Of all the songs we had on deck (and of all the songs we PREMIERED!) at Lincoln Center, I was perhaps most excited to let this one out of the bag. I'm super proud out it. Perhaps because it did not come easy. I'm normally a fast writer. I edit for a long time, but the primary chunk, the main idea-- the heart and soul of what the song's lyrics are going to be-- pretty much all happen in about fifteen minutes. That sort of makes me feel like a brat just saying it, but it's mostly a "don't force it" kind of situation.
Anyhow. This was not one of those fifteen minutes get in/get out kind of things. We knew we wanted a song about a certain feeling of change that Alix feels when she's brought to the brink. Years of stress and hiding her son's illness and just in-your-bones fear that she'd lose the son and heir she waited ten years for. The political scene is precarious and relies heavily on her son being perceived as the future of Russia.
Also, she's a bit of a religious zealot. Highly interested in mystics, etc, but I mean, cut her some slack. I'd probably be pretty desperate to put my faith in anything I thought would work if I had a sick kid too.
When the song begins, she's been told it's basically the end for Alexei and only a matter of time before he's gone. She's essentially begging for grace. And then, mid way through the song, she receives a telegram from a mystic who would change the course of her family's lives. The telegram was simple: just to leave the boy alone; to not fuss over him too much. And sure enough, his health improved and from that moment on, Grigori Rasputin was adopted into the Romanov family with catastrophic results.
We wanted to simulate the feeling of a telegraph and morse code signals, so listen for that. And Steven and I kept circling around what the central 'idea' of the song should be. I kept saying, nope, nope, not quite right; a little too general. And finally, I had it and went away to birth this one. A difficult labor. But happy with the results. I felt a bit like the emotions expressed in the lyrics themselves by the time I was done.
I wish I'd filmed the sound check which was pretty much flawless. This is marathon, labor of love five minute anthem to sing. And we're still streamlining scansion and tempos. Also, it's a good lesson to not have favorites in your own lyrics. Lyrics will always be flubbed for the rest of time and eternity. And chances are, if you have favorites, it'll be those. "So many prayers unanswered, bargains made and nights unslept, your words fold the space between promises broken and kept" will turn into a repeat of the last line. And no one will know but you.
The best thing about Autumn is that I cease to care about what I wrote and only feel the emotion of her performance. Which is... the point, actually. Which she has always, always been a master of. Every time. I look forward to much much more of this song and Autumn. And this show and Autumn. Just...one of the most beautiful people all around, of all time.
Like Nic & Alix on facebook here. Photos by Daniel Robinson