ORLANDO – There are plenty of ways for people to enjoy their retirement years – playing golf, traveling, doing volunteer work, or simply relaxing with no worries about the hustle and bustle of the working world.
Chuck Graham and Ed Borsoi both retired in 1999, but they found a different way to stay occupied: writing a three-hour musical based on a Spanish play.
It was, as Borsoi noted, about as novel a retirement plan as they get.
“For me, it’s great,” Borsoi said. “I wrap my day around it for the most part.”
Graham laughed and said composing the music for “Ulysses Goes Home” sometimes means setting aside his other passions – like fly fishing.
“This competes with my fishing,” he said.
The two retirees are members of the Holy Cats Band, an Orlando-based Christian Jazz outfit that has a compact disc – “Spirit’s Got Me” – available on Amazon.com, and now they’re in the market for a Central Florida theater with a good-sized stage, and for folks with experience producing and directing musicals, for “Ulysses Goes Home,” their magnum opus based on a play by Spanish novelist Antonio Gala. Borsoi wrote the lyrics, and Graham composed the music.
Borsoi said as soon as he read Gala’s play, he knew it would beautifully lend itself to a musical version.
“I got the play and I got permission by the author to use it,” he said. “All of the different scenes evoke a song idea, which is hard to come by, and we wrote the music for that. It was fun to do.”
So how did these two discover late careers as composers, songwriters, and performers when they came from dramatically different backgrounds – Graham after a career checking people’s teeth as a periodontist in Gainesville, and Borsoi as a Spanish professor at Rollins College.
“Chuck and I got together through a colleague of mine, Jack Lane, a history professor at Rollins who played the xylophone,” Borsoi said. “Chuck was about to retire and Jack was about to retire, and they got together and played a few gigs.”
Graham was a pianist and composer who dabbled in music while carrying on his dental career. Now freed from the pressures of the working world, he also found himself forming a partnership with Borsoi, who played no instruments but wanted to try his hand at writing lyrics.
“I was kind of into writing lyrics, so we got together and we’ve written a bunch of songs together,” Borsoi said. “When I was in my academic career at Rollins, I did some Spanish translations. One of them happened to be a musical, ‘Carmen Carmen,’ that was put on in Madrid.”
In handling the translations, Borsoi said, he faced the challenge of turning Spanish into English, while still ensuring that the words matched the pace of the music.
“You had to make the lyrics match the music,” he said. “That was one of the toughest things I did in my life, but then I said ‘I can do this.’ “
So he and Graham began writing songs like “City In The Sky,” “When You Get The Blues,” “My Soul’s On Fire” and “House of Dreams,” all of which they performed and recorded on “Spirit’s Got Me,” along with a band and vocals by singer Jill Contrucci.
“We got together and did a recording at a studio on Princeton Avenue,” Borsoi said. “We paid to have the CD made, sort of like a Vanity Press-type of thing. It was pretty sophisticated equipment.”
They even have a website, grambosongs.com.
“Chuck wanted to do Christian Jazz, which isn’t exactly my genre,” Borsoi said. “It’s soft Jazz, but it has Christian lyrics.”
Graham said he was hoping to expand their audience by expanding their reach.
“I tossed the Christian in because I said, ‘Who would listen to it?’ “ Graham said.
“We got it done, and then we went through this group, Discmakers,” Borsoi said. “They will produce the CD for you and print the logo. They put this CD on an indie site, and that was our production.”
Their next project was “Ulysses,” which has a demo CD, but still hasn’t found an audience – yet. That’s their next major artistic goal, to find a community theater where they can produce this epic musical with 22 songs and titles like “A Man With Maturity,” “It’s Love My Friend,” “A Little Drink” and “Time To Roll The Dice.”
Borsoi said it shows that a person’s retirement years can be among their most creative – if, not quite yet, their most profitable.
“We’re the worst salesmen in the world,” he laughed, but added that the experience of being retired composers is still great fun.
“I find it very satisfactory,” he said.
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