Musings on SANTA DOT COM from Composer, Producer:
"Excuse me Simon, you may have lost one of your chickens" wasn't exactly what I was expecting to hear when I embarked on my journey to the beautiful Cotswold region of England, located about 70 miles North West of London. But in fact, that's exactly what a neighbor said to Simon Plater, owner and sound engineer of FARMYARD STUDIOS. Simon and his wife, Gemina, along with their 2 beautiful girls, Eleanor and Natalia and a menagerie of other creatures including Brock, their dog and the egg laying chickens: Fuzz, Lilly, Clara, Henny and Fe-fe (Goo goo g'joob), live in a little house within a few paces of the building that houses the recording studio, where Fuzz and company can be seen through the glass of the recording booth perched on the window weighing in on the progress of the sessions. In the idyllic English countryside, in the most unlikely of places, amongst chickens, pheasants and sheep, is where Laurence Kilsby recorded SANTA DOT COM. Who knew that a recording studio could exist in this fairytale hamlet community of 17th century stone houses? ... Certainly, not I. At times, I imagined King Richard gallantly riding by, Robin Hood having a round with Friar Tuck and the Nights of the Round Table ... I was indeed in Camelot.
Sandra Kilsby, who is related to Christine and John Kilsby and their son Laurence through marriage, suggested the idea of Laurence recording SANTA DOT COM. I had no idea what to expect when I got on the plane in New York bound to a part of England that I never thought could really exist. I never spoke to or communicated with Laurence prior to arriving at the Kilsby home near Stow On The Wold, just outside of London. We never rehearsed at all, not even at the studio, we simply recorded a few takes and we were done. Inside of 4 hours we recorded 2 different solo versions and 2 duet versions of SANTA DOT COM along with 2 lip synch videos and hundreds of pictures.
To say that at 14 years of age, Laurence is a consummate professional vocal artist is an understatement. He is also a busy little fellow. As he walked in the door, home from school for the weekend, we talked of his concert to Barcelona in 3 days while holding in his hand the music he just received by mail for his concert at Royal Albert Hall this coming Christmas. I'm not especially fond of rehearsing and fortunately, thanks to Laurence there was no need to. More about Laurence Kilsby in a bit.
The story of how S.A.N.T.A. DOT COM ended up in its current form is rather amusing.
I have been privileged to work with renowned lyricist, Hal Hackady on a number of projects over the years including a musical version of THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, a choral trilogy called T.N.T. (Taxi, Noise, Time) published by SUBITO MUSIC PUBLISHING and a number of other songs. This collaboration turned out to be a very special one.
Here’s the story.
One afternoon I called Hal and asked him to write some lyrics to a new traditional type Christmas song that I had just finished. I faxed him a “dummy” lyric to point him in the direction of what the song was supposed to be about and sung it to him on the phone. Hal has a very good memory. He said that he really liked the song and that writing a lyric to it would be a lot of fun. My concept was everything you might expect from a traditional Christmas song: family, Santa, Christmas tree, chimney, presents, chestnuts, etc. We didn’t speak any further about it. I was gone for the rest of the day. On my way home that evening I called my wife, Eva. She said that Hal had faxed back a great lyric about Santa and the Internet. I was shocked and speechless. I thought he went completely mad. I rushed home and read his lyric and was horrified. To say that I was furious would be an understatement. Hal totally ignored every idea that I suggested and never called to ask about anything. Whether I liked his approach?: … NOTHING! He apparently knew something that I didn’t and had no intention of sharing it at that time.
The following morning, as I was about to call Hal and read him the riot act, it occurred to me that Hal's decision to disregard everything that I suggested was an act of genius. In one afternoon Hal managed to turn what probably would have been just another average Christmas song into an adorable, fanciful, fun and freshly inventive song about communicating with Santa using the Internet.
You should know that Hal is as “old school” as it gets. He is completely electronically challenged. He doesn’t own a computer and still works on a Remington ribbon typewriter. Hal can barely figure out how his cassette player works and doesn’t want to know about a cd player. He was forced to get a fax machine out of necessity in order to send lyrics back and forth quickly. FYI: it always takes him 2 or 3 tries to get his fax machine to work correctly. On the other hand, he can recite Shakespeare, lyrics to all of the great songs and make up a limerick in a split second on any subject. How he came up with this concept can only be attributed to his true gift. Many lesser lyricists would have done exactly what I asked but I will be forever grateful to Hal for his talent, boldness and craftsmanship.
A little about Hal:
Hal Hackady is known though out the world as an American lyricist, librettist and screenwriter. Early in his career he wrote several episodes for ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS and many of the rock and roll period movies like HEY, LET’S TWIST with stars Annette Funicello and Elvis Presley, etc.
However his real claim to fame came from his work as a lyricist in the Broadway theatre. He is best known for his lyrics for Snoopy!!! The Musical, a sequel to You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, Goodtime Charley, Teddy & Alice, Ambassador and Minnie’s Boys for which the song, Mama, A Rainbow, was written and has since become a cabaret standard. Oddly enough, many people don’t know that all New York Mets fans are familiar with his lyrics for “LETS GO METS”, the team’s theme song. Hal is also the winner of London’s coveted OLIVIER AWARD presented to recognize excellence in the professional theatre.
Laurence Kilsby, a Tewkesbury Abbey chorister, has been hailed as one of the best choristers of his generation. He has sung for Queen Elizabeth II of England at St Paul’s Cathedral at her Diamond Jubilee, toured Europe and America, and was BBC Chorister of the Year in 2009. He has made many recordings, most recently Mozart Vesperae Solemnes De Confessore & Coronation Mass, and John Rutter, The Tewkesbury Collection. He has also sung at the European Parliament, Lambeth Palace for The Archbishop of Canterbury, BBC Songs of Praise on TV, Radio 4 solos from Tewkesbury Abbey, Radio 4 and Classic FM have played tracks from the Mozart Recording. During school holidays he takes part in youth theatre and has played the roles of Oliver, Jet in Westside Story and sung the musical, Macbeth. On Christmas 2011, he sang with Lesley Garret at the Royal Albert Hall and he is singing there again this Christmas with Aled Jones. Laurence likes to attend theatre to see musicals, opera and Shakespeare productions, and hopes to one day tread the boards in London and Stratford upon Avon. He plays the cello, piano and clarinet and is currently a pupil and music scholar of Dean Close School Cheltenham, where he now sings with the Dean Close school chapel and chamber choirs.
Luellen Abdoo (Strings): New York Philharmonic, NYC Ballet, Aerosmith, Oasis, Bon Jovi, The Who, Ray Charles, Andy Williams, etc. Founder: Synergy String Quartet, Saratoga String Quartet and NYC Ballet Musicians & Friends.
Mastered by G & J Audio (Gene Paul and Joel Kerr)
Santa with computer artwork: Sandra Kilsby
Produced by Joe Gianono in association with Addeo Productions.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all on behalf of everyone involved.
Joe Gianono (Composer/Producer) and Richie Addeo (Associate Producer)