When I was a teenager I was in a local Rock’n’Roll band (We weren’t very good but we had a lot of fun!). One day I wrote some lyrics and showed them to the leader of the band. He got out his guitar and immediately made up a tune to accompany the lyrics. I thought: ‘I could do that.’ And so I started ‘writing’ songs. Over the years I ‘wrote’ many songs but it wasn’t until I was 37 years old, and went to teachers’ training college, that I learnt music theory. I majored in music and, to the amazement of my fellow students, all teenagers, my favourite part was Music Theory where I learned all these fabulous facts about music. As my final assignment, along with another student and influenced by Mike Oldfield’s music, I composed a ‘concept’ suite using primitive multi-tracking techniques.
As a primary school teacher I wrote many songs for ‘my’ children, which they loved but, also, I developed my part of the concept suite into a full scale musical. I sent the finished work to a known musical director. He kept it for some months then returned it saying that he liked it but it was almost impossible to get backing for an Australian Musical.
I moved to Lakes Entrance in 1986 and discovered there was a thriving amateur theatre group. Having no experience of theatre I joined and submitted my musical for consideration. The response was that it was ‘too big’ for them to produce.
In 1988 I went to Melbourne to see ‘Cats’. On the way home I thought it would be a good idea to write a musical with non-human characters. In the Melbourne area there are open storm-drains. I assume these were originally creeks but as the city spread they were lined with concrete. Most of the time they are dry but after heavy rain they fill and the water flows through. In one of them I noticed some garbage that someone, obviously too lazy to go to the local tip, had dumped there. From those two ideas ‘Ragdoll’ was born. I wrote the whole thing, story, script, lyrics and music. The theatre group agreed to produce it. However there was insufficient interest and it was shelved.
In 1990 whilst watching the Queen Mother’s Birthday Concert on television I was attracted by a segment set in 1900. An idea for a musical came to me. I needed help. The local newspaper regularly featured poetry by a local poet: Barbara Calvert. I contacted Barbara, we had a discussion and went ahead. Together we came up with the storyline and wrote the script. Barbara wrote the lyrics and I composed the music. All along we had the support of the theatre group and, through Barbara’s contacts, the local press. Elisabeth de Ross, member of the theatre group and brilliant costumier, came on board and help to refine the script. Six performances were planned over two weekends. It was an amazing experience, word got around and people came from as far away as Sydney and Melbourne. Three extra performances were held, all sell-outs and there was talk of the show being picked up by larger groups. However, nothing more came of it.
Buoyed by that success I revamped ‘Ragdoll’ and that also ran to 9 sell-out performances. Over the next few years I wrote a number of musicals which were performed plus composed music for many other shows. In the early 2000s the group folded and my musicals were consigned to my external hard-drive. Early in 2015 I thought it would be great if some of my shows could be performed somewhere and so I am process of revising them all and presenting them on this website built for me by my son (tianjay.com).
My thanks must go to all the members, some of them now deceased, of the Lakes Entrance Music and Drama Group and St Brendans’ Young Players Group, to the late Phillip Proctor for his illustrations on ‘Ragdoll’ and ‘Everybody Needs A Friend’, Barbara Calvert and Annie Anderson (Organiser of the St Brendans’ group).