DREAMSINGER: The John Toney Rock Musical

Article by Frank Larue

Maxwell still remembers the inspiration for his rock musical, Dreamsinger.

In 1972, I was 19 year old student teacher working at an innovative school for high school drop-outs in Halifax. One of the students I worked with occasionally was a 16 year old Mikmaq by the name of John Toney. He was a quiet, slightly shy fellow who wouldnt stand out in a room full of people, but as you got to know him a bit, you could sense a certain depth. At any rate, in July of that year, he decided that he was going to write a novel. He scribbled down a paragraph that was going to be the intro for his story in which he described a strange and mystical experience of falling up into a magical world.

A couple of days after writing these words, he was out with one of his buddies ( Im sure he was not the leader in this expedition) and they broke into a cigarette store to steal a carton of cigarettes. Just at this point, a rookie cop came upon the scene, over-reacted, shot John in the chest and killed him instantly.

In 1986, in a moment of inspiration, over the course of five minutes, I wrote the song Spirit Eyes. At this time, memories of that event from the past flooded back. I felt inspired to create a mythical John Toney, to give this anonymous young man from the past a future that would inspire others.

Twenty years after writing the first song, Matt Maxwell has completed the rock musical DREAMSINGER, a twenty five song opus which is the soundtrack for the play. The CD was recorded last summer and features some stellar performances from native blues guitarist George Leach, songwriter Sandy Scofield along with Stolo singer Inez Jasper.

The musical opens with Long to be free a uptempo rocker that works as a mission statement for John Toney and sets the tone for the rest of the CD. George Leach handles the vocals and makes his presence felt from the beginning of the project. He is a musical force throughout the musical and shows not only his diverse talents but also demonstrates an intuitive sense of restraint that gives the listener a much deeper understanding of John Tony.

George has many moments that showcase the depths of his talent, but the high water of his performance is unraveled with total brillance in the song FALLING. His vocal delivery with a soulful feel that never aspires to high drama but manages to convey the dilemma John Tony had to deal with and the tragic repercussions that will ensue if he happens to make the wrong decision. FALLING is perhaps the best song of the musical and considering there are twenty five songs in the project, that is saying a lot.

I come she screamed to those who deem. It necessary to redeem, Death, before living

Im falling, Im falling. Cant you hear me calling

The support team deserve special mention, drummer Buff Allen along with bassist Laurence Mollerup and pianists Michael Creber and Matt Horner were the perfect team to bring all these musical ideas together with authenticity and inspiration. There are darker sides on the CD such as the R & B influenced Nightcrawlers which moves along with an infectious groove, the pedal to the metal Rock Roll Star

Juno-nominee Sandy Scoffield brings a genuine sense of warmth and experience to her vocal performances, the darling of the Railway Club and a bona fide folk singer with range and depth that shows the years she has been honing her craft. Sandy shines in Song of the Heart and Step Inside.

John Toney your time has come

The Great Spirit smiles in you

Your head is crowned by the rays of the sun

Sandys talent is complemented by Jasper Inez, her vocal on the song Confrontation and her duets with George on Tragedy along with Darcy ZIs contributions make up for a strong vocal presence that does justice to Maxwells songwriting. The materiel wets the appetite to see the play, we can only hope it will be picked up by APTN, or the CBC. DREAMSINGER is a powerful musical statement and one of the first rock musicals written about a native person.

It is hard to compare DREAMSINGER to anything current because the era of rock musicals was in the late sixties and early seventies. The classic rock-op course is Tommy and that was written forty years ago, DREAMSINGER does not deal with a pinball wizard nor can it boast the marketing clout of a supergroup like the Who but it makes up for it with brillant songwriting, exceptional musicianship and over the top vocals.

For more info check out www.dreamsinger.ca