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'Morella' Update - Songs of the Sailors

It has been nearly (or just over - I lose count) two years since we last did anything relating to 'Morella'.

However, last night put a sudden and welcome stop to that.

Somewhere in the region of many years ago, myself and lyricist for the project - Lesley (Creasser Guymer) - met up with Warwick Nixon to lay down some demo vocals for the part of the 'Lead Sailor'.

Well, we met up with the very same Warwick Nixon last night and lo and behold - five beautifully performed pieces of vocal have been captured in the ever beloved .WAV format.

A few years ago, Warwick had only just rediscovered singing after many years away from it. However, since then he has been singing in not one but two local choirs - in fact recently being voted onto the committee for one of them - and it's fair to say that the standard of what we recorded as final takes last night vs. what we captured all those years ago is vastly superior.

Aside from having a much cleaner vocal when going outside of what would have once been his comfortable vocal range (his baritone is now quite definitely in the bass register), his capturing and understanding of timing, melody, note accuracy etc. is greatly improved and - most importantly for a project like this - his characterisation is allowed to shine through more as the music comes more naturally.

Warwick Nixon Lead Sailor Morella Edgar Allan Poe Musical Theatre Concept Album Jack Mitchell Smith Lesley Creasser Guymer Macclesfield Congleton

The Story of Morella

'Morella' is based on a classic short story by American horror writer Edgar Allan Poe.

Poe's original work tells the simple but effective tale of a young woman who is driven by the goal of achieving immortality. By marrying the unnamed Narrator of the tale, she achieves this once she gives birth. Morella dies during childbirth, whilst her Daughter grows up rapidly and in her image. The Narrator is afraid that the Daughter is, in fact, Morella, and is increasingly afraid of the name, thus refusing to name her...until he baptises her and upon asked for a name, utters the name of 'Morella' - a move which not only appears to directly cause the death of his Daughter, but also leads to the mysterious disappearance of the body of his once beloved wife when he goes to bury his now deceased Daughter.

Adapting this into a musical was quite straightforward in the early stages.

That is until Lesley came along.

Lesley drew inspiration from what she already knew in order to properly visualise it, and needed to flesh out the story of 'Morella' much more so that there appeared to be motive behind Morella's actions (Why does Morella wish to be immortal? Does Morella know that having a child will result in immortality? etc.) Certain other actions that were passed off in a sentence in Poe's tale - such as her and the narrator getting married or Morella giving birth - led to the necessary introduction and exploration of additional characters, such as the Pastor and the Midwife.

One such alteration that was made - not that it is specifically noted as being elsewhere in Poe's original tale - is that the setting of our story takes place in a seafaring village. This is because Lesley knows the sea well. She has always had it in her life and her heart, whether it be her growing up near it or sailing. Naturally, this led to the development of our ensemble being, in fact, the Fisherfolk, though they do often double up and represent a passage of time (for example, once Morella has died giving birth many years pass and it is they who bring us up to date with the now fully grown Daughter).

So, getting back on track and referring to Warwick, you may well ask...

Who is the Lead Sailor?

We refer to Warwick's part as the Lead Sailor only to distinguish between him and the 'Young Sailor'.

The Lead Sailor is a good natured individual in the village. As you will see from the songs below, he sets the scene for the first scene of the flashback in Act One with the anthemic 'Song o' the Sea'. However, it isn't until Act Two that he is really involved in the story directly, rather than merely helping to set a scene.

When we have caught up with the Daughter as a young woman in Morella's image, celebrations are rife in the village as the Young Sailor returns home. The Young Sailor is the Lead Sailor's nephew.

However, the joy of this. return won't last for too long as the Young Sailor notices the Daughter and tries to get her attention. In this, he eventually succeeds. The Daughter is not particularly interested in love at this point.

The Lead Sailor, however, is well aware of how things have gone in the past and remembers Morella and, as no doubt many others in the village are, is concerned at how Morella used to behave vs. how there is now a seemingly identical young woman roaming the village following her death. They are all rather suspicious.

It is up to the Lead Sailor to try and warn his nephew away from falling any further in love.

His Songs

The Lead Sailor performs or performs in five songs / routines;

  • Song o' the Sea - the only song in the whole show that serves as a scene setter rather than as a narrative device. The very first scene of Act One, thus the show, is the Narrator and the Pastor arguing over Morella's dead body in her tomb about how 'it came to this' (at this point there is ambiguity - we don't necessarily know what's going on). It is the Pastor who starts to reminisce about the day that the Narrator and Morella first met, and this celebratory song is an opener for that scene. A sea shanty that is led by the Lead Sailor, yet joined in with by all of the village (the Fisherfolk) - exception of our Narrator, who is longing to see the woman he wishes to fall in love with.

  • Heave To! - Coming up to the halfway point in Act Two, this scene happens simultaneously to our introductory scene of the Narrator and his now fully grown Daughter arguing. Whilst the Daughter is questioning her father about her mother and her father is refusing to enlighten, the Young Sailor is returning home from the sea to his family - his uncle the Lead Sailor.

  • Who is She? - following immediately on from 'Heave To!' is this narrative in which the Young Sailor notices and is immediately attracted to the Daughter. However, the Lead Sailor tries to warn him about getting involved due to his memories of Morella and the Narrator's relationship and the strange books that Morella used to involve herself with.

  • Ambition - throughout the show, we are introduced to several characters. As well as Morella and the Narrator, there is the Pastor, the Midwife and the three Ancients (a ghostly personification of the dark works that Morella is immersing herself in). Later on, of course, we meet the Young Sailor. The latter has the ambition of love, and the Narrator had the ambition of love. However, all other ambitions are of a darker turn. The Ancients collect souls and to allow this to happen, they promise each of the characters something that they will want or ask for. They promise treasures to the Pastor and a child of her own to the Midwife. This particular routine is an intermingling of all parts taking possession of what they want. Our Young Sailor, however, notices an unhealthy relationship brewing between the Narrator and his Daughter, as he doesn't understand that by this point the Narrator is starting to associate her with Morella and recognise that she is, in fact, her. The Lead Sailor tries to talk him away from the situation, urging him to leave them be and forget them.

  • Finale ("They Have Taken Her From Me...") - in the third movement of the finale, the Young Sailor is panicking at the fact that the Daughter is missing as she has been taken away to be baptised, seemingly against her will. He eventually finds her, but by this point she has been baptised using the name 'Morella' and - now that she is officially the Narrator's wife again - he can only assume incest. The Lead Sailor's last desperate attempts come during this movement, urging the Young Sailor to go home with him.


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