A great article on a friend and colleague Kenny Seymour – an excerpt from this article: http://www.firstwivesclubthemusical.com/blog/collaborative-creative-spirit-musical-conductor-kenny-seymour/
First Wives Club the Musical is excited to have Kenny Seymour as our Musical Director and Conductor. Kenny is in great demand for his exceptional talent. He’s worked with veteran musicians and rising stars. Kenny’s ability to fuse the talent of the orchestra, the vision of the songwriters and the bookwriter and the voices of the actors is what makes each performance unique and resonant. He has brought his special touch to many Broadway musicals, films and other projects.
Kenny took time out of his busy schedule to share his thoughts about working with the creative team of First Wives Club.
How do you feel about being a part of the amazing First Wives Club family?
Kenny: The opportunity to work with Holland-Dozier-Holland, HB Barnum, Simon Phillips and the entire creative team is really thrilling. I think everyone is very excited about where the show is heading and what it is going to become and what it is already.
We always see conductors in Broadway pits, and they look very glamorous and in charge. There must be much more to the job than we realize. What does the music director and conductor really do, and what are they responsible for?
Kenny: They are similar and different in different areas of music. In theater, the main responsibility of a music director from the conceptual stage of production or from its beginning is to teach vocals, to be present at auditions and work with the director as they go through the show in rehearsal. In some cases, those duties may extend to possibly doing some slight arrangements.
Once the show is opened, it also entails keeping the musical integrity, keeping the quality of the show up and putting in rehearsals. My role is to basically be the captain of the music department once the show is up and running and to keep it at a peak level so that everyone who sees it for the first time is seeing the show the way it was when it opened. My goal is also to ensure that it maintains that beauty and excitement.
In the development of THE FIRST WIVES CLUB what are some of the things that you are working on now?
Kenny: Right now it’s marrying song to story, seeing how things work together and making sure everything fits and feels organic. I am so fortunate to be working with Holland Dozier Holland, HB Barnum and Simon Phillips. They are all masters at their craft as far as making sure all the parts fit well. Being in the room observing that is truly fascinating. That’s the stage I believe they are at now – just going through the show and making sure everything fits and moves together nicely.
In your words how would you describe the “magic” of Holland-Dozier-Holland’s music?
Kenny: It’s interesting because there is a marriage of melody, rhythm and lyric, and I think that is the magic. It’s the emotion that goes into the song, it’s the emotion that the melody evokes, the rhythm, the sound – it’s a very organic sound. In some cases, there are so many hits they have composed that it’s become sort of a soundtrack of people’s lives. There was hit after hit after hit of songs that resonated with so many people across so many different cultures. It’s incredible.
Do you like their new music as well as their legendary famous hits?
Kenny: Oh, yes, definitely. Listening to some of the songs from the show, you can hear the talent, you can hear the emotion, you can hear why they are who they are and how they have accumulated so many hits. It’s a sensibility and a musical knowledge along with a heartfelt knowledge that’s just timeless.
Oh, you’re not kidding! Even young people know all the music and love it.
Kenny: I mean, how many times you have heard “Stop in the Name of Love or “Reach Out I’ll Be There.” Their songs are just timeless and they appeal to everybody.
You’re a seasoned theater professional. What are the challenges for a composer and lyricist whose background is primarily pop?
Kenny: They are both creative processes, and I believe that in writing a song in a pop sense, you are telling a story and it has its own parameters and its own environment where it lives and reacts. With a musical, there is a story and each component of that musical helps to move that story forward and they become one. One of the challenges is finding that blend, that balance of “this is a great song,” but does it help move the story along? The beauty about Holland-Dozier-Holland’s music, is that it is so natural and so heartfelt is that it naturally does this.
That’s so true! If you think about it with any visual medium like TV, movies or theater, if you took out the music it just wouldn’t be the same, it would be seem dead somehow. Music adds so much to your experience and how it impacts your emotions.
Kenny: In the early days of film this was the case, I believe around 1895 live music was added to the showing of silent films. Musicians would play from a book containing sheet music that captured different feelings and emotions and they would choose different types of music, for different parts of the film. The music added such a different texture, and it brought things to life. In the essence of Holland-Dozier-Holland’s music, they bring things to life in the way they compose – their melodies, their rhythms, their lyrics.