When we are gone from this place, a dim remembered face Can bind us all together, our mothers and our sons And every link in that chain, forged with love, blood and pain Can remind us all forever of where once we had begun All the salt in the sea ___ preserve me orig. "cannot" All the heat in the fire ___ bring my heart's desire orig. "cannot" All the birds in the sky ___ teach me to fly orig. "cannot" ___ the love in my soul can keep me whole orig. "But" Now if we have purpose here, give up duty and fear Cherish family, cherish friends, our fathers and our daughters To each moment hold fast, as if each were your last And hope each day will end with embraces, smiles and laughter All the salt ... When reasoned thought can't explain untold suffering and pain Take solace in good company, our partners and our neighbours If we strive, do our best to fill their hearts with happiness Then our own soon full can be, and so reward our labours All the salt ...
recording: Jess Arrowsmith (solo) [YouTube]
In Montague, we have been workshopping other verb/conjunction options in the chorus, inspired by some of our singers for whom the first three scenarios posed by the chorus are possibilities, not impossibilities, following their spiritual beliefs.
The chorus as originally written follows the priamel poetic form of "to understand D you need to compare it with A, B, and C" (or "three statements followed by a solution or resolution" as our resident classicist described it, as exemplified in verse from Sappho to Bette Midler) offering first three statements of adynaton (a form of hyperbole taken to impossible extremes, here each phrased with "cannot", as practiced widely in classical texts, scripture, and Shakespeare) followed by a solution set in opposition to these with the conjunction "But". The fourth statement, in danger of sounding twee if uttered in isolation, is given gravitas through setting its worldly truth in opposition to fantastic impossibilities. But this only holds if one agrees they are impossible.
After enthusiastic discussion amongst our singing session (where we have often adapted song lyrics to suit local, timely, or personal connections), we decided to play with a "Yes, And" Game form of the chorus, where the three increasingly improbable-sounding scenarios are each stated as possibilities through a modal verb such as "can", "could", or "may", building a sense of magic which climaxes in a final fourth "yes, and" statement. Here the fourth statement declares love to be simultaneously both worldly and magical, and moreover through the "yes, and" game's constantly-intensifying nature elevates love to be a higher magic than all those which precede it.
To explore this in the context of a singing session, at each of the blanks in the chorus the song leader drops out for a beat (or quietly sings a non-word vocalisation) as other singers each try out words, producing a chorus of collective individual explorations (with which the original lyrics in priamel form may be juxtaposed by some singers). We may find with further singing and discussion that we collectively settle on a consistent alternate modal verb, or perhaps we may leave the experiment open-ended enabling and encouraging singers to seek and sing lyrics personally resonant in dialogue with one another, creating a chorus whose collective lyrics vary depending on which singers are present and what feels true to each singer in that moment: a chorus with a beautiful lyrical framework given unlimited possibility of meaning.