The Making of a CD
By Robert Ross
“If I could be granted just one wish, please release my soul”
— From the poem “The Dark and The Light” by Nicole Penrod (12/24/78 - 5/18/97)
On May 18th, 1997, Nikki Pen-rod, age 18, was killed in an auto accident caused by a drunk driver. Nikki Penrod, singer, poet, and adventurer of the spirit, met her fate, a fate she may have foretold with a wish from a poem she wrote “The Dark and The Light.” In the poem she repeats the phrase “If I could be granted just one wish, please release my soul.” Nikki Penrod, her soul released, is no longer with us, but in a twist of fate, her adventure, her spirit, and her view of life will live on forever.
In 1998, Nikki’s mother, Chris Penrod arrived at Peter Sprague’s music studio requesting some audio transfers. Peter later described her as “a woman who was, at best, just surviving the sun’s rise and fall, a person filled with a grief most people will never know.” As he transferred the cassette recordings of a little girl speaking her first words with her mom and dad, Chris began to tell Peter the story of her daughter. She told of Nikki’s connection to the ocean, her love of music, her wild streak and her quest to experience the world in her own way. Chris also shared a book of Nikki’s poetry with Peter.
According to Peter, “This is where the journey began.” Initially Peter, a professional musician himself, was going to put Chris’ favorite poem, “The Rose,” to music. As fate would have it, Peter’s journey would bring together six vocalists, eight musicians and culminate three years later with a CD of twelve of Nikki’s poems put to music, entitled Nikki’s Rose. The CD was released in the Fall of 2001.
Putting poetry to music is no easy task. Rhymes, musical style and tempo all have to be combined in a way that captures the poem — captures the spirit and essence of what Nikki was trying to say. According to Peter, “Each song presented itself in a unique way. Sometimes I would read Nikki’s words and have an immediate insight into how the song would go. Other times I wrestled with rhymes and meter to make the words work in a song format.”
The CD covers a musical spectrum from folk, to Brazilian sambas, to a haunting voice speaking and then singing the poem “Just As I Have Accepted You.” The CD ends with an actual recording of Nikki singing for a high school performance, complete with an audience coughing and chairs moving. The piece transitions into a Brazilian song titled “Caro Mio Ben.”
The CD contains a booklet of Nikki’s poems and photos of Nikki, one as a child and others as a young woman. The booklet is beautifully done, with color graphics, photos and highlighted fonts to reflect the theme of a particular poem.
It wasn’t until I sat alone one day, listening with earphones, browsing through the booklet, reading the poems and studying the photos that I began to fully appreciate what Peter had done. He had taken some poems, the thoughts of a young lady, and infused them with life. The poem, “The Rose,” was about life and sharing and returning home to the ones you love. And listening to the song of the same title, truly brought it to life. The song inspired hope, amazement and excitement, all nestled together with the emotion of yearning — yearning to return home to be with loved ones — to be like a rose, where every petal touches each other.
Each song on the CD is designed to reflect a particular emotion or feeling. And each song has a distinctive musical style, like the uniqueness of each poem in the booklet.
Nikki’s mom Chris, has come a long way since entering Peter’s studio in 1997. According to Peter “She smiles now, and even though there will always be an unfathomable hurt inside her, she’s living a good, full life.” Chris states, “If I’ve learned anything, it’s to live each day, each moment, as a blessing.”
I never met Nikki. I wish I had. But, in a way, I know Nikki by her poems, and by the CD produced by Peter Sprague and Chris Penrod. Nikki had an adventurous spirit, loved life and loved people. I know this by her poems. She saw life reflecting in the water . . . saw angels disguised as grasshoppers, and gazed at the sky, asking “Is this heaven?” I know a bit of Nikki . . . by her poems and the artfully crafted CD.
Nothing deterred Nikki in her quest to experience life in her own way, and on her own terms. She’s gone now, but has left us with her greatest poem — her life, captured on a CD entitled Nikki’s Rose.
For further information visit www.nicolepenrod.org . The CD can now be ordered on-line at www.petersprague.com
Copyright 2002 by Robert Ross, all rights reserved
Robert Ross can be reached by e-mail at SanDiegoRoss@Yahoo.com
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