Hidden in Plain Sight at the Gum Wall in Seattle

Any tourist trip to Seattle isn’t complete without a visit to Pike’s Place Market, a few blocks east of the famous Elliott Bay waterfront.  Hidden on the lower level of the Market on Post Alley is a quirky tourist attraction called the Market Theater Gum Wall.  It’s been in the news this week because for the first time in 20 years, the wall underwent a steam cleaning and removal of the estimated 1 million wads of used chewing gum.

Gum Wall

A small portion of the gum wall, measuring 50 feet long and up to 15 feet high.

In 2009 this gum wall was named one of the top five unhygienic sites in the world, second to the Blarney Stone in Ireland.   Another little known fact is that a similar and older gum wall, Bubblegum Alley, exists in San Luis Obispo, California.

But don’t worry!  When the maintenance is complete, tourists and passersby can once again leave their sticky legacy on the city.

Hidden in Plain Sight

What you probably haven’t heard about is the secret treasure known as a geocache that was hidden in plain sight on the gum wall.

But what is a geocache?

Geocaching is a treasure hunt that uses GPS-enabled devices to track the specific GPS coordinates of hidden containers, or geocaches, throughout the world.  Presently, there are 2,744,212 active geocaches and over 6 million geocachers worldwide.

The geocache at the gum wall, named “Double Bubble Toil & Trouble,” was a very popular hunt for geocachers.  The online record for this geocache indicates that over 2,800 geocachers logged a visit at this cache since it was hidden in 2010.  Of that number over 25% of the geocachers could not find the cache.  I was one of those, logging the dreaded frown smiley face or DNF (Did Not Find) on my geocaching record.

Where is the geocache?

Can you spot the geocache at this Seattle landmark?

Although I hate to log a ‘DNF’ during my geocaching adventures, this day still holds pleasant memories for me.  It was thanks to Pedro, our host son from Spain, that I decided to search for this geocache.  As a long-time Seattle area resident, I didn’t even know about the gum wall until we started geocaching in 2010.

On the Hunt for Hidden Treasure

The first year Pedro was in our home, one of the student field trips was to Pike’s Place Market and the gum wall.  Days earlier Pedro went out on his first geocaching adventure with my family.  He was hooked.  Unfortunately we didn’t find out about the geocache at the gum wall until after the field trip.

Pedro at the gum wall, July 2010.

Pedro leaves his gum legacy at this famous Seattle landmark, unaware of the hidden treasure camouflaged on the wall.

When Pedro returned to Seattle the next summer, he was eager to find lots of geocaches, and to surpass my husband’s count of geocaches.  It was a good-natured competition to see who had the most caches by the end of his visit.  Pedro made a gallant try but couldn’t catch up.  He found over 50 caches in four weeks scattered throughout Washington and Oregon.

Back to the day of this hunt…

The day was memorable because it was the day that I took Pedro to The Piano Studio for his recording rehearsal.  We met Martin Buff, the studio owner, and Pedro spent some time getting his fingers used to the 9-foot Steinway Grand Piano.  His actual recording date was a few days later.  What a priceless memory watching this young man’s dreams come true.  Pedro has since gone on to compose music for short and full-feature films like Tempting Fate.

Pedro practicing at The Piano Studio in Seattle.

Pedro practicing at The Piano Studio in Seattle, June 2011.

After a short rehearsal, we headed into downtown Seattle to geocache.  We found a few geocaches along the waterfront and then went to Pike’s Place Market.  Our goal: to find, or to log a smiley (that’s geocaching lingo) at “Double Bubble Toil & Trouble.”

We were surprised when we arrived at Post Alley and found a photography class set up taking photographs of the wheat paste art on the walls opposite the gum wall.  We walked past the students and tried to use our geocaching stealth and ‘geosense’ to search for the hidden cache on the gum wall.

Hints are provided on the online listing for this geocache, but sadly it didn’t help us spot the camouflaged container that measured about an inch in diameter.   GPS coordinates are fairly accurate most of the time, but with that small of a container and the large brick wall covered with gum, it felt like an impossible task.  Besides, even with gloves on, we really didn’t want to search that closely!

We ended our memorable day with dinner at the waterfront, watching the ferries on Elliott Bay, and planning our next adventure—recording Pedro’s first CD at The Piano Studio.

Photography students near the gum wall.

Photography students near the gum wall.

Restoration of the Hidden Landmark

So what’s next for “Double Bubble Toil & Trouble?”  The geocache listing has temporarily been disabled.  The owner of the cache reported that a physical cache container will be replaced after the wall is cleaned and re-gummification begins.

Since I didn’t find the geocache before, I think this gum wall cleaning is good news for me.  The sooner I return on the hunt for this geocache, the better my odds of finding it.  And then I can turn my DNF to an “I FOUND IT” smiley.  🙂

For more information or to get started on your own geocaching adventures, visit geocaching.com.

A Behind the Scenes Look at Tempting Fate with Actor Dan Davies

Tempting Fate is heading into its 5th week in theaters across Nigeria and Ghana and is still showing well—especially considering the stiff competition from the summer’s blockbuster movies. This week I’ve dedicated my time to giving my readers a new and exciting angle into this movie.

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Still showing after 4 weeks in Nigeria and Ghana.

I’m delighted and grateful to share about Tempting Fate from an insider’s viewpoint, with co-star Dan Davies. Dan plays Scorpion, a gangster and leader of the bank robbery/drug gang, a central figure in the movie.  (Watch trailer with the music of Pedro González Arbona.)

Let me start off by saying that Dan is nothing like the evil villain he portrays in Tempting Fate. I first met Dan via Facebook shortly after Pedro signed the contract to compose for the movie. Then we met face to face at the VIP screening in Houston last year. That was a whirlwind weekend, and regrettably with no time to connect outside of all the press attention.

Days before Dan left for the Nigerian premiere of the movie last month, he granted my request for an interview. It wasn’t your typical press interview. We talked about matters of faith, his trip and the premiere in Lagos, and about the film. I hope you enjoy getting to know Dan a bit and what it was like on the set of Tempting Fate. But first…

Who is Dan Davies?

Dan Davies is a talented actor, screenwriter, and producer from Appleton, Wisconsin. His credits span a variety of different media: national TV commercials, local television and radio programs, internet video production, and print modeling. He received the prestigious Platinum (2005) and Silver (2006) Remi awards for films at the International Houston Film Festival (World Fest). Dan even spent time as a competitive body builder in the 1990s.

Dan Davies

Dan Davies

While Dan’s day to day work is in film promotions, marketing, procuring distribution and writing, his favorite work is when he can engage his creative juices in acting and screenwriting. To that end, Dan’s star is rising over Hollywood and Nollywood (the Nigerian entertainment industry).

Dan’s most recent work (before Tempting Fate) is in the movie West of Thunder. (Watch trailer.)  Dan co-wrote and stars in this film, a film selected in three 2012 film festivals: Toronto Independent FF, the American Indian FF, and the Red Nation FF. (Vote it into the top 10 American Indian Film Institute movies here.)  He also co-stars in Flim: The Movie, a 2014 British film that was nominated for the Best Film at the British Independent Film Awards (BIFA). The movie was recently selected for viewing at the very prestigious NYC Film Festival in October.  (Watch trailer.)

How did Dan get the role of Scorpion in “Tempting Fate?”

Dan attributes the accolades and acclaim from West of Thunder for getting him the role of Scorpion in Tempting Fate:

Dan: “Because I didn’t really audition for this role,” Dan explained. “Kevin Nwankwor (the director/producer) gave me a call. I sent him my resume and he was familiar with some of my other work.”

“He asked me one question. He said, ‘Dan, can you do a Russian accent? Because we’d love for you to play this Russian gangster, the head of the bank robbing crew.’”

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Dan as Scorpion, in Tempting Fate. (Photo credit: Chris Willard Photography)

“I said, ‘No, I can’t, because I sound like Yakov Smirnoff, the comedian from the 1990s. I can do an Eastern European/Kazakh.’” Dan demonstrated his Kazakh accent to Kevin and the other producers listening in on the speaker phone.

“And that was it. He basically said, ‘That’s it. You’re in.’”

During the call with Kevin, Dan learned that the film had a real strong Christian message to it.

“I appreciated that,” he told me. “In Nigeria it is rated PG-15, which is their rating board. Here in the U.S., it would probably be PG-13, because of the violence in it.”

“It’s a really, really great story. It’s a story of redemption and forgiveness. It doesn’t shy away from tackling issues with a Christian perspective when things go bad, and when you have bad things in your life, and evil things happen. It relies on our faith to triumph over those. So that was important to me.”

What was it like working on the set of “Tempting Fate?”

In past interviews I had seen of Dan, he mentioned that working on the set of Tempting Fate was not like any other movie he had been a part of.

Dan: “It was neat to know that almost every single one of the cast and crew was a Believer. It was just amazing. I’ve been on movie sets where I’ve literally… been at my wits end. It sullied my outlook on films. I kept thinking if filming is going to be like this, I don’t know if I want to do this.”

“And then Tempting Fate came along. It was this brotherly love, this teamwork. It was having a bigger and better goal other than yourselves. It permeated everything we did. And the people were true, and friendly, and warm, and honest. I would literally wake up in the morning and say, ‘Is this a wonderful dream?’ It re-ignited my love for being on set on films.”

“It almost brings a tear to my eye just how amazing it was. Like when I talked with my Dad, or when I talked to my brothers or sisters, or family. Just basically saying how blown away I was by it. I had never seen anything like it. It was like we were long-lost brothers and sisters all brought together. It was someone’s force or a few people’s fervent prayer was answered. And that’s the truth. There is no way around it.”

Ardis: “Wow! God is definitely good. Even as I watched these things unfold in the year since the Houston premiere, I really sensed that His hand is all over this. I’ve seen that with Pedro’s music as well, as part of it. That is really great to hear.”

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Dan Davies (Scorpion), John J Vogel (Detective Travis), and Andrew Onochie (Edu) arrive by limousine at the Lagos premiere, July 10, 2015. (Photo credit: Chris Willard Photography)

What is Dan’s favorite type of work?

Ardis: “Dan, you have worked in a variety of different mediums and types of work in the entertainment industry. If you were working in your sweet spot, what would that be?”

Dan: “I always like the creation of the character. It’s the most energetic, the most thought-provoking, and the most passionate part of what I do. Although I love the writing, the marketing and promotion, and the producing end of it. But the more I am creating a character from the ground up…I get into completely creating the character. It is prayerful too. I want to be true to that character. I want it to be memorable too.”

Ardis: “So right now with this movie coming out, is this a major shift for you? Do you feel like you’re living your dream?”

Dan: “It’s one of those things that because I’m older and been doing this for a number of years that I’m so glad I have the success now compared to my 20s and 30s.”

Dan went on to tell about how he used to be a heavy drinker. In time that lifestyle, spending money on alcohol, being hungover, etc., took a toll on his body, his work, and his relationships.   When people ask him now if he regrets not having the success sooner, he answers, “no, because I couldn’t handle it then.”

“It’s nice to have it (the success) where I’m growing more with my spiritual life, and at this stage of my life.”

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One of many press interviews on the red carpet at the Lagos premiere, July 10, 2015.

More about the Entertainment Industry

As a Christian writer myself, I was interested in how Dan balances his faith while working in an industry that relies heavily on self-promotion. Unlike his big name Hollywood counterparts, Dan serves as his own agent, at least for now. He is always on the go getting the word out through social media about his projects and hustling for his next big break.

Dan: “It’s the unseemly part of the business. It’s really difficult. I never want to fall into a place where I start bragging or I start feeling I’m anything other than who I am. I don’t want to be that person. I’d much rather be me, than that persona. Staying humble and being filled with humility is really, really difficult…you start reading things and this and that.”

“I’m being mentioned with Steven Spielberg, or George Lucas, or Quentin Tarantino, you know, with West of Thunder. Then being mentioned with these great British actors and comedic actors in Flim: The Movie and you get a little bit of an ego. And I don’t want that.”

“It’s fun. And it’s attractive. But you got to remember that’s just Dan Davies as the actor, or as the writer. You have to completely distance yourself, or as much as you can.”

“I think Fred Astaire said, ‘Don’t read your press.’ The only press clipping he ever kept was one he used for motivation, and he put it on his fireplace mantle. It was the first critical review he received early on in his career. It said: ‘This Fred Astaire cannot sing. He is balding. He is not very attractive. But he can dance a bit.’ And he used it as a way to motivate himself, to keep himself getting better, to always work on his craft.”

Dan aspires to be like Fred Astaire, and not put any positive critic reviews on his mantle. I agreed with Dan how hard it is for Christians to separate ourselves from the media attention and the message that we want to convey.

Dan: “It’s one of those rocks between hard places as Christians. We want them to see His heart. It’s difficult to be in a situation where you are quoted after an interview or whatever. I want them to see who is great in me, not me. But they have to see me. I have to do these interviews, these premieres, and so forth and so on. But don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy that process. And I do enjoy meeting people. It’s difficult because one of our ultimate goals is for people to see that we do have the love of Christ emanating from us.”

Another red carpet interview at the Lagos premiere, July 10, 2015. (Photo credit: Chris Willard Photography)

Another red carpet interview at the Lagos premiere, July 10, 2015. (Photo credit: Chris Willard Photography)

What’s next?

Dan went on to talk more about his current movies and projects. He was tight-lipped about some contract negotiations that were in the works with Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDA). Since then he announced a major movie deal.

Dan will be co-starring in the sequel to “30 Days in Atlanta,” the No. 1 Nollywood (Nigeria) movie of all time. He returns to Nigeria in September for filming alongside American movie stars Lynn Whitfield and Vivica Fox (still in negotiations), and Nollywood movie stars Ramsey Nouah (from Tempting Fate) and AY.

Tempting Fate also continues to be part of Dan’s future. It’s been a long road to the theaters from the filming back in September 2013. That was followed by the VIP screening in Houston in July 2014. The original release of the movie was scheduled for April 2015 in Nigeria. The premiere was delayed to July 10, due to the uncertainty surrounding the Nigerian elections and the exchange of power.

The premiere and release of the movie has been a great success in Nigeria and Ghana. There is speculation that the movie will be released in other English-speaking African countries. A normal progression for the movie would then be to go to England and Europe, Canada, building momentum, and eventually back to the U.S. When that happens, Dan and the entire cast and crew of Tempting Fate will be living their dream.

Dan: “It’s a risk when you are backing film to get your money back. KevStel can put the excess back into other projects that are uplifting with a great message. I know it is important to Kevin, Unoma, and their family, to get the ministry out, to get the mission out, in film.”

Ardis: “Amen to that! I’m excited for all of you.”

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Tempting Fate cast and crew on the red carpet at the Lagos premiere, July 10, 2015. (Photo credit: Chris Willard Photography)

Dan’s Final Thoughts

Ardis: “Do you have any final thoughts you’d like to share?”

Dan: “Yes, I want to encourage people to not give up if you’ve had a bad experience on something. Just keep plugging away. Literally—age isn’t a factor. There isn’t anything that holds you back from your dreams. The only thing literally is yourself.”

“You really have to conceive it, see it, believe it, and you’ll achieve it. And do that with everything in life. Even your prayer life should be that way too. The Bible literally tells us when you pray to believe that it’s already been answered (Matthew 21:22). And do that with all aspects of your life.”

Ardis: “Dan, thank you for that encouraging message. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your personal perspective on Tempting Fate. You have my continued support of this break-through Hollywood/Nollywood film project, and prayers for a safe and successful press tour in Lagos. I’m looking forward to watching it unfold on Facebook!”

Dan: “Thank you, Ardis. Take care. I’ll talk to you soon.”

Dan & Pedro at the VIP Screening in Houston, July 4, 2014.

Dan & Pedro at the VIP Screening in Houston, July 4, 2014.

Dan and I talked again earlier this week to catch up a bit since the Lagos premiere. There was an excitement in his voice and confident assurance in this new direction with his acting career. It reminded me of Hebrews 11:1, Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

Knowing Dan’s story as I do now, I can honestly say that he has paid his dues and deserves this success.

I’ve learned a lot about the film and music industry as I’ve collaborated with Pedro González Arbona these last few years. And now I can say that I’m also learning from Dan too, not just about ‘Hollywood,’ but about living life for Christ under the scrutiny of the media. I’m proud to call him a friend, and anticipate that audiences around the world will see more of his rising star in the film industry.


Stay tuned for my next post about Tempting Fate to get the answer to the question I get asked most often: “What’s the significance with Nigeria?” That question and more will be answered with a guest blog post by Unoma Nwankwor, an executive producer of Tempting Fate.

Related Facebook links: Dan Davies, Tempting Fate, KevStel GroupPedro González Arbona, and West of Thunder.

Purchase Tempting Fate soundtrack at Amazon.com.

God Knows the Desires of our Heart

It was siesta time on Day 29 of my 42-day pilgrimage through Spain in 2013. This was my 5th day in Sóller, near the northwest coast of Mallorca, in the Balearic Islands of Spain. I was sitting poolside at the summer home of my gracious hosts, the parents of Pedro González Arbona, who we met in an exchange program three years prior.

The day was hot—just like the preceding days. I was still not used to the Spanish heat. Sóller was only slightly cooler than Madrid. It was in the mid-90s; and there was no air conditioning. When we left Madrid the week before, I was expecting cool island breezes and relief from the heat. There was no such luck. I adapted as best as I could, and relished the mid-day siesta to take a bite out of the heat.

The view from my bedroom window in Sóller.

The view from the writing desk in my bedroom in Sóller.

Siesta Time in Sóller

After the mid-day meal which was typically served at 2 PM, the family would turn to siesta mode. Some would take a nap, or others would read or relax by the pool. It was a deliberate time of restfulness and solitude.

Most days I would be in my room with the ceiling fan on, either typing away on my laptop trying to catch up on my writing, or sprawled out on my bed catching a few zzzzz. Traveling away from home without the benefit of an American companion, I considered both an investment in my emotional and physical health.

On this day, I relinquished my writing and my napping to another restful activity. I sat in the shade reading the script to Pedro’s most recent film. It was the script to Tempting Fate, the movie that is now showing across Africa with his music wafting through the theaters.

As I sat there reading with the sound of running water filling the pool in the background, all I kept reflecting on was how God really does know the desires of our heart. I’d love to be able to say that was because of the idyllic setting I was in, or the generosity of my family back home, or my Spanish host family. I had many of those moments in my 6 weeks of living with Pedro’s family.

A Holy Plot Twist

No, on this day it was the content of what I was reading that gave me goosebumps and lit the fire of the Holy Spirit within me. The script was ‘hot off the press’ so to speak. Pedro received it electronically and had a copy made at the print shop in town. He had already made his first pass through the script and had ideas running through his mind on the scenes and music.   I was honored to be the next to read it—mostly because I was his manager, but also because I was one of the few family members who could read English.  (His previous scripts were in Spanish and difficult for me to read.)

I knew very little about the story, and so I eagerly read it. The story opened with a bank robbery scene, lots of gun fire, and the death of a police officer. That didn’t sound like my type of movie.

Immediately following that, the story turned to a scene at a church with African worship music being sung. The sudden shift caught me off-guard and peaked my interest. As I read further and further into the script, I was enthralled with the story, and excited to read how this tale of two Nigerian brothers, one with deep faith fighting for his life against cancer, and the other steeped in a life of crime and drugs, would end.

I was not disappointed. It had a powerful message of redemption and forgiveness. Here’s one piece of great dialogue:

“God owes you no explanation, son. He looks out for you and gives you what is best for you. The important question is not why, but what happens next? And trust me, for those that trust God their next chapters are always better than the former chapters.”

Scenes from the movie Tempting Fate.

I couldn’t believe my eyes as I read some of these scenes that challenged the characters in the movie, and would certainly resonate with audiences.

At one point, when I was nearing the end of the script, Pedro asked me what I thought of it. I had a hard time containing my excitement, but told him he would have to wait until I was finished reading. “Only a few more pages,” I told him. “And then we can talk about it.”

“Are you looking for the scenes with music in it?”

“No,” I confessed.

“You are a bad manager,” he teased. I didn’t mind. I was too overwhelmed with the sudden shift in the focus of my trip.

“The first of many more scripts for you to read,” he continued jokingly. But I didn’t take his musical talent or potential success in jest.

God Knows The Desires of our Hearts

God was not only giving me the desires of my heart with this trip of a lifetime, the Lord was giving Pedro the desires of his heart. Pedro dreamed of composing film scores since he was ten years old. Now at the age of 20, he was composing for his first full-feature American film!

A few days earlier, my daily devotional was based on Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” After reading the script of this faith-based movie, I had a teachable moment with Pedro about that scripture and how the Lord’s favor was on his music. He wasn’t sold on the idea that God would really have any interest in his musical success. There were much more pressing things for God to have His attention on like poverty and worldwide issues.  But I begged to differ.

Psalm 37.4

I expressed to him how I believed it was not a coincidence that he had landed this contract at this very point in time. I had been praying for his music to be used by God since the day I found out he was a composer. The script pointed people to God’s love and forgiveness, so his music would do the same. I saw it as an incredible blessing and confirmation that his music really was meant for the big screen.

Since Pedro came into my life five years ago, the Lord has given me many desires of my heart: the friendship of this family across the world, being the benefactor of Pedro’s music, and giving me a mid-life career change into writing (my long lost passion from college).

It’s not because God is like a genie, or I prayed for earthly success or rewards. It is because of my faith shift that started with a deeper and truer relationship with the Lord, and as the scripture says, delighting in Him.

So what about the Movie?

The Lord’s favor is on Tempting Fate too—the movie, the cast and the crew as it plays in theaters across Nigeria and Ghana. It premiered at #3 in the Box Office last week and is getting lots of positive reviews. Nollywood is all a twitter about this Hollywood/Nollywood collaboration.

My prayers continue for this movie and its message. I applaud KevStel Group for producing this film and following their dreams and desires of their hearts to bring quality faith-based entertainment to the big screen.

What about you? Are you delighting in the Lord? Where is He giving you the desires of your heart?

The Making of Tempting Fate’s Score by Pedro González Arbona

Today marks the theatrical release of Tempting Fate across Nigeria. It is a day I’ve been anticipating and praying for ever since Pedro González Arbona signed the contract to compose the movie soundtrack while we were together in Madrid two summers ago.

wp_ss_20150717_0001Early last year while Pedro was in the final stages of synchronizing the music with the movie, Kevin Kwankwor, the film’s director, asked Pedro to write about the movie composing process. At that point, it was uncertain where the premiere would be held. There was talk of a Hollywood premiere and Pedro didn’t expect he could make that. The script below was to be recorded for showing at the Hollywood premiere.

Pedro and I did attend the red carpet VIP screening in Houston last year. And last week was the premiere in Lagos, Nigeria with the major U.S. cast and crew and Nollywood star Ramsey Nouah. If Tempting Fate does well in Nigeria and Ghana, there is much hope that the movie will make its way through Europe and back to America for an official nationwide release.

In the meantime, I’m sharing Pedro’s account of his work on Tempting Fate and his creative music process.

THE MAKING OF TEMPTING FATE’s SCORE
by Pedro González Arbona

Introduction

I received the call from Kevin Kwankwor—producer, director, screenwriter, and CEO of KevStel Group LLC.—in the middle of July 2013. I was finishing the score of two short films, so it was the best time to start a new project.

Kevin and I had some conversations about music in general, and the “Tempting Fate” project in particular. We connected very well from the beginning because we had the same approach to this story of a deep relationship between two brothers and how their different paths in life affect their destiny.

Pedro in his studio in Madrid, July 2013.

Pedro in his studio in Madrid, July 2013.

Kevin showed me some classical music he had in mind when writing the screenplay and some instruments he wanted to use in the project. He told me they were shooting in September and wanted some of the tracks of the score to be done by then. That was just the beginning of an amazing process.

Music in Films

In my opinion, there are four aspects that are needed in order to make a good film: a good screenplay, a good director, good acting, and a good score.

When I started focusing my composing on cinema, I started realizing how important a good score is for a film. I actually think that music creates the magical environment needed for a film. Music is another kind of narration, apart from the screenplay and the visual narration made by the director. More importantly, music helps to tell the story with the intent of immersing the audience in the movie.

What would the famous shower scene from “Psycho” be without the screeching strings by Bernard Herrmann? Or the scene from “ET” with the kids peddling their bicycles through the sky with the moon in the background, without the music by John Williams? Or the Hobbit´s Shire in “The Fellowship of the Ring” without the music by Howard Shore? I am sure you can imagine dozens of examples, and by then you will realize that those films would not be the same without that music.

Photo credit: Universal Studios

Photo credit: Universal Studios

The question now is, what do you consider a good score? Well, there is not a perfect theory, but I usually consider two kinds of scores.

On the one hand, are the composers who just use the music in the background of the film in order to create the perfect environment for the film. In these kinds of scores, the music is so well done that when the audience leaves the theater, they do not realize that they heard a score. Some examples could be amazing composers such as Thomas Newman or the Spanish composer, Alberto Iglesias.

On the other hand, are the composers who use a lot of melodic music that goes directly to the mind of the viewer. Most of the “famous” composers are from this second group. But there is a big problem with this kind of music; they have to have caution in order not to distract the viewer from the film. And that is a very difficult task. Wonderful composers such as John Williams, Hans Zimmer, or James Horner are from this second group.

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The script to “Tempting Fate”

The Process of Scoring

The process of scoring all starts with the reading of the screenplay. In the case of “Tempting Fate,” Kevin sent the screenplay to me after the contract was signed in late July. I read it three or four times in order to fully grasp the film´s message and get a feel for the characters. I took a lot of notes about what scenes needed music and what kind of music was needed. Then I start the composing process.

Most composers start creating the score when they get the film, but I have always preferred to start the scoring even before the shooting starts. This makes the composing more fluid for me, and because it is better if the director has the music while shooting the film. This also allows the director to plan the film with the music in mind.

I always write around two main themes, which usually are linked to the main characters.

  • First was the “Love Theme”, about the love story between Edu and Tracy. For this theme I composed very melodic music with a violin solo and a piano in order to get a romantic melody that was going to be used in the most poignant moments of the film.
  • Second was the “Brother´s Theme”, about the relationship between the two brothers, Ugo and Edu. I made different variations of this theme throughout the film, because of the different facets of their relationship. I used the guitar and clarinet in the good moments, the piano and the violin solo for the bad moments, and the woodwinds for the background scenes.
Music Composer Pedro González Arbona

Music Composer Pedro González Arbona

“Tempting Fate” was shot in September 2013, and during that time Kevin and I continued to keep in touch. He told me very important details about the filming. With Kevin’s keen directorial insights and the screenplay in hand, I had lots of inspiration to compose the score.

After the composing process was completed, and after I received the final edited version of the film, I started what I call the synchronizing process. This process consisted of comparing the music I created, with the scenes from the film, and deciding what music to use, what not to use, and how many changes were needed.

Finally the time came for the recording process. As violin and piano were the main instruments in this score, professional violin and piano players were hired for the recording. A soprano, a guitarist, and a percussionist were also hired. It was so exciting to be at the recording studio and to see my compositions come to life thanks to them.

So this is the end of this amazing project which involved so many different people from so many different countries such as Nigeria, India, Spain, and the United States.

I am very thankful:

  • to the head of the project, Kevin Kwankwor, for giving me this opportunity;
  • to Francisco Arbona, for consulting with me on the music;
  • to José Iglesias, the director of the musical academy where my music foundation was formed;
  • to Ardis Nelson, my manager, for helping me so much with my composing career and producing my first two CDs;
  • to Guillermo Servera, for introducing me to orchestration software and for sharing his expertise with me so many times;
  • to Chani Bas, for giving me my first job in the cinema;
  • and to my parents:
    • my father because he played the piano and immersed me in what is now my passion for music,
    • and my mother who expanded my musical knowledge so well and instilled my Christian beliefs.

Congratulations to Pedro and the entire cast and crew of Tempting Fate. I am proud to support the release of this faith-based movie across Africa and beyond.

Below is a slideshow of images from the press tour and the Lagos premiere on July 10.  Special thanks and credit goes to Chris Willard at willardphotographic.com and the Nigerian Press for use of many of these photos.

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For up-to-date information about Tempting Fate and to view more photos, check out the movie’s Facebook page.  Stay tuned for more updates on Pedro’s musical pursuits, and an exclusive interview with co-star Dan Davies.  He is nothing like Scorpion, the evil character he so convincingly portrays in the movie.

Sneak Peek & Rave Reviews for Tempting Fate Soundtrack

It’s been many months since I last wrote about Pedro’s movie composing and the status of Tempting Fate, his first full-feature American film.  It’s hard to believe that we celebrated the 4th of July last year at the VIP screening of the movie in Houston.

On the red carpet at the Tempting Fate premiere, July 4, 2014, Houston, TX.

On the red carpet at the Tempting Fate premiere, July 4, 2014, Houston, TX.

One year later, the film’s stars and key production crew have just arrived in Lagos, Nigeria for another very important premiere of this Christian movie (Friday, July 10, 2015).  Although Pedro is not able to attend, we are no less interested in what is going on with this faith-based film across the world.

We are counting down the days to its release across Nigeria (July 17) and Ghana (July 24). Only 9 days to go as of today’s publishing of this post.  Momentum is building as positive media reviews are spreading across Nigeria.

To date, the official movie trailer has over 30,000 views on youtube.com.

 

What is the significance of the release of this movie in Africa?   Stay tuned for my next update on the movie and an exclusive interview with Dan Davies, co-star of Tempting Fate, for more behind the scenes information.*

For now, let’s talk music…

Post Screening Promotion

The first music related production after the Houston premiere was the filming and release of a music video for the Tempting Fate theme song.  This video was shot in LA, starring Andrew Onochie, who portrays Edu in the movie, and actress and singer Jacobed Melgarejo.  The song is a blend of Igbo (Nigerian), English, and Spanish worship with words that echo the message of redemption and forgiveness, the overarching theme of the movie.

 

Over the past year, we’ve watched and patiently waited while the movie made its rounds through some very prestigious film festivals.  Tempting Fate was chosen to premiere at the Indie Fest USA International Film Festival last fall in Orange County, CA and also at the Pan African Film Festival (PAFF) in Hollywood, CA earlier this year.  Rave reviews were shared by audiences at both festivals.

PAFF program information, February 2015.

PAFF program information, February 2015.

Release of the Movie Soundtrack

The movie soundtrack (available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, etc.) was released worldwide on February 12, 2015.  In order to create the cross-cultural mix of music for the Nollywood (Nigeria)/Hollywood (US) film collaboration three composers were used on the project:  Daniel Berg, Folorunso Obilana, and Pedro González Arbona.

Click image to sample soundtrack or purchase on Amazon.

Click image to sample soundtrack or purchase on Amazon.

The emotions in Tempting Fate music comes from real life’s rough ends and plundering experiences of Ugo and Edu as they journey from love and betrayal to forgiveness and loneliness. This is a story of two brothers, one of deep faith and the other buried in a life of crime. They had their worlds torn apart when the wrong one goes to jail and the other commits an unforgivable act. This music is a collection of compositions from Spain, USA and Africa. These songs are sent from above; they pierce directly into the heart.  (Album notes from CD Baby site.)

The African songs with singing, including the “Tempting Fate” main theme song used in the music video, were composed by Folorunso Obilana.  Daniel Berg’s music is purely orchestral.  Pedro’s music is a combination of orchestral and African instrumental with some melodic voice additions.

While the official CD soundtrack has 12 songs, there is much more music in the film, most of those songs were composed by Pedro.  After seeing the movie at the premiere in Houston last summer, more music changes were made to the final cut.

As is common in scoring for films, the composer doesn’t have a lot of input in the final cut of the movie.  Even highly sought after Academy Award winning composers like Hans Zimmer have to swallow their pride when it comes to which music is used in their movies.  Pedro composed over 80 minutes of music, but only a small fraction of that ended up in the movie or on the soundtrack.  Pedro released some of that music on his latest CD, Memories.

An Exclusive Music Sneak Peek

One such song not on the CD, but in the movie is “Brothers.”  This song is used in one of the first scenes in the movie where the two main actors, Nigerian brothers, Edu and Ugo, are revealing to the audience the nature of their brotherly relationship and love.  It is a beautiful song that I was privy to watch Pedro compose while in Madrid in July 2013.

Pedro walked me through the composing process as he created this song.  It was a very educational and magical moment to witness his creativity in action.  The song went through a few revisions before settling on the version now in the movie.  Since I work with Pedro, he gave me exclusive permission to share this song with my readers by clicking the ‘play’ button below.

 “Brothers” from “Tempting Fate”  © 2015 Pedro González Arbona.

One final music related note, last week during the media showing in Nigeria, the overriding comment was “not a dry eye in the house.”  I won’t give away the ending of the movie, but suffice it to say that Pedro’s final song, “Requiem,” combined with the superb on-screen acting, gives the movie a lasting final impression.  Memorable, moving, and touching, even for a crowd of seasoned movie critics.  Listen for yourself and see if you agree.

“Requiem” from “Tempting Fate”  © 2015 Pedro González Arbona.

Other reviewers commented on how the music strikes people as uniquely different.  The music fits perfectly with the storyline and with the film.  It fosters, helps, and propels the story along.

Praying for Success

Tempting Fate is the directorial debut of Nigerian born Kevin Nwankwor.  The mission of KevStel Group, Kevin’s Atlanta based production company, is to produce uplifting, Christian, and faith-based film and television projects.

How can you help support this independent Christian movie outside of Nigeria?  One way is to purchase the soundtrack. Another is by praying for its success. Nigeria is just the first stop for this movie with global appeal.  With the premiere only days away, prayer is critical to the successful outreach of this film.

TF Nigeria PremiereThe message of this movie is truly inspiring.  If people get behind this movie and pray for it, there will be more films like this available for viewing. So please join me and others around the world who are praying for this movie.

It’s not a coincidence that Pedro is associated with this inspirational faith-based movie.  His music has been bathed in prayers since we met five years ago.  It’s been a long road: from the antique and gutted out player piano in our home in the suburbs of Seattle, to his studio in the heart of Spain, and now to theaters across Africa.  We are proud to be associated with this first class independent film.

Congratulations to the cast and crew of Tempting Fate!  May the message of this movie resonate with viewers in Nigeria and beyond.  May your dreams for this film exceed your every expectation.

*Special thanks to Dan Davies, who portrays Scorpion in Tempting Fate, for contributing to the content of this post.

Not your Typical Exchange Student Experience

This week marks the 5th anniversary of meeting Pedro González Arbona, a short-term Spanish exchange student, and his adoption into our family.  Every year at this time, my internal clock reminds me and sends me down memory lane.  That’s because Pedro’s arrival in our home set a series of life-changing events in motion for me emotionally, spiritually, and with my writing.

While our adventures that first summer were fairly typical of the experiences of host families and their students, the relationship that ensued was not typical.  It led to a deep connection between his mother and me as we prepared for our mothers to pass away; it led to launching Pedro’s music and film composing career; and it led to my church mission to Spain last fall.

Welcome poster

Pedro’s welcome poster, July 2010.

Five Years of Celebrations

So for the last four years, I’ve deliberately marked the occasion in some personal way.

Five years later, and I realized I had never publically shared the behind the scenes story of how this all came to be.  Even the way in which Pedro ended up in our home was not the usual course of events that occurs when signing up to host a foreign exchange student. It was a whirlwind of surprises and quick decisions a few short weeks before Pedro arrived in America.

Pedro at the Nelson family piano, July 2010

Pedro at the Nelson family piano, July 2010

Rekindling an Old Friendship

The story starts in June 2010.  My oldest son was a senior in high school and auditioned to perform a classical piano piece at the Baccalaureate ceremony.  The evening of his audition, our son shared over dinner that one of the judges was Kris, a family friend from our old neighborhood.  We’d lost touch with each other through the years.  She remembered my son from way back when our kids played together.

After years of no contact, I decided to connect with Kris over email.  That started a nice string of replies back and forth and the rekindling of an old friendship.  My son passed the audition, and we made plans to see each other at the ceremony later that month.

Pedro in the recording studio, July 2011.

Pedro in the recording studio, July 2011.

Looking for Host Families

A few days later, Kris sent us an email about Education First (EF), the exchange program that she was in charge of for our area.  She asked us if we would be interested in hosting a student.  44 students from France and Spain were arriving in 4 weeks and they still needed homes for some of the students.

My husband and I had a Finnish exchange student through Rotary International in our home early on in our marriage (over 20 years ago) before we had kids.  It was such a fun experience; we were open to doing it again, and sharing the experience with our now teenage sons.

We had never heard about the EF program.  We learned EF was a short-term program, generally just a few weeks.  Some years the program involved students being in language classes during the day.  Other years the program entailed multiple planned field trips for the students, and lots of unscheduled time to be immersed in the culture and life of their host families. This particular year, was the latter program for 4 weeks in July.

We talked it over as a family and decided to give it a try.  We filled out the application, went through the home interview process, and had our references checked.  Since most everyone in my family had taken some Spanish in school, we requested to host a Spanish male student in our home.  We anxiously awaited word of who our host son would be.

Our EF leaders, Kris & Jan.

Our EF leaders, Kris & Jan.

Matching Host Families and Students

Ten days later, I eagerly opened the email that matched families with students.  When I read our host son’s profile, I was surprised to see that he didn’t play the piano.  During the initial interview process, Kris shared that there was definitely at least one student who played the piano and that we would be matched with him.

From the moment the opportunity to host an exchange student came up, I felt God was calling me to stretch myself outside of my comfort zone.  I was excited about welcoming a student into our home, but I was also nervous about it.

So when I noticed that the student assigned to our family did not play the piano, I prayed about what to do.  Was I to blindly trust that this was ‘the student’ for us?  Was I supposed to speak up and make our desires known?

I contacted Kris about our assigned student.  Her response was welcome news.  She made a mistake in assigning the students.  We were supposed to be matched with a young man from Spain who played the piano.  His name was Pedro!

Pedro in his studio in Madrid, July 2013.

Pedro in his studio in Madrid, July 2013.

First Contact

Our family had the advantage of knowing a little bit about Pedro and his family by way of the profile sheet that he filled out as part of the EF program.  Right away I sent Pedro an email introduction and family photo.  He quickly replied, sharing his excitement to visit Seattle, and about his love of music and cinema.  He had also looked up our location on Google Maps, said how beautiful it looked, and naturally asked about the rain.

Communication was also then initiated with his parents, Rosa and Rafa.  In our first email from his parents, they told us we “have friends in Spain if you want to come to visit.”  (Three years later I took them up on that offer.)

Several emails followed over the next two weeks before his arrival in our home.  It was a crazy time for us.  Our son was graduating from high school and we had an out of town trip planned to a family wedding.  Somehow I managed to prepare the house and my spirit to welcome this young man into our home in short order.  (I’m sure prayer had something to do with it.)

We had a fun filled 4 weeks together exploring Washington State, and learning about each other’s countries and cultures.  And of course, Pedro played the piano every chance he got.  Unbeknownst to us, he was also playing some of his own compositions, like “Portman,” still one of my favorites.   A few months later, he sent us “Seattle,” a song he composed and dedicated to my family.  (Click to view studio recordings or listen to songs on the media player in right sidebar.)

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Pedro, at the keyboard at the VIP screening of Tempting Fate, Houston, July 2014.

Pedro, at the keyboard at the VIP screening of Tempting Fate, Houston, July 2014.

A Match Made in Heaven

I’ve never regretted opening up our home to an exchange student or specifically to Pedro.   We were so attached to Pedro, we invited him back the next summer for a personal visit.  Five years later our families still maintain regular contact via email, Skype, or Whatsapp messaging.

It was truly a match made in heaven.

The experience has expanded my definition of family and stretched my heart, my mind, and my faith in amazing ways.  Sometimes the geographical and language barriers make our relationship challenging.  Other times it brings such great joy.

When we agreed to host an exchange student in our home, I never thought I was signing up for this kind of long-term commitment.  But I was open to being used by God; and I trusted Him each step along the way.

I have been immensely blessed by Pedro, Rosa, Rafa, and the rest of his family.  They were a conduit for the Lord’s healing to be manifested with the passing of my mother several months after Pedro returned home.  (That is the story published in Journeys to Mother Love.)  Rosa is my Sister in Christ.  I am a proud benefactor of Pedro’s music (pgarbona.com), and relish our friendship.

Pedro & his American family from Seattle, July 2010, a match made in heaven.

Pedro & his American family from Seattle, July 2010, a match made in heaven.

Be the Blessing

We never know how God is going to use some small act of kindness to bless us or others.  I hope you will give heed the next time He nudges you to do something outside of your comfort zone.  The blessing may just be on the other side of obedience.

Pedro EF

Memories: A Musical Adventure by Pedro González Arbona

If you found your way to this post you must be a fan of the music of Pedro González Arbona, or film music in general.  In my last post about Pedro’s latest CD, Memories, I gave my readers a glimpse into the making of his CD.  In this post, I am taking you on a musical adventure of the sound, movement, and artistic beauty that these songs entail.  (Click on any of the song names in this post to sample or purchase the song through Amazon.)

Memories CD Cover

Memories: A Musical Adventure

Have you ever noticed when you watch the beginning of a film how the music fills the theater as the name of the movie, main actors, director and key production personnel appear on the screen?  It is a glimpse into the music to come.  Often it is blending of some of the songs for that movie, or maybe a medley like an overture in a musical.

Memories starts in the same way with track 1, aptly named “Opening Titles.”  It is a large and extravagant piece that showcases Pedro’s musical talent and ability to draw the audience into the songs (or scenes) that follow.

Track 2 is one of Pedro’s most beautiful compositions, “The Great Beauty.”  What can I say about a song whose title sums up the music that it portrays?  Delicate, soothing, and distinctive notes from the piano, oboe, harp, and building up to the addition of some mellow horns.  Yes, it is a great beauty! (Select the song title on the media player on the right sidebar to hear this song in full.)

I first heard this beauty a few months before the screening of Pedro’s new movie, Tempting Fate.  I was already privy to his submitted work on the Tempting Fate soundtrack.  This piece seemed to take his work to an even higher level.  Yes, his work is (was) destined for the big screen.

Memories CD back cover

There are several other songs on this CD that are soft songs that would accompany slow or romantic movie scenes.  Some songs may lend themselves to a sad scene with strings accentuating the mood.

Which mood is really up to the listener.  They are all magical.  Included in this variety are “Memories,” “Dreams,” “The Crime,” “Ordinary Lives” (listen on the music player in the right sidebar), “Green View,” “Autumn,” and “Learning from Life.”

Memories contains several songs geared more on the dramatic side.  “Chaos” sounds like a scene right out of a drama or suspense film.  Riveting music that builds and takes you along with the action, glued to the music and the movie, awaiting the finale.

Another large song is “Flying.”  This song reminds me of a patriotic piece or something maybe in a war movie.  It takes me back to movies from years ago.  I can envision an old black and white movie playing as the victory is won in a waging battle.

Epic” is a song meant for a dramatic or suspenseful scene as the music builds.  The music (and the scene) end with a slow fade.  If action movies are your favorite genre, then “Action Theme” will be the song for you.  This song was used by KevStel, producer of Tempting Fate, in a short trailer alert for the movie, but was not on the soundtrack released in February 2015.  Watch the video below to check out how they used this dramatic music.

The last song on the CD is a sentimental favorite of mine, “Kalinda.”  This is Pedro’s first song that was composed for a movie.  It dates back to February 2013 when he first started to experiment with adding strings and other instruments to his piano compositions.  It was used as the trailer music for Thirst for Love, a Spanish short film directed by Chani Bas.  Check out the video below to watch the trailer and listen to “Kalinda.”

Hear it for Yourself

Memories is really music for the movie that is yet to be written.  It is from the movie in Pedro’s mind.  In time, some of these songs may accompany a movie in a theater near you.  Until then, please support Pedro’s music dreams by purchasing his CD, reviewing the music online, and liking his professional Facebook page, Pedro González Arbona, composer.

Want a copy for yourself?  Here’s the purchase links and methods to listen to his music:

Digital Downloads

Streaming

Or purchase the physical CD through my site.

For more information about Pedro González Arbona and his music, visit pgarbona.com.  Stay tuned for more updates on Pedro’s musical career and breaking news about the premiere of Tempting Fate across Nigeria and Ghana in July.

Making “Memories,” a CD by Pedro González Arbona

My desk and my mind are cleared of the clutter and busyness of life.  The most amazing music is engulfing me, stirring my senses, and begging me to share its beauty and my joy with the world.

What am I listening too?  It is the new CD by my favorite musical protégé and composer, Pedro González ArbonaMemories is Pedro’s latest foray into the music and film scoring business.

Memories CD Cover

Pedro’s Musical Background   

In the three years since Introducing Pedro González Arbona, his debut album, was released, Pedro’s music has grown by leaps and bounds.  His first album was a collection of his earliest solo piano compositions performed on a Steinway Concert grand piano in a recording studio in Seattle.  It was a gift for his 18th birthday while visiting from Madrid.  It was a monumental day for us both.

I’ve written a lot about Pedro’s love for music and how it was nurtured and inspired at an early age by cinema.  Now his work has matured and blossomed into full orchestral music that rivals the likes of other famous film composers that he admires, like John Williams (Star Wars), Hans Zimmer (most recently Interstellar), and Alexandre Desplat, winner for Best Original Score for The Grand Budapest Hotel at this year’s Academy Awards.

I don’t say this to boast, although it is hard for me to be impartial.  I say this because, at Pedro’s request, I’ve been immersing myself in various film scores over these last few years as well.  I hear the similarities and have been captivated by Pedro’s music.  Not just listening to it, but also as I witnessed it on the big screen at the VIP screening of his movie Tempting Fate, last July in Houston.

Pedro knows music!

Making Memories, the CD

While I was in Madrid last fall, Pedro and I met over dinner one night to discuss his next CD project. On another night in Madrid, he played one of his newest songs for me, “Opening Titles.”   He was fully engaged in the music, as if conducting the orchestra with an invisible baton.  This was Pedro’s first orchestrated piece, complete with pages and pages of sheet music.  Watching his delight in the final cut of this piece, and immersing myself in the music, was one of my best memories while on this trip to Spain.

Sheet music

A proud moment in Madrid: “Opening Titles” plays through Pedro’s sound system as he reviews the sheet music.

Although we collaborated in the production of the CD, it is truly his project from start to finish.  He designed the album cover, titled the album, and naturally, composed the music.  I brought his vision to completion by working in America with our music distributor, CD Baby.  They make worldwide sales and distribution via iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and other internet music sites easy for any artist.

Pedro’s album cover design (above) conjures up feelings of old time movies, before the age of digital technology, with strips of film negatives pinned to a clothesline.  Which scenes will make the final cut of the movie?  Which songs will make the final cut of the CD?

Selecting the Songs

It was a difficult process to select the final 14 songs for this CD.  The music was mostly composed over the last year during a period of prolific musical and artistic inspiration.   I received some of the songs along his composing process.  I’ve collected a large archive of his music over the past four years from his various film and internet projects or impromptu personal musical inspirations.

Some of the pieces included on the CD were composed for the Tempting Fate film, but didn’t make it to the final cut of the movie.  As I’ve come to learn, it is just part of the film composing process.  It gives Pedro the opportunity to showcase them on his CDs or use on other projects.  (The soundtrack to Tempting Fate is available on Amazon.)

Pedro also collaborated with orchestrators (credited as ‘featuring’ in the track titles) to provide the professional sound quality and feel to his music.  The final 14 songs showcase the variety of Pedro’s music composing ability.

Memories Track TitlesThe easiest way for me to describe this album is to say that even though it was not written for a specific movie or movie scenes, it is just like a soundtrack.  The songs conjure up a wide breadth of emotions that are commonly experienced in a movie:  romance, suspense, action, drama, mystery.  You’ll be hooked after the first song!  I certainly was.

So in my next post about Memories, I will take you on a behind the scenes musical adventure through his latest album.  Until then, you can preview one of my favorite songs “The Great Beauty” on Soundcloud or by selecting the song on the media player in the right sidebar on this page.

For more information about Pedro González Arbona and his music, visit pgarbona.comMemories is available for your immediate listening pleasure through any of the links below:

profileYou can show your support for this young artist’s music career by liking his page on Facebook, Pedro González Arbona, composer.

Celebrating the Sound of Music’s 50th Anniversary

The 50th anniversary of the Sound of Music was recently marked with lots of fanfare: tributes, release of a 50th Anniversary 5-disk DVD/Blu-ray collection, television programs, and special viewings of the movie in Hollywood, and across America.  I was lucky enough to attend one of the special viewings locally last weekend with some women from my church group.

SOM cast

This is not the first time I’ve written about my favorite musical and probably won’t be the last either.  It has a lot of sentimental significance to me, having first seen it as a young child in 1965, and is another connection that I have with my Spanish family.  When I told Pedro, my Spanish host son, film aficionado, and movie composer himself, that I was going to see the Sound of Music, he relayed that he and his friends wished they could also attend such an event. Unfortunately, no special viewings were planned in Spain.

Recent Media Attention

I’ve been following along with the Sound of Music media attention the past few months.  First was the Sound of Music tribute medley sung by Lady Gaga at the Academy Awards Ceremony on February 22.  Did you know that Lady Gaga practiced for six months prior to that performance so she could sing it in the same key as Julie Andrews?  They met for the first time when they embraced on stage at the Oscars.

Andrews-Lady Gaga-Oscars

Then on March 18, the ABC Television Network aired, The Untold Story of the Sound of Music.  In this program Diane Sawyer and Julie Andrews, 79, toured Salzburg, Austria and sites from the movie.  The show was a treasure trove of behind the scenes stories and Julie Andrews’ memories of filming the movie.

Photo credit: Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images

Photo credit: Ida Mae Astute/ABC via Getty Images

Me and 7.3 million other viewers were glued to the television set that night.  My favorite seen from the show was when Julie Andrews recreated the famous wedding march at the Salzburg Cathedral (starting at 6 minutes in the video below).

I’ve never been to Salzburg, but I have been in numerous Cathedrals in Spain in recent years.  It reminded me of those grand Cathedrals, making that scene come more alive for me than ever before.  The scenes with the Alps towering over Salzburg also reminded me of my time in the French Alps last fall.  Priceless!

Then on March 26 in Hollywood, CA, the Turner Classic Movies: TCM Film Festival kicked off when Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer reunited to introduce the opening-night screening of the Sound of Music.  They have been good friends for years, but he hadn’t embraced his role in the movie until recently.

Andrew-Plummer-TCM Festival

Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer, 50 years later, opening night at the TCM Film Festival.

Popularity of the Sound of Music

Here’s some background and historical context behind the musical’s popularity:

  • The Sound of Music is the third highest grossing motion picture in the United States and the most successful movie musical of all time.
  • In 1966, at the 38th annual Academy Awards, the Sound of Music won 5 Oscars, including Best Picture.
  • The soundtrack to the Sound of Music peaked at Number 1 on the Billboard charts on November 13, 1965, edging out HELP! by the Beatles.
  • Salzburg has only 150,000 people live there, but attracts 6.5 million tourists annually, most in search of reliving the scenes from the movie.  (A bucket list item for me too!)

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Those numbers don’t lie.  So what’s the big deal about the Sound of Music?  Why does it resonate with so many of us?  Why does it resonate worldwide?

Here’s what I think:

The Sound of Music portrays a message of hope, sacrifice, courage, love, and faith.  It’s a movie about following your heart and standing up for what you believe.  It is interspersed with a powerful message of trusting God and His timing.  It’s the classic triumph of good over evil—with the added bonus of a love story.  Plus it’s a real-life story with songs that compel us to ‘sing once more’ (a line from the song “The Sound of Music”).

Both of the main characters had strong convictions.  Captain von Trapp, played by Christopher Plummer, was loyal to his country.  However when he was ordered to serve as a military officer for the Third Reich, he and his family fled his beloved Austria, leaving their home and possessions behind.

Maria, played by Julie Andrews, brought her cheerful disposition and Christian beliefs into the von Trapp home as a governess, the 12th in a long line of successors.  She had to face her fears as she left the Abbey to follow God’s will in this new position.  She stayed true to her religious and moral convictions in caring for the children despite Captain von Trapp’s attempt to run the house like a military compound.  That meant no play time for the children.  They were to march around the grounds for recreation.  Maria brought music and laughter back to the home, and melted the Captain’s heart in the process.  She was not meant to be a nun, but her identity in Christ was strong and led her to serve in His Kingdom in other ways.

Spanish Appeal

When Pedro entered our home and our lives in the summer of 2010, music in general, and the Sound of Music specifically, was one of the ways that our friendship was bridged across cultural, language, and geographical barriers.  It was the universal language of music that connected us.  So I recently asked Pedro more about the significance of the musical to him and how it is regarded in Spain.

Pedro’s first time viewing the movie was when he was about four years old.  Due to the global popularity of the movie, his parents owned it, and he watched it at home with them.  The movie was translated into Spanish, which means that the songs were also dubbed with Spanish lyrics.  The Spanish version of the movie is Sonrisas y Lagrimas.  In English, that literally translates to Smiles and Tears.

SOM SpanishThe musical is a favorite of Spanish children.  Pedro’s nieces learned “Do Re Mi” in school.  That led to my delightful experience singing the song with them while on holiday on Mallorca, Spain with his family in the summer of 2013.

The first time Pedro saw a live performance of the Sound of Music was when we took him to the musical theater in the Bavarian themed town of Leavenworth, Washington.  It was there, surrounded by the Cascade Mountains, that he watched the musical for the first time in English.  It was a gift for his 17th birthday.

SOM Leavenworth

Naturally, Pedro’s love for movie soundtracks was also nurtured by this great movie at an early age.  That led to his playing many of the songs to the musical in our home that first summer.  Like music brought life back to Captain von Trapp, the summer of 2010 was the summer that music brought me back to life too.  I still have original recordings of Pedro’s impromptu practice sessions on the piano. (Muchas gracias, Pedro!)

Our Girls’ Night Out Movie Experience

I wish I could say that the theater was packed as my friends and I watched the special viewing of the Sound of Music.  I had expected to see a large crowd.  I think the 70 degree whether outside, a rare phenomenon for April in Seattle, had something to do with it.  Nonetheless, it was an enjoyable outing with friends.

One woman had never seen the movie before.  I asked her about her observations, as an objective viewer.  My friend was surprised to learn that it was a true story.  She also had heard some of the songs before, but now had meaning to put to them.  There were a lot of surprising twists to the movie for her, including thinking that the movie ended when the Captain and Maria wed.

Overall, it was an enjoyable movie-going experience.  Having seen the movie on the big screen last year at the Sound of Music Sing-a-Long, I think I was a bit spoiled having watched it so recently.  I wanted to sing at this event too, but that would’ve ruined the experience for everyone else.  So in that regard, it wasn’t the big sentimental teary experience that I thought I might have.

It has renewed my love for the musical again.  I’m still singing the songs around the house and in my mind because “My Favorite Things” isn’t just a song in the movie.  The Sound of Music really is one of my favorite things.

Are you a fan of the Sound of Music?  When was the first time you saw the musical?  I’d love to hear your Sound of Music memory in the comments below.

Going Gaga for the Academy Awards

I woke up yesterday morning to see a flood of social media attention to the 87th annual Academy Awards show. That is nothing unusual on the day following the annual telecast. What stood out was not people weighing in on the winners and losers, but on “The Sound of Music” tribute performance by Lady Gaga.

Going Gaga for the Sound of Music

I am not a Lady Gaga fan, but I am a big fan of “The Sound of Music.” Her performance was incredible, giving me new respect for her musical talent. She was a stunning vision of beauty in a shimmery white sleeveless evening gown and long blonde hair that caressed her bare shoulders. (I was a bit distracted by her obvious love for tattoos, and tried to look past that to enjoy the overall performance.) The stage setting was also beautifully choreographed, with a background of white birch trees, surrounded by a virtuoso of violinists, and framed by twinkling lights arched over the stage.

If you missed her performance, you can watch it here.

I’ve written about my connection with “The Sound of Music” on other occasions—once after attending a Sound of Music Sing-A-Long event, and another post during my adventures in Spain. I felt inspired to write a post about this again the night of the Oscars but decided against it.

“How silly to write about the Academy Awards,” I thought to myself.

After all, isn’t it just an awards show geared to the rich and famous, and full of Hollywood hype? Truthfully, that used to be my opinion of it, not really paying much attention to the awards, and rarely seeing the nominated films. That has changed in recent years with my Spanish connection and friendship with Pedro González Arbona, a young film composer.

Going Gaga for Nominated Films

Every year, Pedro sends my family his Oscar predictions and posts them on Facebook. He also sends me personal reviews of which movies he thinks I would like, taking into account my dislike of violence and my Christian values. My front row seat to his blossoming music career has also given me insight to the world of film composing. He shares his favorite composers and film music with me as well.

A few days ago, my family went to see “The Imitation Game,” nominated for Best Picture and starring Benedict Cumberbatch, nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role. It was a great movie. As a writer I was drawn into the way they told the story, interweaving the past and present from the perspective of Alan Turing (played by Cumberbatch). I loved the history, especially having now traveled to Europe. I loved the unfolding of the story and the development of the characters.   And I loved the music!

the-imitation-game-poster

At the end of the movie, I patiently waited for the name of the composer to appear on the screen. As I watched the credits scroll before me and was immersed in the music, I thought how the music sounded like Pedro’s music. I thought, “Pedro can compose like this.” I’ve seen and heard it before. Regrettably, I didn’t do my homework before going to see the movie or I would’ve paid more attention to the music. That is because the film was scored by Alexandre Desplat (also nominated for Best Original Score)—Pedro’s favorite composer.

Going Gaga for Film Music

I only caught the tail end of the Academy Awards show, rushing home from a meeting at church, just in time to catch Lady Gaga’s amazing performance. Pedro was watching the show live (televised starting at 3 AM in Spain) and texted me during the performance. We both have a love and connection to this musical. He played the music in our home the summer we met and attended a live performance of the musical in the mountains near Leavenworth, Washington. It was a very special and memorable evening.

At the end of the performance, Julie Andrews came out on the stage, hugged Lady Gaga, and thanked her for such a fitting tribute to the movie. Julie Andrews proceeded to introduce the nominees for Best Original Score and made some opening remarks about how music cements our memories in the film going experience.

Pedro texted me: “Here is the moment.” He was predicting Alexandre Desplat to win for “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Earlier in the day he said to listen for his scream if Alexandre won the award.

Alexandre did win the award! I let out a squeal myself. Moments later my phone pinged his response: “Incredible,” Pedro texted me. “Did you hear me scream?”

“Si, y mi?” I texted back. (English translation: Yes, and me?)

Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Alexandre Desplat acceptance speech for Best Original Score/The Grand Budapest Hotel (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Why was I so excited? Why was I so engaged in the Oscars and interested in this award category? Because I believe in Pedro’s dream, and I know how important film composing is to his future.

However, I’m not the only one. After last year’s winner was announced for Best Original Score (Steven Price for Gravity), Pedro received an email from the producer/director of his movie “Tempting Fate,” offering the same kind of encouragement to Pedro. He sees the possibilities in Pedro.

A few minutes after Alexandre Desplat accepted his award, Graham Moore was announced as the winner for Best Adapted Screenplay (The Imitation Game). In his acceptance speech, he mentioned his attempted suicide as a teen because he felt “different and weird.” He encouraged young people watching at home to keep believing in themselves and that one day they would have their moment. It was truly inspiring.

Going Gaga for Our Dreams

For me, the Academy Awards show is about people working hard, believing in themselves (against the odds) and fulfilling their dreams. Just like I believe Pedro will one day. He has the talent and the gift of composing beautiful music. With a little luck, and I believe the Lord’s favor, he will walk across that stage one day, or at least be nominated, if not in America, in Spain for their prestigious Goya Awards.

So watching Lady Gaga and the 87th Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday night was very personal to me. My heart has been blessed with the sound of music:

  • Pedro’s simple piano playing of the Rogers & Hammerstein classics,
  • Pedro’s first solo piano compositions (Introducing Pedro González Arbona),
  • Pedro’s movie soundtrack pieces for “Tempting Fate,” and most recently
  • the release of his full orchestral album, Memories.

I went gaga for Lady Gaga’s tribute to the musical that has touched my life, and I continue to go gaga for the future of Pedro González Arbona. (I am his American manager after all.)

Congratulations Alexandre Desplat and all the winners and nominees of the 87th annual Academy Awards. Dream on!

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    I'm an author, writer, speaker, mentor & mom. I've struggled to find my voice all my life as I lived in the shadows of a mother with mental illness. Thankfully that was not the legacy that she handed down to me. It took a lot of recovery and deep healing work to rise above it.

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