Blogathon: #49 – WrapUp

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So this is the last post for the Blogathon! After our community projects on the tour, we would get together for a wrap-up session, which allowed us to process our experiences and share what we’ve learnt. So consider this a Blogathon wrap-up.

We managed to raise (as of me writing this) $76. US$71 and AUS$5. To be honest I am slightly disappointed at the amount; my first attempt at Blogathon (well, Project-Blog), I managed to raise $137 with very minimal promotion. This time around, I promoted it everywhere – my crew list, BoG, alumni, LJ, elsewhere, tried the Blogathon games, and got very little in comparison. There is still time to donate, and Up With People takes donations year-round, so please contribute where you can!

I would like to thank the following people:

  • My sponsors – thanks for the support
  • Naoko for so graciously filling in for me when I was away
  • Sara and the bSpies for being cool monitors
  • Lorelle for being pretty much the only UWP alumni person reading and promoting this! Really great to have reconnected with you!
  • Everyone else that has read through and followed our Blogathon journey
  • Everyone that promoted me on their blogs
  • People that chatted with me online (MSN, Skype, Google Talk, IRC), whether I know you or not
  • Up With People, for being gracious and excited about the idea – I hope you’re not too disappointed with the $76!

Here’s a recap of all our Blogathon posts:

Thank you for your support and time and have a good life! Don’t forget to sponsor!

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Blogathon: #48 – Songs Review 4

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So very near the end! Don’t miss out your chance to get exclusive Up With People tracks just for a simple sponsorship!

With Everything Changing – another Carpenters/ballad!ABBA-esque folky song wondering if anything ever stays the same; the subject matter’s rather different from all the other songs. This is more about dealing with change and wondering if we will still be able to cope with all the changes in life. Easy listening.

I Am A Person – this is a very different Up With People song. Unlike the others (but perhaps vaguely closer to Keep The Beat), this is very dancy – almost like 80s Gloria Estefan or Paula Abdul or old-school Madonna. I’m wondering which show this is in because it’s so unlike all the other songs! This song laments about not being treated like a person but as a number, a “digital excuse”. (Perhaps the same lament school students make?) The rap is…a surprise.

El Puente – a Spanish guitar ballad, one you half-expect to hear under your window or on a gondola. I don’t understand Spanish though, so I wouldn’t be able to translate. Up With People does often sing songs in other languages – they’ve done Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Japanese, as far as I know. There’s most likely more.

Moon Rider – a guitar ballad about the world – I’m thinking from the title that this is from the perspective of someone on the Moon reporting about the Earth. It’s actually pretty poetic, and has a very theaterical feel to it by the end. Definitely a very unique Up With People song, but a very good one really. I think this was very popular too.

Where The Roads Come Together – an acapella’ed intro song, with a slight barbershop-quartet feel, about life and all the different paths people’s lives can take. Music (pop rock; drums & guitar) kicks in after the first verse. Sounds like a song to close a show with (like We’ll Be There).

Pays De Coeur / Hartelijik Land – I think this is French but I’m not sure. A theaterical ballad, with choruses; sounds to me like a girl singing a monologue about her life or the path she’s on (but I don’t speak French so I may be wrong). She may be singing to a certain place (Hartelijik?) too.

And the very special tracks…donate $50 or more and you can choose from one of the following:

Up With People 1965 – the song that started it all. A folksy banjo ditty that will make you want to do a jig (or at least it makes Michael Bowerman want to do a jig).

Up With People 1998 – the same song (possibly a verse shorter), just updated into an upbeat pop track. Notce that the occupations change as well – that’s a recurring thing.

If any of those songs appeal to you, even just for the curiosity factor, then SPONSOR SPONSOR SPONSOR! You won’t be able to get them anywhere else for a long time!

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Blogathon: #47 – Songs Review 3

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We’re nearly at the end! We still need sponsorships though, and as I promised, any verified and proven donations get Up With People tracks for every $20. This post and the next will give more details on the songs you can choose from:

Keep The Beat – a pop-dance song, with techno influence, that also carries the metaphor of music as humanity. The dance for this is killer difficult…and we got the easy version.

Calling Home – this is one song you’ll never find on an Up With People CD. It’s a fun Broadway-ish song about calling home during the tour – mixing and mashing styles, languages, tempos (it goes into a very slow ballad in the middle) – you name it. It was deemed too “internal” though, so it never got used in a show. But it’s such a fun song to bop to!

The other songs I haven’t heard yet, and I need to post this now, so stay tuned in 30 minutes for the last Songs Review instalment – including the two special tracks!

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Blogathon: #46 – In The News

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I get regular Google alerts whenever Up With People makes the news somewhere. Most of the time it’s just the string “up with people”, which doesn’t mean anything to me. Sometimes it’s something being compared to Up With People (i.e. it’s “shiny-happy-strange” reputation). Once in a while I’ll get something that is actually talking about Up With People the organization – recently there’s been a lot of press in North Platte about Up With People coming over, and there was a news article about the reunion and about a wedding between two alumni members.

One article I just got alerted about puzzled me though. Apparently Up With People caused some sort of political rift?

From the Google Alert:

REVIEW : Politicians now speak from conservative dictionary
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (subscription) – Little Rock,AR,USA
… The turning point in the war of words between liberals and conservatives came in August 1968, when the group Up With People sang at the Republican National …

What did Up With People singing at a Republican convention have to do with anything? Did they inadvertedly cause something to happen? I’ve been trying to log in, but it’s pay only and BugMeNot’s not helping.

It was really bizarre getting that alert – the Up With People is non-political. Most of my crew were of liberal leanings. Even if we had a Republican (which I’m not aware of; we did have a few socially conservative people but I don’t know their politics), it wasn’t a matter of conflict. We weren’t told to pick one side over the other. Besides, with all of us from all over the world, it won’t have worked. Just take Australia as an example – their “Liberal” party is apparently very right-wing.

Now I’m severely curious. What happened with Up With People at the Republican event that apparently caused some sort of a rift? Can someone solve the mystery?

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Blogathon: #42 – The Show

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Thank you Naoko for covering for me for the part hour!

I was just at a meeting for our college dorm – there’s a Dancefest happening soon and they want as many people in it as possible. They showed videos of the previous Dancefest entries (theirs and another college’s); I kept mentally comparing it to what we did in our Up With People adventures.

The show is a key part of the Up With People experience. Even during the WorldSmart days it was still consistently there – we worked hard on getting all the songs and the dances and the other things we did right. Cast P in Denver was even more immersive and strenuous – we had to learn about 10-15 different songs and 5-7 dances in two weeks. At least on WorldSmart we had 18 weeks to work kinks out.

The WorldSmart Celebration performance and the Cast P performance were very different. The WorldSmart one was smaller, not quite as polished; it was mainly a bunch of kids having fun. It was a lot simpler, and also a lot more abstract in places – we had quite a number of interpretive dances, and a good amount of acting.

The Cast P one was a lot more musical – more songs, with the dances accompanying the songs – there were only two songs that were just dances, and one of them was only performed by 4 people. Even “Go Daddy-O”, which is just that line over and over again, had some singing. Cast P didn’t have any acting or pantomime, unlike the WorldSmart show. Of course, Cast P also had involvement from outside performers, which WorldSmart didn’t have – so the WorldSmart celebrations felt more intimate in a way.

I noticed a stark difference between the WorldSmart Celebration and the Cast P show in terms of rehearsal. The WorldSmart crew weren’t too hung up on being “perfect”. We just did our best, laughed when we goofed, relaxed a bit more. We didn’t hang everything on the show; some nights were not as good as others, but we let those go. In contrast, the Cast P crew seemed to be very concerned with making the show perfect – even though the main teaching crew (such as Michael Bowerman, who handled vocals) emphasized that he’d rather see energetic flaws than stoic perfection. Still, there were people so preoccupied with making everything correct that it affected the energy a little.

Energy is the one thing that brings all the shows together. It can make or break a show. It’s the force that keeps all the performers moving, motivated, motivating the audience. Our job there was to inspire the audience, to show them different cultures, to share the world; we needed energy to do that.

Some people may question the need for a musical element in Up With People. Why hang on to the past? What’s the point? Well, as is often said, music is the universal language; just the tone of voice and the keys of the music can say a lot about mood and meaning. What more the words and the dances!

Also, it is a great community activity; the whole town comes together to see something they’ve probably never seen and will never see again, and they get to share in the magic for once. We saw this very strongly during the WorldSmart tour; it was the smallest cities, like Murou, that gave the biggest support. They were still not jaded from constant similar entertainment, unlike bigger cities like Tokyo or LA; performances like these were like magic to them, and everyone craved magic. We all do.

If you’re ever in an Up With People host city, please come by to watch! We love audiences and we get such a buzz from being there. Be responsive too – applaud, laugh, clap along. Interactive audiences are the best audiences. And the best thing? We’re still down-to-earth, so you won’t need to go through bodyguards to get photos or autographs! 😉

The show, the rehearsals, even the backstage Huddle (my most FAVOURITE part of the whole program); all of them are so much fun, so energizing, and such good bonding activities. Do come by and share your support!

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Blogathon: #35 – Songs Review 2

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Here are more reviews of the Up With People songs I have on offer in exchange for sponsorships and donations:

Does It Really Matter? – Listening to it right now. It’s one of a handful of songs that reference or sample Martin Luther King’s speech. The lead is very exaggerated and dramatic, like he’s acting a role. The song’s about whether race or skin colour should determine your character. (I think there’s a few songs released about the same time, since there’s quite a few songs with the “does your skin colour matter” theme.) Theaterical.

We Are Many, We Are One – about diversity: different cultures, different places, but all equal. Sounds like those old-time TV sitcom jingles, like “Brady Bunch” or the sitcom Michael J. Fox was in when he was younger.

Give The Children Back Their Childhood – another Carpenters-esque (or ballady ABBA) song urging the world to think of the kids when it comes to war and strife. Has a very war-protestor feel to it.

Standing On Up – also mentions the Lord, which suits the style – very gospel. Another Martin Luther King song, so you can figure out what it’s about by now.

Room For Everyone – a contemporary, pop-py song about diversity; we’re all different but there’s still room for everyone to live together. One of the few songs where you can’t really tell which era it’s made in (seriously. A lot of Up With People songs you can tell right off the bat when it was made. It personifies the era.).

Rhythm Of The World – this one samples MLK’s speech, as well as a few other pop-culture things. The lyrics’ gone through a lot of changes, but it’s generally about how human diversity can be compared to an orchestra; we are all different instruments. There’s a long drum instrumental in the middle because during the show, the MC steps in and gets the audience to clap to the different rhythms; there is also an African chant in there.

Beat of the Future – similar to Rhythm Of The World in using music as a metaphor for humanity. Sounds like late 80s rocks.

Unspoken Words – This song, if released to radio now, has the best chance of being a commercial hit. A contemporary pop-rock song about body language; often performed with sign language and intepretive dance (very pretty to look at). The singer sounds like a rock-ier Clay Aiken; maybe he should cover this one.

More songs coming up – and OK OK, I’ll get back to proper posts in a bit.

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Blogathon: #34 – Songs Review

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If I’m going to be offering songs for donations, I might as well tell you what the songs are about! So here’s the first set of the Songs Review:

Ayiko – an African-influenced, very upbeat song about working together as a community (“Ayiko” means “to pull together”). The metaphor used is one of a fishing village, catching and sharing the fish together. In the original show, Roads, this was the name of the youth group in the center of the story. A fun groovy song.

It Takes A Whole Village – another African-inspired song, but a lot more laidback and slower. It’s basically about the proverb “It takes a whole village to raise a child” – how communities should, again, work together for the common good. The version we performed in Denver in April is more upbeat and fun – has a jungley vibe to it. The one I have is the original.

One 2 One – no this is not a Prince song! The song tells a few stories about people helping each other in circumstances where others may just ignore them. (pulling a man up from the street, for example.) A ballad, often perfomed with sign language during the chorus.

Can We Sing A Song Of Peace? – another ballad, more of a “power ballad”, asking about whether we’ll ever see peace in this lifetime.

Live It Live – I’m listening to it now for the first time! About living life (think those “high on life” adages). Has a Beatlesque/Fleetwood Mac vibe to it (akin to the songs from that era). Positive and upbeat.

We’ll Be There – one of those ballads you use to close a show for strong effect (that was what we did for the Denver show). The power builds up over time, and the choirs are let loose by the end. Very hopeful; if you see it live you may go “whoa” by the end.

What Colour is God’s Skin? – also listening to it now for the first time. Probably the only UWP song that’s really “religious” due to references to God. A piano-based song, almost Carpenters-like, about a boy who asks his mum “what colour is God’s skin?”. The idea is that “everyone’s the same in the Good Lord’s eyes” – all humans are equal. Apparently this song’s really popular.

More song reviews coming soon!

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