Vivienne is the composer for The Art of Living. Here, we asked her a few questions about musicals, the show, and how she goes about composing for a show.
Q: What is your favorite thing about working on a musical?
A: Initially, I like the three dimensional aspect of a musical. It is a challenge to bring these three or more facets of entertainment together. The live experience of acting/singing/dancing/art, coming together with a musical score, has to enhance emotion, create atmosphere, set movement with choreography and pacing, and the list can go on.
Q: What is your favorite thing about community theater?
A: The word community is key. I like that folks can come together and work hard for the love of it.
Q: What got you started in theater?
A: Actually this is the first musical score that I’ve written, though I have composed for the last 3 decades and more. Before I got into the musical world, I did some acting workshops with Pauline Rathbone, the granddaughter of Basil Rathbone, which always left me wanting to return at some point and do it again, it was a thrill. I joined the Montreal West Operatic Society for a very short time, wanting to learn the ins and outs of musical theater, because I have had it in mind to create a production at some time in the future.
Q: What’s your favorite show?
A: I truly enjoyed The Phantom of the Opera that I saw on Broadway. Wicked is also up there as a quality production for me.
Q: How did you get involved with The Art of Living?
A: I was approached by Liane Tusa and Dan Gallagher to see if I might be interested in writing the musical score. After much thought, I accepted with my conditions that I write 3 songs to test the waters, to see if I was barking up the right tree. After my meeting with Dan and Liane, I got the sense that it was working. I then proceeded to finish the other 9 songs, and had another meeting. This time I got further reactions from the two, and then I knew it was going to be OK. This has been a big growth period for me. (I was the music teacher at Liane’s daycare in Montreal years ago, where I brought original songs to the children. I have two Children’s albums that Liane introduced to Dan, and he liked the catchy elements of my writing.)
Q: What does the musical director do?
A: The requirements of a music director could vary from very involved, to just handling certain parts of the production. When I’m serving as a musical director, here are a few of my typical responsibilities:
- At auditions, choose the best actor with the best musical capability.
- Direct band members at rehearsals.
- Teach the chorus members the appropriate harmony requirement.
- Help soloists rehearse.
- Study and interpret scores.
- Make decisions that improve musical performance.
- Help with overall sound production and make sure levels are appropriate for the room and stage.
Q: What’s your process for composing music for a show? Does it start with the lyrics, or do you develop an overall sound before you have specific words to work with?
A: Writing music for this musical commenced with the lyrics handed to me. I was given a DVD of an earlier production of the musical, which I listened to on silent mode because public domain material had previously been used. As I worked on each piece, my mission was to find a melodic vehicle and an appropriate musical style that would transport the lyrics to the listener with clarity, giving all the nuances necessary for comic relief, emotion, and fear, henceforth captivating the audience with the journey intended by the Playwright…
In general, I think that lyrics have a way they want to travel, so if you start with the lyrics in hand, it’s a lot easier than having to start from scratch. I don’t have a specific formula for writing songs; each project should be treated organically, although there are tricks of the trade that come into play. Inspiration and knowledge of the craft are surely required. Without it, I guess everybody would be able to write a musical or a hit song.
Singer, Songwriter, Vocal Coach, Choir Director, Children’s Music Educator
“Variety is the spice of life” are the words that best describe the span of Vivienne Deane’s musical career. Singing a song for the kids at a convent in India at the age of 6, are the first memories she recalls of entertaining. Vivienne would be asked to sing for the adults at house parties as well, she learned the 12 days of Christmas and another Jim Reeves song by heart, these songs became her anthems in those early years.
Arriving in Montreal, Canada, at the age of 10, she began piano lessons at the after school program. Private lessons followed for the next 8 years, it was sometimes a struggle to keep going, especially through the teens. Her mother sacrificed paying for lessons and buying her a piano, but one day when she came home, she found her piano gone, it was sold. Mother was not joking; she nagged long enough about practicing. Vivienne however managed to buy her own piano when she realized how important the instrument really meant to her.
Music was not over just as yet. She picked up a guitar and learned from friends as they jammed together, as she became good enough to hold her own, Vivienne began composing songs with those 6 or 7 chords she learned; folk style songs with a new found love for the gospel message. Composing song after song, she played them for people in parks and parties, where ever she could. Two of her first compositions won recognition at the Black Arts Awards of Quebec in (1981).”Slaves of the Universe”, and “Gifts”, are the 2 songs that still remain in Vivienne’s repertoire.
After joining a vocal workshop in the 80’s, Vivienne was invited by a friend to join the Union United Church Choir with Trevor Payne) and also a Jazz Choir (with Karen Young, a well known Montreal singer). These choirs gave Vivienne the opportunity to sing solo, Karen also invited Vivienne to sing with the late Eval Manigat , a world beat orchestra leader, and eventually she became the bands lead vocalist and performed with them for a good 15 years.
Vivienne attended Concordia University and completed a degree in Integrative Music Studies. Composition, Arranging, and private study in voice and piano were some of the focuses of her degree. While at Concordia, her band Deane- Deveault Quartet was chosen to represent the Eastern provinces of Canada, at the Jazz Festival’s National competition, hosted by the Festivale de Jazz de Montreal and DuMaurier. The band performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 1989 for the first time. Vivienne has gone on to perform many times at the Montreal, Quebec and Ottawa Jazz festivals with her own quartets and other groups.
Vivienne has one lovely daughter named Kenika. While raising her, she took a job at a daycare as the music teacher. Soon she got know in that circle, and worked for another 8 daycares for about 12 years. She wrote her own songs for the kids and eventually recorded two original albums. “What a Wonderful Day” and “How Can you hug a Fish”.
Vivienne has directed many choirs, both gospel and community singing groups with varied repertoire. Her Gospel Ensemble, “Vivienne Deane Gospel Ensemble “has been a mainstay for the past 10 years; they have performed Vivienne’s all original gospel music at various concerts and festivals, in and around Montreal and South of the Border.
“Gospel According to Vivienne” a documentary recently made by Jean-Andre Fourestié and Bruno Pucella, is about the quest to make her Gospel album. It also includes the history of her musical career and more. This film won her the “Spirit of Queens” award from Queens, New York in 2012. It can be seen via vimeo.com.
Vivienne continues to sing, teach and direct choirs in Montreal. She is presently composing and arranging for a Musical comedy that’s to be presented in the near future.
Painting and cooking are some of her other passions, soon she will add an Arts section to her site, and still dreams of opening another Café/Restaurant to bring all the Arts elements together.
Her 4 albums can be heard in portion on the discography section of her webpage.