dick grove, rob birdwell, composing, arranging, program, CAP, studio city Audio from Rob Birdwell's time as a Dick Grove School of Music Composing and Arranging Program (CAP) student at the age of 20-21.

Night and Day

Track Cover Art for Night and Day

The big band medley was perhaps one of the most challenging arrangements we in CAP were assigned. We were allowed to write for around five minutes, which is a lot of music! We were required to come up with a “theme” for our medley. I probably came up with the “night” and “day” theme because I liked those tunes - plus all the songs and good lyrics to them. The tunes in the medley are Night and Day, A Night in Tunisia, A Day in the Life of A Fool, Teach Me Tonight, Here’s That Rainy Day, Some Day My Prince Will Come, and a recap of Night and Day. I made very minor alterations to some of the lyrics during transitions - for example: “This night in Tunisia, is turning into...a day in the life of a fool...” That seems simple enough, but sometimes as an arranger (especially a young arranger) the idea of altering another author’s tune or lyrics seems a bit sacrilege. I was slowly learning to get over that. There’s also the matter of what to leave in and what to cut with the goal of making it all sound natural. There are lots of decisions in any arrangement but medleys, by their nature, seem to multiply them.

It takes a good deal of thought and planning to put together a medley and it’s not something I’ve done again since my Grove days. I’ve written montages for indie movies and scored collections of songs, but no medleys. Still learning how to put together even one was an extremely valuable lesson. As many may recall, the variety show “medley” was a thing on TV in the 70’s (and probably long before in the 50’s and 60’s). A variation of them can work well in some musical theater settings. I’m pretty sure Dick wrote medley’s for TV variety shows and for various live acts so he knew the craft well and went on to codify the techniques and teach us basically everything he knew!

The vocalist - she’s wonderful and I love listening to her voice. So pure and natural, with great expression. I remember working with her and she was super easy going and picked up everything immediately. She was also in very high demand by fellow CAP students. Her name is R… um, her name is R...oh, shit I’ve forgotten her name. Or is it Rhonda? Her name started with an R...I think. Shame on me! Someone knows - let me know and I’ll update my notes!

Before the final take on the raw (unedited) audio I can hear Jack Feierman giving me some valuable advice: “You’ve gotta cue more! Wave your arms less and cue more dammit!” He was a pro and he was absolutely right. I’d like to think the mild profanity was simply his way of showing he cared and wanted the best take I could get. I think most of us CAP students spent 45% composing and arranging our charts, 54% copying parts, and less than 1% of our time practicing our conducting! Maybe that’s an exaggeration - it’s possible that we wrote for what we thought we could conduct. Regardless, writing a medley, with its various transitions, tempo changes, and style changes will expose any arranger if they haven’t prepared for the conducting aspects. As you can hear, some of the transitions in this recording are a bit rough and that’s the result of me, a young arranger, writing just a bit beyond his ability to conduct and communicate certain things through gestures. Oh, and I think we only had 15 minutes or so to get two takes! But that’s show biz and the medley was clearly a writing assignment that stretched all of us CAP students to the max!

Rhonda (?) sings beautifully and I was very lucky to have her as the vocalist on this assignment.

Yes, the medley was an exhausting project. The next charts we’d be assigned for most of the remainder of the course would be, generally speaking, slightly less taxing by comparison. But each of them would have their own challenges. Our “finale” project would be one of the most challenging of all, but we actually had two weeks to complete that one which made a huge difference - well, assuming one used all of those two weeks wisely! Fortunately for me, I like to chip away slowly on writing assignments if and when I can. I can write fast when I need to but will opt for the slow boil over the sudden raging fire almost every time.