Memorial Day Singled Out: Wizards of Winter
We started to assemble material for our new album a couple of months ago. Despite actually being quite different, we are often compared to The Trans Siberian Orchestra due to our roots and our partnership with some of their original members. I was looking for something that would make a statement for us as an independent group to provide some much-needed separation. In addition to completely original songs, I thought it would be good to look at songs with melodies that might be somewhat familiar, yet had not been reworked in a very long time. In my search, I came across "March of the Toys" originally written by Victor Herbert. Many will probably recognize it from the old Laurel and Hardy classic. Upon listening to it, a completely different vision for the song formed in my head. Rather than toy soldiers marching to the sound of muted trumpets, I saw something much bigger. In my mind's eye, what I heard and saw was an arena with gladiators entering to do battle, or a football team entering a packed stadium. I thought that a melody lead by guitars with a majestic sound very reminiscent of Brian May and Queen would fit the bill for this perfectly to bring this vision to life. I always wanted it to somewhat have the regal feel of ELP's version of Aaron Copeland's "Fanfare for the Common Man".
I toyed with the concept for a while before bringing it to the band. As I did, my thoughts turned more to the military and the struggles of our wounded warriors. It is something near and dear to us in my family since my son-in-law is a wounded warrior. We happen to have a plaque on the wall in my home that calls out the slogans of each of the military branches. Semper Fi (Always Faithful) of the US Marines is the most recognizable one, but each branch has its own. It occurred to me to take each of the slogans and convert them to Latin. The words together jointly are loosely translated as "Always faithful, not self but country. This we will defend. Integrity, service, always ready. These colors won't ever run." This seemed like a fitting tribute to all that sacrifice for our freedom. In presentation, it was both triumphant yet mournful at the same time.
I brought the concept to the band and they looked at me as if I had gone mad! Latin? Really? Steve Ratchen (bass), and Tommy Ference (drums) and I laid down a scratch track to make it easier for everyone to get the concept. I tried to articulate what I was looking for with the guitar sound, where leads would take place, and what the feel of them should be. The guys (Fred Gorhau and Kenny Sheldon) immediately jumped in and crafted some really great parts. Our vocalists, (Sharon Kelly, Meg Williams, and Mary McIntyre) then tackled the task of mastering the Latin phrasing which was no simple task. However, when we finally all got in the studio to work with our engineer Tom Corea, it actually just all came together quite nicely.
Donating to charitable organizations has always been one of the group's core values. We will be providing a portion of the proceeds of the sale of this song to the Wounded Warrior Project. It is the least we can do for those that have given so much. We hope you all enjoy it and will help us support this worthy cause.