Helping Charities Sparkle

I started supporting other businesses while networking. It was the ideal way to show what I could do. So I asked business owners to put me in touch with charities who might appreciate and be able to use a jingle, free of charge.

The first to want to collaborate was Val at Business Against Poverty. She wanted a custom cover song to explain what it is Business Against Poverty did. I wrote lyrics over three well-known songs and sent a recording of me singing them. Val chose Volare in the style of the Gypsy Kings.

Later the same year, I was put in touch with the Brain Tumor Support charity. They run a Sparkle campaign where people are encouraged to get dressed up and raise money through community activities such as running, or a coffee and cake event. They wanted an original song and used it at the end of the event to capture different ‘sparkly’ photos that had been sent to them.

I met with the Ian, the founder of the Stan Bowley Trust to see what I could create for them. One of their money-raising campaigns is counting steps to represent the distance Stan Bowley had to travel to get cancer treatment. Asking volunteers to count and record their steps, is a brilliant a meaningful way to raise money for cancer treatment technology to be available in the UK. One of the campaign slogans was ‘Best Foot Forward’, so I used that, along with Ian’s request that it should be a realistic, but hopeful call-to-action song. I found doing research for the song very interesting and awe-inspiring what the charity was doing.

I have no doubt there’ll be more charitable songs in the future, including a song in celebration of Off The Fence‘s 25th Anniversary. They help homeless and vulnerable people in Brighton & Hove. It was a pleasure to collaborate with them. As Off The Fence’s Sara is an excellent singer they wanted to perform the vocals themselves, so I have left the composition in their care. 

Toilet Roll of Love

This is my musical tribute to the brilliant eco-friendly company, Who Gives A Crap? Their toilet rolls kept us going during the shortage in 2020, and our household is huge fans of their products and the company’s values. Not only is all of their packaging plastic-free and recyclable, they also donate half of their profits to help build toilets in areas worldwide where they are desperately needed.

The song’s style came from the phrase ‘Toilet Roll of Love’. I knew it had to be a ballad, and two songs came to mind. Cherish by Kool & the Gang, and The Most Beautiful Girl in the World, by Prince. After writing a few lyrical phrases in the first chorus, I let the music take the lead and enjoyed discovering where the verse went. I then wrote the lyrics over it. The most important thing for me was to include that Who Gives a Crap are both sustainable, and donate profits to build toilets. Although the song is quite high for a baritone singer, adding harmonies to this was a delight!

Maths by Music

Music and poetry can be playful, useful tools for memorizing information. With these three songs, I had fun applying Mathematics to music.

With schools starting a new year (this was recorded in September), the timing for this musical experiment was ideal. The reason I started creating them though was because I’ve been listening to Amaranth by Nightwish a lot. It’s one of my favourite songs at the moment, with a incredible chorus that both rocks and hits all the right harmonies. When the chorus starts, I started playing with the lyrics. Rather than ‘Caress the one’, I thought, ‘Carry the one’ would be  a brilliant start to a mathematical parody of the song, or in other words, an excellent mathematics ear-worm.  In the final version, it became ‘Carry the number’, to apply to other sums, but the education train had begun!

The subject I tackled for the next song was algebra. I found an education website that referred to ‘X’ being an unknown quantity. When I saw that to get X, you needed to balance the entire equation, I summarized this in my head. That’s when ‘Into the Unknown’ from Frozen 2 crept in. It’s a perfect quick way to summarize this process.

Finally, when looking for another mathematical area to write about, my wife suggested Pythagoras’ Theorem. The word that gave me my song choice was ‘hypotenuse’. It’s an odd, barely-used word, and it’s closest sounding neighbour is hippopotamus. The classic comic song by Flanders and Swann was a joy to work with!

The music the songs are based on are: Into the Unknown by Idina Menzel and AURORA, Amaranth by Nightwish, and The Hippopotamus Song by Flanders and Swann.

First Bird of my Day

Inspired by the brilliant  @Hannah Bourne-Taylor , this theme tune is dedicated to the community that starts their day by ‘tweeting’ what bird they’ve seen. Positivity and an affinity with nature are ingredients I’d like more of in my everyday life.

This composition was music-lead. I had the first question (‘what’s your first bird of the day?’) I knew I wanted it to be light and airy, like the subject itself. As I was adding the piano part with bass, I found there were natural hooks and key changes that I felt the song should go in. Writing lyrics to such a musical journey is exciting! Each section had a certain feel. The first was the announcement or subject. The second upbeat section was the context (the best part of the morning is basking in the birdlife). The third part, which steadily progresses in pitch, was the perfect place to list some of the bird species. Finally, the subject section, to book-end the song.

Finally, the flute and clarinet  harmonies gave the music a bird-like flourish at the top end.

Thought Garden Theme Song

When Rachel approached me to create a theme song for her podcast, I was excited by the challenge. It was a personal interviewer-interviewee conversation, but connecting it back to nature and what thoughts the audience could take into their daily lives. Rachel wanted a nature-themed song, but to avoid the cliches such as mimicking birdsong and the expressive flourish of a harp. Instead, she wanted a livelier country vibe that had a connection to nature but also kept its feet firmly on he ground.

We had a couple of passes at creating the right sound, and eventually landed on a hybrid from the ideas. The result was this mellow but upbeat number. Rachel was pleased, and as a listener of her podcast, it gave me much satisfaction to hear it introduce and conclude the episodes.

Rachel Woods is a passionate coach who helps guide clients by helping them discover themselves and where they want to get to. She is also an HR specialist and is can provide invaluable support to HR. professionals. Her Thought Garden podcast is available on Spotify, Apple, Listennotes and other streaming services. She is starting a new podcast called We’re Human, launching in September 2022.

Flex 4×5 YouTube Series

I met Bridgette Sunman when networking online. Bridgette is a yoga instructor, Life Coach and Wellbeing Professional. She was keen to share her knowledge within an online series demonstrating short, easy exercises that people could do from home. She approached me as she wanted a theme tune for the series.

For this theme tune I tried to walk the fine line between relaxing, comforting, but without sending the listener to sleep. This was an exercise series after all. Once Bridgette had selected her favourite idea I created the final mix ready to use.

If I had to select my favourite elements from the song, it would be the section from the 7th to the 9th second after the first chord change. The guitar notes momentarily whisk me away to the Mediterranean! As for my least favourite part, if I was to redo this song now, I would look for a different instrument sound for the keyboard at the end (15-20 seconds) as it doesn’t quite sit right with the guitars for me.

Bridgette Suman is a lovely and very experienced life coach, whose business is called B Active for Change. The Flex 4×5 series is available on her YouTube channel.

It Begins with an Instrumental

Today, the music wanted to be written, and I wanted to work on a more positive subject after tackling world news the day before. The result is ‘It Begins’. The idea is simple but the rhythm is a playful 6/4 and allows for different harmonies to jump around.

To me it is the expression of a spark or an idea that becomes something greater. With that in mind, I complemented it with motivational photographs that encourage the viewer to take the next step on their journey.

Shelf Indulgence Theme

This is a jingle I composed for the absolutely lovely Shelf Indulgence team. They are book enthusiasts who created a podcast on Microbrew Radio to discuss the books they’d read. More info below.

What Wendy of Shelf Indulgence requested was musical segues to introduce regular sections of the podcast, but once I discovered the name of their podcast I was keen to create a jingle as well.

Many years ago, I created an a cappella song on my multi-track cassette machine called ‘Self Indulgence’. It was a song that stayed with me, as it’s a particularly strong ear-worm. With some lyrical updates the song was ready to perform.

See No Bounds Theme

Networking is an integral part of any business, and so it proved to be when I met Jamie and Charlott. I met Jamie on a zoom call during an online networking event. He and Charlott had set up a networking directory called See No Bounds, and being a positive opportunist, he offered me the chance to join for the price of a jingle.

Every week they interviewed and promoted one of their members and wanted to enliven the introduction. After talking with them I knew what mood they wanted to capture and that it needed to align with their 30 second video countdown.

It was a delight to create. I really enjoyed the challenge of providing an uplifting mood that gradually built towards the end to set up the beginning of Jamie and Charlott’s show.

As for See No Bounds, it was an excellent investment and has grown into a valuable, trusted community.

Overwhelm of These Days

When looking for inspiration for a song, ended became swept up in the news, and These Days reflects that sense of overwhelm. It’s important to see the light and hope, and I wish you all a positive day, no matter what is going on.

Winter crisis is coming,
Climate crisis has come.
Leaders keep profiteering,
But Earth’s profits are none.

What are we here for?

Water floods Pakistan,
Russian tanks flood Ukraine,
China threatens Taiwan,
Europe’s desperate for rain.

How long are we here for?

I know you don’t think it’s right,
I know, cause I feel the same.
Don’t know when the ends in sight,
But I hope that we’ll remain.

It may be a chink of light,
But I’ll sail there anyway.
If one day, they ask me ‘why’?
I don’t want to be to blame…

For these days.
They deserve much better,
Then these days.
We must help each other,
Through these days.

Photos used during the verse are from BBC and CNN websites. The two photos of hope in the chorus are by Marc-Olivier Jodoin and Nick Fewings on Unsplash.