The Chorus Should Speak to Everyone

I recently wrote about the challenge of creating a chorus. I explained that the chorus should speak to everyone who hears the song. The more relevant the message and emotion expressed is to each person, the more apt they will be to want to sing.

So, how can I create a chorus about a female Holocaust survivor that will speak to both men and women and people from all walks of life and religions?

The chorus I started with focused on the emotion and innocence of a young woman trying to understand what was happening to her and why.

Young, so very young
For the things that I went through
I would never have survived.
But the dear lord was with me.
And I survived
Yes I alone survived

Malcolm chimed in and offered the idea of the emotion of wanting to believe in people. This is a universal concept, one that I believe we can each relate to in the context of our own lives. So, the next chorus focused on this idea.

The chorus also needs to be focused. If there are too many different ideas and emotions, the effect is less powerful.

So, when I started reshaping the chorus, I began with many emotions and messages.

All my pain I want to forget
I want to believe in people
I want children to know the truth
What one person can do to another
How it feels to lose everything [all at once]

There is a lot going on in these five lines:

Wanting to forget pain.

Wanting communicate truth.

Wanting to believe in people.

Wanting to share painful experiences with future generations.

Wanting to encourage people to help one another.

Wanting to share what it felt like to lose everything.

Malcolm suggested that perhaps the most powerful idea that could be relevant to many people was the desire to believe in the good intentions of people and that people can help each other. So, we shaped the words to focus on that idea while still using Amy’s verbatim words as much as possible.

I want to believe in people
I want children to know the truth
What one person can do to another
And what one person can do for another
I want to believe

In my view, this chorus is relevant to a human life in many contexts and situations. It was derived from a Holocaust survivor’s story, but I can also connect it to my own life and experiences.

Another challenge in chorus creation is that the chorus must make sense in the context of the verses that are revealing the story in parts. I don’t want to give anything away in the chorus that will affect the power of the final verse and/or bridge. In other words, the original chorus lets the audience know that this woman survived. This may detract from the tension that builds over the course of the story that is following her experiences trying to survive a Holocaust that spanned many years.

I have been shaping verses from Amy’s longer story. I decided to start at the beginning of the Holocaust when Amy’s family was taken to concentration camps and end with the most powerful, culminating event at the end of the war when a commandant held the final decision on her survival. There were many pivotal events over the years that were meaningful. I chose to focus on the beginning of the war to provide a context for the story and the end of the war to build tension in words and the melody I will create.
Stay tuned for the next steps in songwriting using the STS method.

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