Rehearsals – what are they for?

Some rehearsals are short – all that may be needed is for the MD and the singer to get on the same page regarding keys, song structure, arrangements.


Other rehearsals may be longer – for example a vocal ensemble may need to sing a piece over and over again together, to learn to come off each note at the right time and together, to listen over and over again to each other so that each person knows exactly where their part fits in the arrangement, to get tight.

Some rehearsals are all about feel – a new band may need to play and practice together for a sustained period, to get to know each other, to get used to the nuances of each other’s playing, to begin to learn to read each other’s habits.

Other rehearsals may be more technical – following charts/scores, making sure everyone is executing what they should be.execute the arrangements together, as a group.

If you know what type of rehearsal yours should be and what you want to achieve in it, then demand that, just that, and save everyone some time.

A Million Dreams (answers)

So firstly I’ll answer yesterday’s questions. Here is the song in question – A Million Dreams – if you want to listen again.

  1. In what key is the song? Does it change at all? G. No.
  2. How many beats in a bar? 4.
  3. How many bars in Verse 1, Bridge 1 and Chorus 1? 3 separate answers please. 8, 8, 9.
  4. What are the notes played by the piano in the intro? 4 bars worth please. See pic below.
  5. What are the first 4 chords of the Middle 8 section (after second chorus). Em, Baug/D#, G/D, C#m7b5.

Songs from musicals can have lots of chords, indeed often lots of difficult chords. Most of the songs in The Greatest Showman rely more on straightforward pop harmony however, and so chordally they aren’t not too difficult, and you don’t have to stray too far outside the 6 most common chords (Major 1, 4, 5 and Minor 2, 3 and 6).


As you can see from the above chord chart, this is certainly the case in this song, the exception being the start of the bridge.

Essentially this sequence is made up of an E minor chord (E, G, B) in which the root note descends by a semitone each time. The G and B are common to all 4 chords, it’s just the E which changes, first to a D#, then to a D and finally a C#.

It would not be correct to describe them as E, Em/D#, Em/D, Em/C# though, because this desctiption implies that an E stays in the chord, which according to my ears anyway, it doesn’t.

Try it.

PS a small number of tickets for this weekend’s shows can be found here.

A Million Dreams

Today we’re going to have a closer look at A Million Dreams – one of the many hit songs from The Greatest Showman – written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.

In the film, it’s sung by the lead character – P. T. Barnum (then a boy), expressing his dreams to his future wife. Later in the song, his adult self takes over , recounting the same dreams.

Here is the original version.

So – some questions for you all as per last week.

  1. In what key is the song? Does it change at all?
  2. How many beats in a bar?
  3. How many bars in Verse 1, Bridge 1 and Chorus 1? 3 separate answers please.
  4. What are the notes played by the piano in the intro? 4 bars worth please.
  5. What are the first 4 chords of the Middle 8 section (after second chorus).

Please feel free to leave your answers as comments.

Answers and chord chart in tomorrow’s blog…

Revisited: Theme Night #5 (Paul Simon)

So here’s the second in the Theme Night Revisited series – back to Oct 25 2012 and Sligo Live weekend.

This was the night I knew we were onto something. It was the 5th in the series, and Source was packed. There were queues down the stairs of people trying to get in and we just couldn’t cater for the demand. Sligo Rovers had just won the league (see the flag in the pic below) and there was a huge buzz around town.


As for the music, well I have so many memories. Cathal Roche straining every sinew in his body playing Michael Brecker’s tenor sax solo on Still Crazy After All These Years – he’s mentally preparing for it in this pic.


It was the first time I had heard Simon’s American Tune – the selection of Cathy Jordan (below) for the night. Also Dave Flynn panicking because the rest of the horn section hadn’t yet showed up for his performance of Cool Cool River – but they did, and it was great. Vanessa Byrne also led many of us backing singers through a gorgeous rendition of Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes.


Each theme night suits different people more than others – I remember Seamie McGowan loving this one – he delivered a note-perfect version of The Boy in the Bubble (below), and I also remember enjoying playing our Odd Couple arrangement of Mrs. Robinson but realising halfway through that perhaps this packed noisy venue wasn’t the place for everyone to appreciate the intricacies of what we had put together!


Our theme night gang was growing all the time – this particular night was the first for some people who have been a huge part of them since – the likes of Aileen Concannon and Niamh Crowley, and it was also the last free theme night – since we needed to put some sort of limit on the amount of people that could get into the room.

Here’s the full setlist…


No. 22 in the series takes place in Vicar St next month (Feb 7). It’s a chance to see more memorable performances and be a part of this musical adventure.

There are still a small amount of tickets available here.

Make a little movie each week.

David Chase, the creator of the hit HBO TV series ‘The Sopranos’, can legitimately claim to have changed the culture of how TV dramas are made.


How? Well his aim, as he says in this New York Times article, was to ‘make a little movie each week’. 60 minutes, no ads, and each ‘movie’ would be able to stand on its own two feet as a single hour of drama, while at the same fitting into a larger vision.

And it worked. Spectacularly. In the end, he made 86 movies, not all amazing, but when you make 86 of them, they don’t all have to be for the overall project to have an impact.

Without The Sopranos, we wouldn’t have had The Wire, Breaking Bad, or the many Netflix dramas that now dominate the viewing patterns of many people.

One movie a week, one tune a day, one album each year, whatever the challenge is that you decide to set for yourself. If you can be consistent and dedicated to producing your best work possible each time, it’s amazing what can happen.

Waiting for the door to open…

I was in a gallery recently. There was a café there and like the rest of the building, it had high ceilings. This particular ceiling had some skylights.

I looked up from my morning snack and saw a bird flying around and around, just below the level of the ceiling, from skylight to skylight, looking for a way out.

Neither of the exit doors from the gallery were visible from where he was, and even if they were, one was an automatic door (which I’m not sure a bird’s physique would open) and the other is a heavy door which is closed unless someone is walking in.

I didn’t know how long the bird had been there, I don’t know how it got in, and equally I didn’t know how it was going to get out. I got the impression that he was flustered, in a flap, scared, flying at speed but seemingly with no idea of where he was looking to go.

Then all of a sudden he changed his pattern, flew off in the direction of one of the doors, around a corner, and gave one patron a huge shock when he flew out the front door just as she opened it. Gone.


A mixture of persistence, changing a tactic, and luck had worked for the bird.

No-one is guaranteed luck, but if you persist, invent, change, imagine new ways of trying things, then the door you are looking to open might just do so – at exactly the right time for you.


Live each day as if it was your first.

Sometimes really bad news comes. Something that jolts you, that tears up the fabric of your world.

We all have stories like this. Either something that has happened to us or someone close to us.

Life can be unfair. We are told to live each day as if it was our last, that we don’t know what’s around the corner.

And I understand and agree with that sentiment, that we shouldn’t sweat the small things, that we should look after the people and things that are important to us. I’m just not sure about the terminology.

If it was my last day on earth, ( and in fairness who knows what any of us would be thinking in that situation but here’s a guess) – all I’m thinking about is the short term, that’s if I’m thinking at all with all the emotion in my head knowing I’m going to die tomorrow. I’m looking to spend time with all the people close to me, and make sure they know how I feel about them, while making sure my affairs are in order, my family are looked after, and the musicians I want to play at my funeral are free. I don’t have much time for learning, creativity, fun, it’s all a big rush.

I far prefer the idea of living like it was your first day on earth.

  • Throw yourself into a new situation.
  • Learn on the fly because you have to.
  • Cry if it doesn’t work out and move on quickly.
  • Taste new foods.
  • And take your time when travelling.