Vigil: A Scene from a Greek Play Set to New Wave Music

“Vigil” is a very 1980s-inspired tune. Which is apt because it was composed in 1988. And recorded properly only now.

It’s a moody new wave tune about the tension between doing your duty and feeling trapped, about experiencing isolation and depression and yet soldiering on for a greater cause.

I used a chord progression that was at least 80% from The Cure and some power chords in the bridge that were 100% Simple Minds, with lyrics and atmosphere reminiscent of Duran Duran’s “Save a Prayer.”

THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF THE SONG

Sometime between August and December 1988, I was in third year high school and forced to read the Greek play Agamemnon by Aeschylus. (Thank you, Mr.Ferranco.) The only thing I remember was that it had a killer opening scene spoken by the Watchman, the lone sentinel waiting on the shore for the ships to come back from the Trojan war. Once he caught sight of the ships, he had to light the signal fire to tell the entire kingdom that the king, Agamemnon, was back from the war.


Opening of Agamemnon by Aeschylus
The opening monologue of Agamemnon by Aeschylus

I turned that first image from the opening scene into “Vigil” and was hoping to one day play it onstage with my high school garage band. But that never happened. My high school garage band was much more into surf guitar and instrumentals.

Years later, I joined a band with some former members of my garage band plus some other schoolmates. We were called SNS (don’t ask why) and this was around 1994 and we wanted to play some original materials. So I dusted off this song and got our female vocalist K.Sheerin Castillo to turn it into a rocking number. We even sang an acoustic version of it live on the air on the RX93.1 FM radio station.

Here’s a cassette recording of that performance:

Then in 2000 or 2001, searching for material that I could use for my electronic band, Clone, I figured this song had even better potential as an electronic tune. It was already a complete package — with a hook in the chorus, and some memorable yet mysterious imagery. And so a rough recording of this song made on a cassette 4-track recorder for Clone’s first album, aptly entitled Demonstrandum, which you can download free on the QED Records netlabel.

Here’s what it sounded like as Clone, with K.Sheerin Castillo on vocals and Karlo Samson on live sampler and electronics:

I never did get to record a proper version of it however. Until now: 2019. So from 1988 till 2019, it only took … well, 31 years. But as they say: better late than never.

So, like the watchman in the song, the wait is over. The ships are home from Troy.

LYRICS

VIGIL
Music and lyrics: Lionel Zivan Valdellon (1988)

01
You’ll find me standing with my face to the sea,
Standing on the sand with a torch in my hand.
I am the eternal watchman, waiting for the ships to come back home.
You’ll find me waiting here with the wind in my hair
And the salt on my face on the…

[CHORUS]
Seashore
You’ll find me where you did before.
Waiting on the
Seashore
You’ll find me where you did before.

02
Upon this vigil, there is no rest for me.
For in place of sleep, is this fear that I keep.
I’ve been awake for ten years, scanning the horizon for some sign
I’ve been silent, I’ve been patient
Will they ever free me from the…

[BRIDGE]
A never-ending vigil
For the sceptred lion’s return.
My eyes, they’re stinging,
My heart you’re wringing.
I cannot leave, I’ll wait forever on the…
[CHORUS]

[CODA]
My eyes, they’re stinging.
My heart you’re wringing.
My feet are melting into the sand.

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