Around the time On the Fly came out, there were comparisons of it with The Master & The Musician. After revisiting M&M and the written narrative that was included in the original vinyl album, I did a web search for the narrative's author and art director for the album cover. As reported here previously, I found Stuart Scadron-Wattles as the artistic director of a theater in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. I sent him an email asking if he would be interested in jotting down for the keaggy-l list some of his memories of his associations with Phil and the M&M project, which was done during Phil's "Love Inn" days in Freeville, NY. Stuart graciously took the time out of his busy theatrical schedule to provide the following insight into the creation process of the M&M album. Enjoy!
(If you enjoy it, you might drop him a brief note thanking him for the effort!)
Ted tended to see his "small group" as more of a leadership team. In fact, many of the couples in that group (there were no single people) were themselves leaders of "small groups" (I had 34 people in mine at one point), or--like Phil-- leaders in the field of their own vocations.
As a result, during the first six months of our group, Ted had problems getting us to open up to one another, let alone trust each other. We talked about it, and some of us had preexisting friendships, but this was serious community: Ted's aim was to have the entire group of some fourteen people know one another well. After repeated "suggestions," Ted ended up assigning us to get together socially, three couples at a time, on a rotating basis. During a given six-week period, we had to get together at least twice with our designated counterparts.
I got to know Phil and Bernadette by assignment. It was not the best method of introduction. Although Phil could be quite shy, as refugees from the vagaries of the musician's road life, they were eager to participate in community. Three couples in our group became quite close with them, but--even under orders from a respected elder-- we never clicked. Phil hadn't been formally educated, and at the time, I was using my education and intellect as a protective wall. It was not a good combination. I loved his music, but thought him quite naive, despite a boyish charm which could conceal quite a wicked and enjoyable sense of humor.
My main connection with Phil during his days of touring out of the community was through my close friendship with Lynn Nichols, a talented guitarist who played in the Phil Keaggy Band. I liked Phil's music, and he seemed to appreciate my writing (including music criticism) for "Free Love," a publication of The Scott Ross Show, and the theatre he saw me do, but mutual respect was about as far as it got.
So it was a bit of a surprise when Peter Hopper and Scott Ross (Phil's recording engineer and producer for NewSong Records, respectively) asked Lynn to approach me about Phil's first instrumental project. I listened to the recording, and was instantly struck by its original approach. It also seemed to be Phil at his best-- experimenting with musical work, without having to dream up verbal reasons for its existence. But Scott and Peter were worried.
In those days, with the "Jesus Movement" firmly established, and a growing market for "contemporary Christian music," the art was justified by the lyrics. Without lyrics, how could this project survive? NewSong had been founded to allow Phil to do what he wanted, but how was this project to be sold to Word Records, its distributor? By the same token, we believed strongly that the music should stand on its own, and were unafraid to market it as a new type of work. Then there was the matter of the title.
Scott Ross, who was then lead elder of Covenant Love Community as well as "President" of NewSong, suggested that we call the album "Out of Ivory Palaces," after a piece of the Psalms: "Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made me glad."
I countered that we might include an original narrative to accompany the music , which would give the largely evangelical Christians who were Phil's fans the necessary "hook" into the work. The story was to be unessential to the work, but would provide the excuse Christians seemed to need to enjoy the thrill of hearing Phil enjoy his instrument and display his versatility as he did so. The story idea was acceptable, and I was asked to write it.
The story was easy enough to write. As a lyricist for the stage (and in a much earlier incarnation, for rock music), it was a joy to sit down and let Phil's music write the story with me. In order to increase the opportunities for connection, I associated the story's narrative turns with specific cuts of the album (remember when an album had "cuts"?) and kept the story in sequence with each piece.
Once the work was completed, however, I felt uneasy about sharing it with Phil. My solution was to read the story to two of Phil's closest friends in the community, Lynn Nichols and Chris Christensen, at different sittings. Lynn had some excellent suggestions, which I incorporated, and the more sentimental Chris, who had been listening to a cassette dub of Phil's work for weeks, did what I had hoped: he cried. I knew then that Phil would like it.
The story was delivered to Phil, who asked for a change or two, but otherwise pronounced himself pleased. I was paid my flat fee for the work, and we went on to consider its packaging.
The story gave us the title for the album. We wanted a real Renaissance feel for the cover, which I was art directing, so we shot the cover photo in Annabel Taylor Hall, at nearby Cornell University, late at night.
When NewSong's catalogue was sold to other interests, later releases of the album did not include the story. By that time, of course, it was no longer necessary to "justify" instrumental works to evangelical Christians, so the need for the story was no longer as acute, and the title had acquired an existence independent of the story which had inspired it.
I have lost touch with Phil, although I hear about him from time to time through a mutual friend in Nashville. Ted Sandquist continues his work of writing music, but is now primarily encouraging and supporting indigenous expressions of worship for people in other cultures. Lynn Nichols was head of Artistry and Repertoire at Word Records for a short (but key) time and is now living in Nashville. Scott Ross has got to be one of the only non-family members of Pat Robertson to still be working at the Christian Broadcasting Network. Peter Hopper has his own commercial recording studio in Freeville, NY, and is pastoring a very successful congregation nearby. Chris is a psychologist who lives now in Buffalo, NY, near enough to my home in Kitchener Ontario for us to visit one another.
I don't know whether the story is still used for the album. I hope not. It existed only as a necessary bridge to the enjoyment of the music, which should by rights be enjoyed on its own.
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We begin by listening to a dream, for at first the sounds are clearer than the sights. A young man's voice, distinct and persistent. Then that of an older man, measured, balanced tones. Now they come into view: The seated old man leans against his high-backed chair, listening attentively. His eyes crinkle with hidden amusement at the young man's insistence. Heavy, white eyebrows are occasionally raised as his eyes widen, echoing his initial surprise at the young man's visit. A slender, long-fingered hand is brought to the side of his face. His fingers frame an eye, as one hand rests against his cheek, his clear eyes never straying from the face of the man across from him.
His younger visitor leans forward again, intent on explaining a request he barely understands himself. He is a young musician, and yet he shows the strain and wear of traveling, pressed by that fame which demands strenuous performance. The old man smiles, and for a brief moment glances at the worn wooden surface of an instrument hung upon his wall. Sensing a rapport which he had never thought could exist, the young man leans forward and repeats his request.
Hidden, yet apparent, the castle in his mind's eye drew the young musician to its entrance, and called him to an as yet uncontemplated fate.
She walks upright and unafraid, her lace veil blowing in the summer breeze.
Her gaze is neither timid nor bold, yet it holds the strength of her lord's without wavering.
They kiss. A brilliant jewel between them sparkles, showering the guests with light and laughter. Then silence, as the meaning makes its home.
The children, unaware of grownup solemnity, dance out joy with unencumbered feet, whirling and giggling, giggling and whirling away their summer joy. One by one, the grownups join them, bride, groom, and guests, until all fall from exhaustion, laughing at dignity and foolishness alike.
The young man sat in silence. Then answered his every question, one by one - considered, unwavering, sure of what he would find. His heart soared as each question was answered, anticipating the fulfillment of the promise each one held. Now tears of joy are flowing from his cheeks. He holds his instrument away so as not to spoil the strings. The old man smiles. The younger weeps: All I have lived for is here. They joy of new beginnings settles in his mind, as the old man sets down his instrument and opens the door. "You must meet the King," he said, "you must meet Him face to face. No, no -" the old man answered the unasked question. "You must go alone. You won't come to harm; I will even meet you along the way. But - for now - you must go alone."
Since the old man's disappearance, the young man had been incapable of calling back the Presence. The night turned darker, and the young man began to cry, not for loss, but lack. Oblivious to his surroundings, he bent his head and sobbed. His tears ran saltily upon his instrument, dripping from the strings. They can be spoiled now, he thought, what does it matter? I cannot play.
"I too was alone," said a voice, "I too could no longer play the music." The young one bit his lip and looked up. The King was before him, not as a king, but as the young man himself, his heart empty. Royal robes hung over one arm. "Wear these," said the King, "for they are yours."
The King gazed at him as a bridegroom at his bride, and the young man played; joined, not by an instrument but by the voice of the Presence itself. The King was lifted up and out of sight, golden walls illuminating his departure. Still, the young man played, for the Presence was greater than ever. He sang with It, It sang with him. Voices called across to one another; all led upward. A joy far deeper than his own emotions help him in its grasp. It would not let him go.
Story by Stuart Scadron-Wattles. Copyright 1978 Free Love Publishing. All rights reserved.
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Tom Loredo / email@example.com