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by Kristy Apps

At 7:20am some weary eyed musicians, amongst us are new parents and bubba’s who probably looked slightly fresher than those of us not used to 5:30 wake ups, found each other with excited smiles and much needed coffees as we began our journey of taking the Soldier’s Wife show to The Canberra Street Theatre and then on to the Opera House.

Me and the lovely Bertie Page at the (chilly) Canberra Airport
Me and the lovely Bertie Page at the (chilly) Canberra Airport

As I sat on the plane surrounded by familiar voices chattering away I found myself deep in conversation with John Meyer and Bertie Page and quickly realised why this project is so special to me. Telling peoples stories is a precious gift given to us as songwriters and to do it as a collective with some of the finest, passionate and delicate songwriters I’ve ever worked with, who all understand that this journey is so much bigger than us lies the true magic behind this show.

As the afternoon progressed the backstage area of the Canberra Street Theatre became a little buzzier.. and it wasn’t long before the theatre was full and we were ready to go. Chairs back stage were but a few so I spent some time sitting on the floor cracking up at a pre-show dance off courtesy of Emma Bosworth! Laughs and tears are a plenty with this show. A few last minute rehearsals and tweaks.. with our bow the only thing left unrehearsed.

Me and Emma backstage at Canberra Street Theatre
Me and Emma backstage at Canberra Street Theatre

The songs in this show are easy to fall in love with as are the people in them. One of my favourites is a song called Giovanna- written by Roz Papparlado and a women she met at one of the Soldier’s Wife song writing workshops. Tonight was the first night I had ever heard the story behind the song and I was backstage in tears, it’s a happy song but like all the songs in the show it’s so powerful.. and sometimes we all need a bit of Giovani’s trust in his own instinct to jump ship and swim towards life.

My song is one of the most special songs that I have ever written because it’s for the most important human being I have ever known.. my mum. Her story of finding her dad, an American Soldier as a grown woman was one of the bravest journey’s I’ve ever been a part of. She feared rejection and pushed through it, she feared failing and she pushed through it, she feared absolute uncertainty and pushed through it and she found another part of herself. I am more nervous introducing this song..

Wanting to say so much in a so few words..

Margaret

When the bombs stopped falling and the sky was clear was clear
It was time for him to go home
A pregnant wife who wouldn’t leave her roots
He made that journey alone
At night if it wasn’t the guns in his head

It was you Margaret
At night if it wasn’t the bombs of regret
It was you Margaret

Hurt by the hand of the one that loves you most
Left you clueless with a broken heart
By the time it was for you to look for him
You had no idea where to start
Secret stashes of birthday cards
Could have worn a wig and a gown
A guilty verdict the sound of hammer to wood
A trail of breadcrumbs were found
At night if it wasn’t the guns in his head

It was you Margaret
At night if it wasn’t the bombs of regret
It was you Margaret

It was too late for you to meet him
But his family were waiting for you
With open arms they say what took you so long Maggie
This is a dream come true
You were named after your Aunty Peg and
Dad wrote you as a little girl
Till he was told to never write again
he couldn’t be part of your world

Margaret

By Roz Pappalardo

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L to R: Bree Wells, Harry Wells, John Meyer and me… performing Giovanni. Photo by Bertie Page

 

It doesn’t get much better – a gorgeous heritage nunnery, a brisk but sunny western Queensland day, playful kittens, great friends, new friends, incredible stories and NEW SONGS!

After co-writing a rousing blues track with Emma Bosworth, based on lovely Joyce’s story of her deep love and commitment to her passed World War 2 service husband, I had the honour of sitting with Claudia Ehlers who’s story, in many ways, parallels my own in terms of the “Italian Connection”. Claudia is a first generation Australian – of Italian extraction. Just like me.

Her father, a proud Italian man, with little English, found his travelling way to Australia in the late 60’s and experienced a life changing road accident. Taken to a little hospital in Cunnamulla, the age old “Nightingale” story came to bare as his nurse became his wife, despite issues of difference of culture, lack of language and families living half a world apart. Their family history tells a story of guts, determination, and single mindedness.

Claudia’s Nonno, her fiery and adventurous Italian father’s father, was a Sicilian man, set to conscript in the Italian WW2 navy. He was sent to fight in Africa, a southern sail from the bottom coast of Sicily. He got on the boat. He didn’t want to. But he got on. He paced the deck. He stood at the front of the boat and wished for land. Wished for another choice. He went down below deck. Slept a few hours a night. Paced the deck. Stared out to sea.

And then he jumped off the back of the boat and headed for home. Swimming for his life and to regain the connection of his family and what he wanted to live and fight for.

Arms sore, heart pounding, wondering what the hell he had done, he turned to see the path that he left behind. The boat from which he jumped exploded as he watched. Exploded into rubble, flames and wooden pieces … and sank to the bottom of the ocean.

Giovanni kept swimming toward his family and away from the choice that he never made. Once he made land (yes he made land!!) he made contact with his family and laid low for many years until such time as the war subsided and he could properly reconnect with his family.

This song bowled itself out of myself and Claudia with the fabulous help of Harry Wells on guitar and Bree Wells and Emma Bosworth on vocals. It took all of 1 hr to arrive into our laps and gave us heaps more pleasure after that. While Claudia couldn’t make the performance that we delivered on the final afternoon of our residency in Dalby, when we sang the song a real ripple of excitement and light flowed through the chapel – people immediately sang along and grabbed onto the essence of the story as if it were their own.

We drove home that night high on the energy from that show and all the great new stories and songs we’d been blessed with. Such a great feeling. The 4 hour drive felt like no time at all.

Claudia is a woman who has bravery and adventure etched into her veins. She is descendant of a number Soldier’s Wives. Strength, tenacity and the ability to look at issues and problems from a variety of angles epitomises this woman. She’s quite the inspiration. And way cool too!

 

“Giovanni”
Alternative Title – “Follow Your Heart”

I jumped ship
Into the bluest water
I could ever imagine
I won’t fight
For something that is not mine
I gotta see my wife and daughter

Up in flames in goes
That’s not the path I chose

Ch: Follow my heart, it won’t steer me wrong
Into the blue, now I find my way back to you

Won’t look back
Reaching for a reason
Keeping my head over water
Hold my breathe
It won’t be for much longer
I can see the next horizon

Up in flames in goes
That’s not the path I chose

Ch: Follow my heart, it won’t steer me wrong
Into the blue, now I find my way back to you

Rewrite my fate
It’s mine to take

Ch: Follow my heart, it won’t steer me wrong
Into the blue, now I find my way back to you
Giovanni, Giovanni, Giovanni, Giovanni
Follow my heart, it won’t steer me wrong
Into the blue, now I find my way back to you

Written by Emma Bosworth

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L to R: Roz Pappalardo, Frank, Emma Bosworth & Jackie Marshall. Photo by Les Bosworth

G’day. It’s been a long time between drinks. I guess having a baby will do that to the best and worst of us! I’m writing here from Dalby. I’m on the road with the wonderful women of “The Soldiers Wife”. What a beautiful and PRODUCTIVE day in Dalby for me today. I’m travelling with my little five month old, Franklin, with legendary parents-in-law in toe doing between feed duties. Such a different way of touring but there’s nothing like a deadline to get the blood pumping. I met with lovely Joyce today, a Dalby local who has an amazing story to tell about her late husband Jack, his story is one of redemption.

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This is me (and Frank) with Joyce, and her son Peter Photo by Bertie Page

Joyce was travelling her way through Australia with two girlfriends after World War II, moving from port to port as a hospitality worker, often serving the high lieutenants in fancy rooms set aside for the finest. She was 27 when she met Jack; admittedly later in life to get married for those days, but worth the wait. I praised her for her independence, I’d never heard of woman in those days waitng that long for Mr. Right. From the moment she met Jack, she noticed his polished shoes, and knew he was for her. And there were over 1000 men at that camp!

Like most soldiers, Jack, who served in Japan for World War II, carried baggage of sadness, sickness (malaria) and alcohol abuse. Joyce was no stranger to alcoholism, she watched her uncle go through it, so she was no stranger to the battle they lay ahead. His spark certainly said a lot for him. After they married, Jack became clean and worked within the church, helping locals get sober, particularly the young aboriginal men. He remained sober for 45 years and he and Joyce worked tirelessly helping local youth and grown adults with alcoholism, having an open door policy always. The lives they touched through their support was so apparent, that when Jack passed, Joyce received 300 letters, and 100 calls from people who Jack had helped.

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Me and Roz performing “Bullets and Blues” at Dalby. There’s lovely Jackie Marshall in the background with the tambo adding some sparkle. Photo by Les Bosworth.

The chorus of this song “it’s coming out bullets and blues” is a reference to the shrapnel that Jack continued to get out of his leg until the day he died. It came out of him, like his sins, in the form of redemption.

I was privileged enough to work on this song with Roz Pappalardo; who is part of The Soldiers Wife group.  I remember the week before Dalby thinking how much I’d love to do the first co-write for our performances. Tick! So here’s our little blues number, for Joyce. We hope you like it.

BULLETS AND BLUES
Written by Emma Bosworth & Roz Pappalardo

Down the creek with the boys and their booze
In you walk with your bright shiny shoes
We remember
I remember
Cause you’ve been there before
It’s coming out like bullets and blues

I took you in with all of your sins
It didn’t matter I knew where you’d been
We remember
I remember
And we threw it away
Down the river with your bottle of gin

It’s never bullets and blues when I’m with you

300 letters, and 100 calls
From where I stand, you gave it your all
Dressed in black, dressed in black
You’re not here anymore
It’s coming out like bullets and blues