A Chat with Paul Jarman, Part 1

Introduction

Here is the Crescendo Music Education Podcast – Episode 38. Finally, finally, finally I get to chat to Paul Jarman. We’ve been trying to make this happen for quite some time now with bad internet connections and I don’t know, life, getting in our way. But I finally had to have my chat with Paul Jarman. Those of you who do not know the amazing work of Paul Jarman (Jarms) then you really need to find it, have a look at it, listen to it. It’s just amazing.

I knew that this was going to be a really interesting chat, because I just think Paul has an amazing, not only a great talent, but a really lovely heart and advanced musicianship skills and storytelling skills. It’s just an inspiration to be around. So I just knew this would be a good podcast. As it turns out, it’s actually going to be three podcasts. His journey is so interesting. Enjoy part one.

About ‘Read the Episode’: Sometimes, we would rather skim visually than listen to a podcast! That’s a great way to learn too! The transcript of episode 038 of The Crescendo Music Education Podcast is below.


Episode 38 “Read the Episode” Transcript

Introducing Paul Jarman

Debbie
And welcome to the Crescendo Music Education podcast, Mr. Paul Jarman. Hello.


Paul Jarman
Gday. Thanks so much, Debbie, for having me along. It’s great to see you.


Debbie
We have been trying to record this for some time now. I’m glad we finally pinned it down with good internet.


Paul Jarman
Yes, I am at a friend’s house in town. So just to let you all know, we live in a property not far from here. It’s only five kilometers up the road. But we live in a very mountainous area. And so it’s soon as you’re behind a couple of alleys – your internet’s much slower. So the upload and download combination is just that bit under to record a good zoom. So it’s good having friends in town.


Debbie
That is fabulous. And it’s good for me that you have friends in town, actually, Jarms. You have friends all over the world, you know that. But it is good for me that one of them lives close and has internet.


Paul Jarman
Yeah. Well, thanks so much for having me. I really appreciate it. It’s a great idea what you’re doing and getting all these amazing people together. And it actually just goes to show how many friends you’ve got and how much they respect you Deb.

Paul Jarman’s Biography


Debbie
Aww, thank you. Okay, that’s the end of the podcast. That’s all I wanted out of you. Bye. No, not at all. Okay, I’m actually going to start with a little bit of your bio. Now I’m not reading all of it. It’s extensive, and it’s impressive. So I will get it up on the website, I guess not your full full bio, because that’s probably a novel, but a more extensive bio. I will put in the show notes. So if people want to read more they can but in case you’ve never heard of Paul Jarman, well do yourself a favour and find out about him.

But anyway, he is a widely acclaimed Australian composer, performer, music director, conductor and educator. His music has inspired singers and audiences around the world. As a cultural ambassador he has performed extensively throughout Australia, Europe, Asia, North America and the Pacific, in over 40 countries with theater productions, dance ensembles, Aboriginal Anglo Celtic performance groups, choirs and orchestras in festivals, special events, schools, towns.

Can I just say at this point, I’ll just go dot dot dot? There is so much and most people in music education, certainly in music education in Australia know of Paul Jarman and his wonderful work and his giving, inspiring nature. So I’ll let people read the details, as I’ve said, but is there anything you want to tell people specifically about your bio? Before we go on?


Paul Jarman
Oh, well, I wrote it. So don’t believe a word of it. No, bios are interesting things, aren’t they? Yeah, but um, look it’s, I’m just one of those grateful musicians really, I’ve really have had a fantastic experience in my career and where I am today, and I probably would share this with a lot of younger musicians is you know, it’s important to know this, that often you’ll end up in a place you didn’t even know you were heading, you know, and where I am today and the world that I’m in with music.

If you told me that 30 years ago when I started out that this is what I’d be doing, I just wouldn’t have even understood it, let alone dreamed that that’s what I would be doing. You know, so I think music and the arts in general but music particularly it’s so diverse, you know, and I’m just a grateful musician who’s managed to be part of so many different aspects of the of the music industry, you know, and I literally just started out just as a player, you know, just playing in bands.


Debbie
Don’t say just, okay. Don’t say just. So you were playing in a band, and were your visions, say 30 years ago, your visions were you were going to be a performer? And what happened? And how did your trajectory change? Or should I say not change? Split?


Paul Jarman
Yeah, look, I was very lucky. I mean, like I said, I came from maybe a, look sheltered is the wrong word, because I, you know, had a fantastic youth, my parents were great, we actually traveled around the world, very much on a budget, but you know, I had really adventurous parents that introduced us to a lot of music and my whole family are musicians or connected to it, all my siblings. So we had a great experience. But you know, I’m a child of the 70’s. And growing up where I did in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, the world seemed so much further away, you know, than it does for kids these days.

So the word sheltered is wrong to say it in that context, but I hope it describes to everyone sort of how I saw the world because I had no idea that I could even jump on a plane and go away and travel and tour, it just wasn’t in my periphery, you know, from my sort of Western Sydney, you know, background. I guess anyone who’s lived in the burbs back in the 70s, and 80s, would probably understand what I’m talking about, you know, there is no internet, there’s, you know, those dreams just weren’t there.

So, you know, for me, I was a bit of a dreaming hippie muso. Oh, you know, I just wanted to play in bands. And that’s where I just saw my whole life. And I used to do a lot of bushwalking, and rock climbing, and I was into sort of that natural world, too. So a lot of my playing, you know, and a lot of people don’t know this about me, but I’ve learned a lot of my instruments underneath waterfalls, and out on the side of mountains, and I just take instruments out to the bush and, you know, I’d sit there sometimes for days, or even a week or so, and just play music and read books.

And that’s sort of how I started out, you know, I was just playing in rock bands, if you want to call them that, I had a couple of bands that were you know, we were thinking we were going to do the thing, and we supported some famous bands, and we went on tour, and we made no money. But gee, did we have fun, and they were, you know, they were awesome, you know, experiences. And I’m talking about playing back in the Sydney pub scene back in the 80s, you know, at the Lansdowne, and the Hopetown, and Vic on the Park and we go and play in clubs and pubs where there were seven bands on in one night, and we’d be on at 3am in the morning.

You know, we’d be getting falafels on the side of the road as the sun came up. And that’s sort of how you lived your life, you know, and, you know, these are pub, pubs full of smoke, and you know, it’s just a different world, you know, but it was just fantastic. You know, and I loved it. And to fund that I actually just took on private students, you know, this is in my early 20s, you know, that got me through and things were building, but they weren’t really going anywhere. I was at the time too I actually did some work on the side, I worked in a law firm for two years, full time, like working in a law firm.


Debbie
Doing what in the law firm?


Paul Jarman
Pretty much just a general rouseabout I didn’t have a law degree, but when I was at school, I did two part time jobs. This was after school, I actually worked in a law firm two nights a week just doing their books and catalogs, and you know, that sort of filing sort of job. So I’d jump on the train after school and catch it down to the city. And I’d work in this law firm until like, you know, 11pm at night, and then catch the train all the way back home to the Blue Mountains and get into bed about you know 12.30am.

So that was one of my jobs. And the other job I had actually was in the Australian Army because I was always in the Australian Army Reserves, because I spent all my time out in the bush, you know, and I thought, well, I’d pretty much just get paid doing what I like doing. So that’s how I got myself through year 11 and 12.


Debbie
Did you, wow.


Paul Jarman
You know, so when, when I when I was a young musician in my 20’s and I had quite a, I probably won’t go into too much now. But I had a very serious incident in my life. When I was 19 I got hit by a truck. I was a motorbike rider and yeah, this guy just went through a stop sign and wiped me out. Yeah, that was when I was I was 19.

And it took me pretty much about a year but two full years, I’d say to get over it and recover from all my injuries and a lot of soul searching, a lot of thinking but you know, as a young guy, I can’t really remember the process of getting over it really, except getting in touch with my body and knowing how the body heals from things. But anyway, to cut a long story short, after that accident, I needed a job. You know, I didn’t have any really real prospects. I was 21 years old when when I sort of started to recover. So I rang up the law firm that I used to work at after school and they were fantastic. They just gave me a job straightaway.

And so for two years I was working in a law firm and playing gigs at night, you know, I’m talking six or seven gigs a week, and working all day in this law firm, doing sort of paralegal work, you know, helping the lawyers when they go to court, you know, I was the person pushing the trolley around with all the files and doing errands all over town, all over Sydney. And, um, I really loved it.

But then I just, I think I got a little bit, I don’t know, I was just heading a different way in my life. And I knew I wanted to be a musician. That’s all I wanted. And plus, my hair was getting a bit long, and they didn’t like that. So I left the law firm, I actually got a job at a secondhand record store. And it was just the best experience. It’s not in existence anymore, but at the time, and some of the listeners might know, it was called Ashwoods.

And Ashwoods, if you talk to any record, you know, vinyl nut they’ll say that Ashwoods was the best secondhand record store in Australia. So it was a crazy wild place. And I just loved it. I worked there for two years. And, you know, just I don’t know, once again, just trying to find what I was gonna do with my life. You know, a friend of mine is a record producer. He came up to me one day, I think I might have done a session for him. And he just said to me after the session, he said, Are you a musician?

And I said, Yeah. He said, he said, No, you’re not. He said, you work in a second hand record store. Are you really a musician? And I said, Yeah. And he said, You’re not, you’re not until you actually do it. He said, Are you going to do this man or not? You know, and I thought about that and I was like, Yeah, that’s it. So the next day, I handed in my resignation, to Ashwoods, and at 25 years old.

Yeah, must have been 24-25. I just became a full time musician. And I had no idea how I was going to fund it all except I just knew that I wanted to do it, you know, and it was the best thing I ever did was listen to John’s advice, and just get myself out there. Try my hardest, and it paid off. You know, it took a few years, but yeah, it paid off.

Paul Jarman’s Instruments


Debbie
At this point. What instruments did you play?


Paul Jarman
Yeah, thanks for asking. I was playing keyboards. And at that time, I was playing a Fender Rhodes keyboard with like a Moog sort of thing on top, and they’ve all come back in fashion. Now, you know, all the kids are listening to the same, exactly the same stuff. So I was lugging this sort of 80 kilo Fender Rhodes around and I was also playing saxophone, clarinet, all the woodwind instruments, bit of bass guitar, but then my big lucky break came and it’s something we should talk about.

Because if it wasn’t for this lucky break, I wouldn’t be talking to you now. You know, so many things in my life I wouldn’t have and I’d love to touch on some lucky break stories later, because I can tell you that if it wasn’t for some people in my life, I don’t even know how I’d be here. And I’d love to be able to tell you how important those people are to me. One of them is my first piano teacher, by the way, who I’d love to talk about later. Could you remind me?


Debbie
Okay, okay, hold on, hold on. Let me just write that down. Okay, piano teacher.


Paul Jarman
Yeah, I just, it’s just nice to be able to share with people how grateful I am for some of these things that happened to me in my life. But yeah, so I I was passionate about going overseas, all I wanted to do was go to India actually, I just thought India, India, India, I want to go to India. And I want to learn how to play tabla and I want to learn how to play maybe the mohan veena or the, not the sitar, but I was into some of the stringed instruments and I thought you know, wouldn’t it be great to go and learn how to play some of them?

And um, anyway, I had The Lonely Planet book. So you got to remember again, folks, this is pre internet so I had The Lonely Planet book sitting right there next to my phone. So, home phone, so every time I went to the home phone, I had to read it, read on this Lonely Planet book of India and I’ve still got that book by the way.


Debbie
Oh, wow.


Paul Jarman
Yeah, yeah. So anyway, I’m saving up to go to India. That was it. It’s all I wanted to do, I get home and on the answerphone is this message that says Bill O’Toole, Manager of Sirocco, call me regarding a tour to India.


Debbie
Oh, wow. Oh, yes.

Paul Jarman’s Work with Sirocco


Paul Jarman
Yeah, I rang my dad. And I said, Dad, I got this call from this guy from Sirocco. Have you heard of the band Sirocco? And dad of course, just he flipped out. He’s like, ring, ring. Whatever you do ring, nine o’clock tomorrow morning, ring that number. And so for those who don’t know, Sirocco, pretty much you could say they are the pioneers or one of the main pioneers of you know, it’s a funny term, but world music, you know, in Australia, and at the time Sirocco had been going for about close to 20 years, and they toured all over the world, a flagship group, you know, touring for the Australian government and all sorts of things which I’ll talk about in a sec.

So for a young you know, 25 year old hippie with, you know stars in his eyes, wanting to go to India this was like, I just can’t tell you what it meant to me. I went from, you know, making $12 a gig to quite the opposite, just pretty much overnight. So anyway, I rang Bill, I went down had a fantastic meeting with him in his office. And a month later, I’m traveling around India with one of Australia’s leading bands, you know, it was actually their fourth tour of India, that one, they’d already been there three times, or maybe four times.

And it just blew my mind. I just, you know, if you ask the guys now, they said, I was like, like a kid in a candy shop the whole time. But um, it just blew my mind. And I realised how much I needed to be back there. And in Asia, actually, in general, you know, because it just was my world. I felt so happy. And you know, I’ve been there many times since, of course, but I just Yeah, changed. It changed my life.

And the band was so professional, so much fun, musically, so great. And I learnt so much, you know, and suddenly, I went from playing keyboards and saxophones to playing about 20 different instruments from all over the world that literally, you know, Bill he’s just fantastic. He just say Jarms, take this and he’d give me some thing, an Irish whistle or French bombard or cabrette or whatever. He’d say, I want you to learn it. We’re in the back of a bloody bus driving around the back of the desert of India and here’s me at the back, learning how to play these instruments.

But I think Bill could see straight away that I had, you know, I’m not saying these egotistically, but I just had the right attitude. And the attitude to have is Yes, I’ll do it. I’m grateful for it. I’m gonna give it my best. And here’s one that will blow your mind. Because years later, I asked Bill, I said, why on earth? Did you ring me, you know, because these were guys 20 years older than me, who had global experience who all played multiple instruments. They were leaders in the world music scene. I had no idea. I mean, really, I was so green to the whole thing.

And I mean, they could have hired anyone, they could have got the top players, you know, in the country. I found out that Bill had come to see me play in one of my bands at the Manly Jazz Festival a couple of days before. What had happened is that one of the members of Sirocco that they’d had, he was starting to whinge a lot on tour, you know, I don’t want to carry the bags, I’m sick of carrying the cases in, you know, this hotel isn’t good enough or whatever, whatever it was, it was just whinging, you know, and, and Bill just was sick of it, you know, and he thought we have to get rid of this guy, you know.

And so, when I, when I joined the band, I was the opposite. I’m like, Do you want me to help you with the gear? I’ll carry the cases? You know, and I mean, look, 30 years later, I’m still the same guy.


Debbie
Yeah I can actually still see you being just like that.


Paul Jarman
Yeah, it’s like the cases are there, I’ll give you a hand. You know, they’re not even mine, but I’ll carry him. And often tell this to young students, I’d say, you know, the life I’ve had now, because if it wasn’t for that band, I, I wouldn’t have even met my wife, my children wouldn’t be alive, you know, because I met my wife, Bonnie through music and playing at a festival with Sirocco. So if it wasn’t for that band, my whole life would be different, you know, and I put it down to the willingness to carry cases. It’s not about the music. It’s like, yeah, I’ve got this life because I was happy to carry the gear.


Debbie
That’s probably why you stayed. However, seeing you performing had to be part of it, they couldn’t see you on stage and go, Hey, there looks like a good dude, that’ll carry our cases and not winge, right.


Paul Jarman
I hate to tell you the truth. This is why Bill’s a genius. Like, because you can teach a young person who’s keen, you can teach them anything, you can teach anyone anything if they are willing to do it. And they’re happy and grateful. Right? So for me, I asked Bill, and I was at the time probably a little bit mortified when I found out had nothing to do with my musical skills.

But I said, you know, why did you hire me? And he said, You know what, he said, I wasn’t interested in the show at all. He said, I waited round after the show, because I wanted to see what you were like off the stage.

And he said, you went over, I watched you thank the sound guy. You went up and shook the hands of the people doing the lights or whatever and talked to people in the audience. You noticed a kid in the crowd, and you went up and showed him your instrument, whatever he said, none of the other guys in the band did that, you know? And he said, well, that was when I knew that you were the guy for the job.

And you know, it probably took me a few years to realise how accurate that is, you know, because you can be the best muso in the world. You can play everything right? But unless you can get along with the group and realise how lucky you are to be playing and just have that that positive outlook.

Touring relies on all that, you ask any touring musician, if you’ve spent 30 years in hotel rooms, and planes and buses and cars, you’ve got to have the right temperament, you know, to be able to pull it off. And you know, all I can say is that I was really grateful for that opportunity to play with Sirocco because I mean, you’re interviewing me in a choral education aspect here. We haven’t even started that part of my journey.

But if it wasn’t for Sirocco, I would never have gotten into choirs, you know, and we can talk about how that happened in a minute, if you like, but I wouldn’t even be talking to you, you wouldn’t even know who I am. If it wasn’t for that band, giving me that break. Still very close to all the members today. You know, we’re really like brothers, you know.


Debbie
I just love that, that you wouldn’t have even got that gig if you weren’t just a bloody nice person, Jarms.


Paul Jarman
I was just happy to carry gear.


Debbie
I will say again, I think that’s actually a beautiful story. That is a very important message for some people to hear. But don’t negate that. That does not negate the fact that he was impressed with your musicianship in the first place.

Like, really, if you played like shit, it wouldn’t matter, the other stuff. So you had both. Okay. You had both. And I think that is why everybody that knows you loves you, because we can see that, we see and experience your generous spirit and your kindness and helpfulness. So I’m thankful for Sirocco, for getting you started.


Paul Jarman
Yeah, well, I certainly am, too. I mean, I can’t tell you how much that changed my life. You know, I went from playing in smoky pubs for next to nothing to being picked up by the ambassador of our country playing on stages to tens of thousands of people. And it was it was just amazing. But you know, what I really loved about it, too, is that that wasn’t there’s no ego with it.

Like because Sirocco was in that sort of more folk world music scene, it was always just real, you know, and the people we collaborated with all over the world, they were the same, you know, and all the folk festivals. And I think I was just so lucky to be around such great musos as a young musician. I think too, because the guys were all older than me by like 20 years by the way, you know, here’s a 25 year old suddenly hanging out with guys in their mid to late 40s.

And I think just as far as, I don’t know, a young person needs that I think sometimes, and I think it was really good for me just to learn, you know, just the art of professionalism and, and just how you carry yourself too, because I was suddenly around some really different people to who I’d been around. No offense to who I was around before, they were great. But you know, I just think it’s really great. And I consider them mentors to me, you know, I mean, they’d probably laugh if they heard me say that, but yeah, yeah, it was really good.


Debbie
Okay, now. Oh, I just, I just want to hear everything, I’ve already learnt so much about you.


Paul Jarman
Better get your listeners to wake up first.

How Paul Jarman and Debbie O’Shea Crossed Paths


Debbie
Everyone wake up, wake up. No, they don’t need to wake up. This is fascinating Jarms. Okay. Now, how did you get into choral composition? Which is certainly how I met you. Actually. I can’t even remember. I think when I first met you were doing a Musica Viva gig I think. Musica Viva in schools.


Paul Jarman
It would have been Sirocco.


Debbie
But I don’t think I saw Sirocco. I think I met you. I went with, help me, help me. Anne Louise?


Paul Jarman
I know. Yes, I think I was doing maybe composer in the classroom or something.


Debbie
Something like that. And then we, I met you over a cuppa or something with some Musica Viva people. Anyway, either way, I know of you more through your choral composition. And I have done some work with and my children were in Birralee, and you’ve done composer in residence at a school that I’ve been at, we created, you, the children created a fabulous song for them.

So I know you as a choral composer, and can I say as a choral composer/storyteller? Because that’s the way I think of a lot of your compositions. I think of them as telling a story beautifully, so but that’s my opinion. I’d be interested in your opinion on that too. But maybe we bookmark that one. So we’ll come back to that storytelling, but how did you end up writing choral music?

So you’re touring the world ambassadors are picking you up? You’re with these amazing people performing? How did you end up writing music for choirs?


Paul Jarman
Okay, so Sirocco, we did a lot of special events, you know, big public events where we’d be hired to come in and be the party band for fun but also the serious band maybe playing with orchestras or anything and big events like you know, the Centennary of Federations or the Australia Day fireworks, opening ceremonies to things because we had that sound you know, and we collaborated with so many artists, like we collaborated with the guys from Yothu Yindi, we collaborated with you know, famous Arabic musicians and Celtic musicians and Pacific Island musicians and Chinese musicians and more and so there was always this spot where Sirocco could be, you know, to tell that story.

And in 1999 I believe we did the Australian Day fireworks with the wonderful artistic director Andrew Walsh, who went on to do a couple of Olympic Games and various things. Amazing guy. He and Lyn Williams were working together. So he was the artistic vision for the whole thing and Lyn was the musical director. I’d never heard of Lyn at that stage. I’d never heard of choirs like Sydney Children’s Choir.

At that point, there was no Gondwana voices. It was Sydney Children’s Choir. You know, Stephen Leek was a main force of composing and look, to be honest with you. I’d never heard of Stephen Leek. I wasn’t in the choir scene. So you know, and there was Sarah Hopkins, of course, and I’d never heard of Sarah actually no I had, but not as a composer of choral music as an amazing harmonic singer and cellist. So that’s because she’s in that world music scene, too. This is how green I was to choirs.


Debbie
But it’s a different segment. I mean, I know we’re all in the music world. But each area is, by its nature, quite a bit separate. And we’re also busy in our own little areas. You know, so a lot of the names you’re talking about are great performers. I’m just nodding and going. Yep. Great. I don’t even get to go watch performances. So I don’t know these great performers. But I know Lyn Williams. I know Sarah Hopkins. I know Stephen Leek, because they are in my little world.


Paul Jarman
Exactly.


Debbie
That’s quite understandable. So you’re slowly, the curtains are being opened on this new little segment of the music world.

Paul Jarman’s Choral Works – The Beginnings


Paul Jarman
That’s what happened. So for these fireworks. Andrew had this idea that the young endeavour tall ship would sail into Sydney Harbour and sail into Cockle Bay at Darling Harbour. And in the sails of this tall ship would be kids singing, a choir.


Debbie
Easy stick the kids up on the rigging.


Paul Jarman
And they did it. They were hanging up in the sails with all this special gear. Anyway, it was a brilliant idea. But of course, as we all know, for all these events, it’s pre recorded, you know, like even when you see people at the opening ceremonies or playing in the orchestra, that they’re just playing along to themselves, because nothing can go wrong, you know.

So you go into the studio, your pre record, miming is a bit of a dirty word, because you’re still playing, it’s just that what you’re playing is along with yourself, you know, like, so it just saves any hassle. We had to go and pre record this thing. So it’s going to be projected through the speakers. And of course, the kids are singing it on this tall ship. It was brilliant.

And the choir was called Sydney Children’s Choir run by artistic director, Lyn Williams. Now, I had never written a choral work, I had written a bit of music, but I don’t think I’d ever written lyrics, which may surprise a lot of the listeners out there. Because you all know that I’m quite well known for my lyrics.


Debbie
Yes.


Paul Jarman
But you know, 300 pieces later, you’ve got to remember, I had never written lyrics, that writing lyrics is something that I’ve had to, I don’t know, I’ll talk about how I have done that a bit later. But um, anyway, so I just put my hand up, you know, I’ll do it. And they said okay, you can do it. I got home and just thought, oh, boy, what am I going to do?

I don’t know what I’m going to write here. But they wanted a song to sort of metaphorically talk about the arrival of the tall ships in Australia. But also not say that, if you know what I mean, because it was just about all the journeys to Australia. Yeah, I just sat out the back, I lit a little bonfire out the back and cooked a bit of food and had a glass of red wine. And I thought, Well, I’ll start with something that makes me feel safe. My Irish whistle.

So I pulled out a B flat Irish whistle and I wrote a melody called Let Go The Long White Sails. Well, that’s what it’s called now. But I wrote that melody, and a mate of mine was over. And he kick started me with a couple of ideas for lyrics. Then I wrote the song. And that song was called Let Go The Long White Sails.


Debbie
That was your first choral piece?


Paul Jarman
I didn’t look at it as a choral work, really, because I just wanted to write a piece and back then you couldn’t google the best range for a choir and all that kind of stuff. So I rang Lyn, who must have been just rolling her eyes. I mean, we’ve been great friends ever since, you know, I think what must she had been thinking but I just said what’s the best range you know? She said, Well, don’t go below a B flat.

And I think if you go up to around an E flat, that’s great. And as you all would know, steady hold, it starts on a B flat and the top note is in E flat, so I followed Lyn’s instruction directly. They loved the song. And when we went to the studio and recorded it, I just couldn’t believe it. I just thought that is the best thing I’ve ever heard is the sound of these kids singing I just couldn’t believe it. I mean, I’d heard a lot of music by that stage.

You know, I’ve played with musicians up in the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan. I’d played in the Himalayas, played with Indian musicians, I’d played with musicians all over Asia. And I’d heard some amazing things. I’d heard some amazing didgeridoo players in Arnhem Land, bagpipe bands. I love it all, right. But when I heard these kids, I couldn’t believe it. I just thought that is the best thing I’ve ever heard in my life.

And I still didn’t really know what the future of all that meant, you got to remember back then I wasn’t thinking, Oh, I’m going to be a choral composer, you know. So that event happened. Things moved on. I was on tour with Sirocco for two years. And maybe, yeah, maybe nearly two years. Lyn, and I got in touch. I don’t quite remember how but she said, Would you like to do a commission? You know, we love that song.

You want to write some more for us? And I said, Yeah. And I actually sort of didn’t really know what a commission was. But I didn’t, I certainly didn’t know what to charge. I just said, oh yeah I’ll write you something. And she said, Well, what are you going to write about? I thought, Well, look, if I’m going to write them something, I better write about something that I really feel in my heart, or else I’ve just got nothing to say. And it’s interesting that 20 years or a bit more later, that’s still what I do.

You know, and everyone knows me for that, that I’ll find a story that matters. And I’ll tell it, you know, I think it’s a really great way to write because it gives you a purpose to start that initial sound, you know, and lyrically, the reason I’ve always written well, mostly written my own lyrics is because, once again, I was so innocent to the whole thing, I had no idea that how would you go and get a poem or who do you talk to? Or how do you get a text, you know, so I just decided straightaway, nuh I’m writing my own words, and I’ll figure out a way to do it.

You know, at the time, I was really into, you know, and I still am but I was really into singer songwriters like Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits and Neil Young, Townes Van Zandt, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, you know, I was just into all that stuff, big time, you know, Leonard Cohen. And so look, I thought, you know, I’m just going to spend a lot of time analyzing their lyrics, Bob Dylan, you know, the same.

So I guess I just straight away thought, you know what, I’m just going to craft my own lyrics and my own music in my own way, and see what happens. And then I talked to Lyn and she said, Well, what are you interested in at the moment and I said, the sea, you know, the ocean and stories of the sea, and I just finished reading some great books on Ernest Shackleton. She was performing the beautiful mahogany ship by Michael Atherton, who by the way, was in Sirocco in the early 80’s for about 4 years. He was one of the first members of Sirocco too, amazing hey.


Debbie
Oh let’s hope he wasn’t that cranky one.


Paul Jarman
No, he wasn’t. He definitely wasn’t. Yeah, so yeah, I guess I went home and I thought, well, I’m reading about Ernest Shackleton and Frank Hurley. I love these stories. I’m definitely going to write a piece. At that point. I was going to write a piece for Frank Hurley not Ernest Shackleton, because Frank Hurley is Australian.

And Frank Hurley, of course, took all the amazing photos that we know of Endurance. So I thought Frank early, I’m going to write one about the Portuguese leading up to Vasco da Gama. Because that’s such an important part of the history of the sea. I thought I’d write one about the Sargasso Sea. And that’s, of course the piece Sea of Berries.

And then I collaborated with Andrew from Sirocco and we wrote Ancient City together. So in that space of a couple of weeks, I wrote Shackleton, Sea of Berries, Volta do mar Largo and Ancient City. And I think that was the song cycle that we called Turn on the Open Sea.


Debbie
Turn on the Open Sea. Can I, look I have to stop you here Jarms. You’re telling me that the, obviously I’m just learning this, the first song, the first choral piece you wrote was the masterpiece, Let Go the Long White Sails, that everybody still loves and still sings. And you’re telling me that the second choral work you wrote was this song cycle that as with the other one, people still sing, and love, and they were your first pieces?

Like there is a little part of my brain right now that is really resentful of this amazing talent you’ve got, but mostly, I’m suppressing that little bit of jealousy. Okay. And just saying, Wow, I mean, I am just in awe of your talent and those people who have not heard those pieces, I reckon just even hop on YouTube. Google them, you’ll find someone performing them on YouTube surely. Amazing pieces. And, oh, well, that’s off to a really good start.

Sign Off

This podcast is brought to you by Crescendo Music Education, connecting, supporting, and inspiring music educators. You’ll find links to Crescendo’s social media platforms in the show notes. Please connect with me and be part of the Crescendo community. You might consider becoming a Crescendo member. You can access hundreds of files, worksheets, printables workbooks, repeat workshops, and webinars for a low annual fee and receive great discounts on events. So come and connect with me, Debbie O’Shea. See you in the socials.

Just for Laughs

As we know laughter relieves stress. Don’t lose sight of the funny side of life.

When is your door, not actually a door?

When it’s a jar.

It’s terrible.


Links Mentioned in the Episode:

Let Go the Long White Sails

Shackleton

Click HERE to view Paul Jarman’s Website

Where to find me:

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