Aichi Vision is a great music and arts festival which is held in Tsurumai Park each year just at the end of summer. Tsurumai Park is probably best known at the moment as a scared place for pokemon and hundreds of zombie-like people can be still seen wandering around at 2am looking for pokemon. I believe that it has something to do with the shape of the central fountain as seen from above, but others more familiar with the world of pokemon may correct me at their leisure. I downloaded the app and caught a pokemon before deleting it (the app, not the captured pokemon). Then in Dublin, a friend persuaded me to re-download it and catch a Dublin pokemon. I can confirm that Dublin pokemon were equally uninteresting to me as Nagoya pokemon. I may be missing a vital poke-gene.
This year, one of my big areas of focus is our rock and roll musical, Jukebox Paradise, produced by KPB Theatre. This is a musical theatre production that has been in my head since 1989 and it is finally coming to the stage at the end of November 2016 in Nagoya. Please contact me to get your tickets. The script was written by Gary Beaubouef and it is directed by Steve Pottinger. Here’s a quick description that Sarah and I wrote up for the program:
Jukebox Paradise – What you’ll see and hear on the stage in front of you today is really a culmination of so many ingredients, and among them you’ll discover 17 songs, 25 years’ worth of musical reflections and enhancements, 1 superb script, 1 dedicated production team, 33 hardworking actors and dancers from 12 countries, 5 talented musicians, blended together over the course of 12 months of rehearsals.
The end result is a sweet and nostalgic musical whose roots were planted many years ago in a young man’s imagination. It started in 1989 when I was 20 years old and totally inspired by Grease. After being on stage for that production, I came up with the concept of the Jukebox world and shortly after, the very first song came to life in words and music.
This dream took a long time to come to life, but the end result is most definitely worth the wait. We are certain that you will agree, too. Thank you to all involved, both on stage and behind the scenes, and an especially big thank you to you, the audience, for coming to share in this dream of a Jukebox world.
So sit back, set aside the fast pace of the 21st century, and join us for a trip back in time to the sights and sounds of Hawaii, 1962. Or, in other words… Paradise. Mahalo!
In this post, I’d like to talk a little about one of the songs in the show. Near the end of Act 2 in Jukebox Paradise, you will hear the song Today is the First Day. Today is the First Day is a cute little song that I wrote on guitar in an open G tuning. It just seemed to fall out of the guitar and the air effortless as if it was already complete. It’s always nice when that happens. It has the feel of the old Beatles song, Blackbird, or reaching back much further, it echoes the harmonies and musical progressions of Bach’s Air on a G String. Nothing complicated – just a sweet little song.
The song was originally in Act 1. We cut the song from the show. It just wasn’t working.
The song was supposed to be a sweet duet that gently led into a really boisterous rock and roll scene with dancers and lots of actors involved.
But the song didn’t work. Not at all.
It sure is a sweet song, but theatre requires flow and dynamics and sometimes the right song is not the right song because it is not helping the flow of the show.
A musical is a balancing act of dialogue, singing, acting, music, dancing, story, costumes, props, and so much more. Everything has got to flow together and this song didn’t work.
So the song was cut along with a section of dialogue that was slowing things down. It was a difficult decision and it was also the right decision.
Yet the song, Today is the First Day, is now back in the show. It has returned to the show in a much more important position, right before the last scene. And it works. It works really well. Sometimes, what was the wrong song becomes the right song because it helps the flow of the show and reinforces the message of the story.
It is no longer a duet because it has developed much further. Now it is sung by most of the major characters – one line each – in a beautiful and moving rendition that shows how the characters have grown and come together during the story.
An old maxim that I like says, “There is no failure, only feedback.”
The song hadn’t failed – it had simply given us feedback about how to make the show better.
And that’s what the lyrics of Today is the First Day are about.
Imagine if we were to able to live our lives following that maxim – to try to believe that every ‘failure’ is actually feedback that can help us to learn something.
That is not always an easy to do , yet in every failed exam, in every heartbreak, and in every sickness, there is something to be learned. These are not all easy lessons and they are certainly not the kind of lesson that we may have wanted. Instead, they are the realities of life showing us that things are not always smooth and that we have to keep learning. Life can be really messy sometimes.
Relationships, jobs, health, finances, happiness – these are not linear progressions that keep improving over time. Life sends us some tough stuff and we all face difficulties at times.
When we face hardship, we begin to draw on strength and other resources that we didn’t know we had. Ironically, so often, it’s really only when we face a challenge that we keep learning and begin to get to know ourselves at a deeper level.
Each day and each failure is a little opportunity to get feedback that can help us to become more ourselves. In Today is the First Day, one of the main characters, Stevie sings:
“I go north when you go south
The choice is always mine
I will make this life my own
And I will make it fine. “
Stevie makes his choices and takes the responsibility of building his own life. He is willing to learn from any ‘failure’ that comes his way because it really is feedback.
There isn’t really much point in getting ‘success’ in everything if you don’t make your own choices. That success would belong to someone else, the one who made the choice for you. We are responsible for our own lives.
As Stevie sings in another song from Jukebox Paradise, Music My Friend
“Choices my friend, you have them
Choices my friend, be strong “
We always have choices. Sometimes it’s easier to let others make choices for us and to have someone else to blame when things don’t go perfectly. But this is our life and these are our choices.
Going back to the song, Today is the First Day, we hear the lines:
“When God made the world, He blessed us with free will
And I won’t trade that right for a dollar bill”
Every day is the first day of the rest of our life. What a cliché!
True. I think I first saw the phrase written on one of those little feel-good signs that your mother hangs in your kitchen.
And just because it is a cliché doesn’t negate the fact that it is true.
Every day, we have choices. We can choose to continue doing the things we have always done and getting the results we have always got. Or we can choose to make different choices in order to get the results that we really want in our life. When we decide to take responsibility for our choices, that is when we really can start to live and to learn.
“Because life is a pleasure
And a beautiful treasure
And whether we measure
By work or by leisure
Now’s the time to choose
Choose who I will be.
Today is the first day
Today is the first day
Today is the first day of the rest of my life.”
On Sunday, we have the next music rehearsal for the Jukebox Paradise musical. It is still about 5 months until showtime, and it is great to see people really getting into their roles both as actors and singers. This is going to be a great show.
In other music news, the band for the Jukebox Paradise musical, Coindrop62, will be playing at Shooters in Fushimi this Sunday evening (April 24th) from 8pm. We will do some a bunch of fun rock and roll tunes. I am not playing any instrument for a change, so I can focus on my role as the singer for a change! Visit the Facebook event page.
On the following Saturday (April 30th), Sarah Mulvey and I will be joined by the formidable duo, Aya Kawakami and Takashi Terada, for a show at Coat of Arms in Marunochi. It’s going to be a great night. You can check out the details on the Facebook event page.
As some people have pointed out, I haven’t been playing much Irish music recently. I’ll get back to it (it is my roots after all!), so in the meantime check out one of the CDs from my old band, The Rising Pints.
Yesterday, I did an introduction to Ireland event at Toyota International Association. I’ve been doing this kind of event for over 20 years now and it is still fun to share some information and some music about Ireland. Over the years, I’ve probably presented this kind of material to a few thousand people, and hopefully at least some of them have made it to the shores of the Emerald Isle.
Sarah and I did our first gig of 2016 last night at Coat of Arms. January is always a quiet month as people hunker down in their dens to avoid the cold weather, and of course to try to rescue their finances and health after Christmas and the new year celebrations! So, thanks to all the folks who came out last night and made it such a fun night for us.
We have been practicing some new songs and polishing up some old versions with more harmony and fun guitar stuff. For the last few years, I’ve been primarily using DADGAD as my guitar tuning. Recently, I’ve been experimenting a bit more with open G and other strange combinations. Great sound on my old trusty Lowden guitar.
We are playing tonight with the Tomo Shagger band at Shooters, Fushimi. Then next Friday, we are heading up to Tokyo to play at the opening of an art exhibition.
And on Sunday, rehearsals are going to finally begin for Jukebox Paradise. We have a marvellous cast assembled and it’s going to be great working with everyone to produce a wonderful musical in November.
I finally got around to publishing my PhD thesis as an e-book in the Amazon store. You can purchase a copy here. Considering that it took 6 years to write, the price of about $9 seems fairly cheap. And it is a surprisingly good read.
The topic of research is non-native-speakers songwriters who are writing in English and the 450 pages of the thesis examine this fun and complex process in lots of different ways.
Don’t expect Dan Brown, but as academic research goes, this is probably one of the most readable tomes that you will ever come across.
Sarah and I played at the Best of JALT event again this year. It was lovely to be back at the conference again and to see so many familiar faces. For those who don’t know, JALT stands for Japan Association for Language Teaching, and I have played music at various events there since about 1995. Wow, 20 years!
Tomorrow is an exciting day – the first day of auditions for Jukebox Paradise, a rock and roll musical that started out in my head more than 20 years ago. We are going to stage the show for the very first time in November 2016.
If you’d like to be part of a really fun show with great music, we’d love to see you at the auditions on November 8th, 15th, or 22nd. Please read the details below. And please share the information with anyone that you think might be interested.
Sarah and I looking are forward to playing at Plastic Factory again for a lovely Christmas show. We will sharing a stage with Aya Kawakami and Takashi Terada.
Here is the description from the Facebook Event page.
Brian Cullen and Sarah Mulvey, Aya Kawakami, and Takashi Terada, and special guests will be bringing you a beautiful candle-lit Christmas evening of songs and stories at Plastic Factory. This isn’t a KFC or Mariah Carey kind of Christmas. And we want YOU to be part of the story-telling. Between music sets, please grab a chair and a mic, and share your own Christmas memory. Being far away from family overseas can make this time of year difficult for some; let’s spread some cheer, and get into the true spirit of the season – sharing music and stories with friends. See you there!
1,500 yen (including one drink)
If you haven’t heard about the NLP Festival 2015 yet, please check out the webpage. It’s going to be a really great event full of fun and learning. We have Martin Gustaffson, a master trainer of NLP, coming in from Sweden. There will be lessons in Self-hypnosis, workshops on state management, marketing NLP skills and more. And of course, on Saturday night, we will have the big social event with music, dancing, crystal bowls, and trancing. See you in Nagoya at the end of October.