A Q&A with Rich Shapero
Q: As with your other projects, Rightful has an unusual intersection of words, music and visual art.
RS: When I was younger, William Blake made a big impression on me. He was successful in creating a form of expression that was uniquely his. That’s been my goal—to knit together a body of ideas and an approach to language and storytelling, art and music that is original and distinctive.
Q: The Rightful artwork was commissioned for the project.
RS: We needed a painter with a visionary leaning, who could portray the otherworldly aspects of the slide and the things those buried might have experienced. At the same time, the story occurs a century ago, so we didn’t want the pieces to have a modern look. We needed an antique surrealist. Paul Rumsey was perfect. I think the paintings capture the power and mystery of the event, while preserving the helplessness and humility of those caught up in it; and his two-tone palette gives it the sense of history and a time past.
Q: The animation was done separately?
RS: Yes, by Tom Cottle. It was a challenge—to preserve the antique look, while bringing life to the characters. Somehow, Tom pulled it off.
Q: The music is an interesting assortment. There’s a waltz, a wedding march, a hymn, and a number of ballads. The ballads are new for you, aren’t they? Have you done anything like this before?
RS: I haven’t. I’ve loved and listened to English ballads all my life. They’re a great example of the mingling of music and storytelling, and some of them are very elaborate. The ballad seemed like the kind of expression Garris might be drawn to in trying to understand and describe the lives of those who were buried beneath the snow.
Q: The first track, “Somebody Invited Them All,” is derived from a Victorian piece.
RS: Yes. “Somebody’s Tall and Handsome” was written by John Church in 1884, and there were a number of recorded versions of it. It gained some popularity as a waltz in its day. Because Hiram is known in Rightful as “Somebody,” Jonas chooses “Somebody’s Tall and Handsome” as the wedding waltz. At the end of the novel, Garris uses the melody but rewrites the lyrics to tell Somebody’s tale.
In a similar way, “Some Simple Solace” uses the melody of an old Irish folk tune that Garris hears Blinne singing, and “Wake and Face the Light” uses the melody of the hymn Garris hears John singing during Koopman’s lesson. Koopman learned “Why Do We Mourn?” as a child in Dutch Pennsylvania.
Q: How did you collaborate with the deceased Edward Abbey on track six?
RS: When I was a kid, my uncle did the film editing for Lonely Are the Brave, which was taken from Abbey’s novel, The Brave Cowboy. I loved the story. As a preamble to the novel, Abbey included a long poem in ballad form. I put the ballad to music when I was 14, and over the years, as Rightful developed, I changed the lyrics to tell the story of Andy Rezkov. The structure of the piece, along with many of the ideas and phrasing, come from Abbey.
Q: Hollie Fullbrook is deeply affecting as the voice of Kiachuk.
RS: I think so too. Hollie shares Kiachuk’s somber temperament. And they’re connected by heritage. Kiachuk’s mother was a Kiwi.
Art, Animation and Music Credits
All animations created by Tomas Cottle from artwork by Paul Rumsey
Produced and storyboarded by Rich Shapero, Jan Lindsay-Smith and Josh Turner
Accompanying music drawn from The Slide That Buried Rightful: The Music