebratory with a sense of momentum.
I borrowed bits and bobs from Julia’s writing but added a lot of my own lyrics to the mix. That was the only song I wrote prior to going into a week of Research & Development with Eva, James Button and a few lovely actors to play with how we might tell this story.
Whilst I am an eclectic composer and enjoy listening to and writing in a huge variety of styles, there is a special place in my heart for folk music.
I love being in a room with other people and bouncing off their ideas in order to inspire my work. I think during that week I wrote the beginnings if not the endings of the majority of the remaining seven or eight songs in the show. It’s the most terrifying, but also my preferred way of working. You get immediate feedback on your work and you can chop and change at lightning pace which I really enjoy. Also your mind is sent off in directions you don’t expect which is always really nice as a songwriter because you don’t want to always write the obvious.
Eva hit on the inspired idea that the whole story was the farmer’s memory of his own wedding to his wife many years ago, which gave us the impetus, drive and perspective we needed to make the show. It also gave me the opportunity to write one of my favourite songs from the show, The Passing of the Seasons, which takes us back in time. After that week I went away and started refining things. This is usually when I get stuck in the mud and spend hours staring at a blank page trying to think of the perfect lyric for the perfect moment. It’s mind numbingly dull and endlessly frustrating, but immensely satisfying when you finally discover the solution to your problem.
I love being in a room with other people and bouncing off their ideas in order to inspire my work. You get immediate feedback on your work and you can chop and change at lightning pace.
This time was no exception, but then anything worth doing should never be entirely easy. Interestingly, the solution to a problem never seems to present itself whilst you are looking for it. It’s a bit like socks. You look everywhere for them but you can’t find them, but as soon as you give up and go to the fridge for a glass of milk, there they all are (inexplicably) in the fridge having a little sock party.
So, having found the lyrics and the socks and having shared them with Eva for her approval (the songs all needed to be working hard to tell a different aspect of the story) we finally went into rehearsals which is the really fun bit. It’s when you get to hear what talented actors and singers can bring to your songs. We’ve had three different casts over the last two years and it’s always fantastic hearing the different colours they bring to the music.
It’s been a privilege and a joy writing the songs for The Scarecrows’ Wedding and I hope that audiences enjoy listening to them as much as I enjoyed writing them.
THE SCARECROWS’ WEDDING runs at the Rose Theatre Kingston from 23 to 25 July 2018. Follow @MyTheatreMates on Twitter for details on our competition to win a pair of tickets to the show.