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Cecil County Life

‘Live it hard and make it personal’

Jun 02, 2021 12:33PM ● By Tricia Hoadley
By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

On the day that Chris Malinowski wrote the song “Confetti” last September, everything, it seemed to him, was in tatters.

His beloved mother-in-law had recently died, and the Fair Hill home he shared with his wife Chrissy had taken on the contemplative and grieving air of both a sanctuary and a long and painful funeral.

Leo, the 16-year-old dog he and Chrissy saw as the third component of the family, had recently passed away in Malinowski’s arms, and the dog’s absence was a palpable gut punch that still lingered.

And all of it – all of the flagrant violations of normalcy and familiarity – had already vanished into the mouth of a hurricane known as COVID-19, that took Malinowski away from his long-time bandmates Jim Pennington, James Boruch and Greg Lundmark in The Collinwood just as a new studio recording was about to begin.

It ripped apart the chord that connected him and Chrissy to their friends, to the local music scene, and to nearly everything that gave Malinowski’s life joy and meaning.

His life had taken on the linear shape of a flatline.

So on that late September afternoon, Malinowski took his acoustic guitar to his backyard patio, fired up his propane-fueled fire pit, stared into the manufactured flames, pleading for the gods and the goddesses for sympathetic magic like a bone-dry receptacle waiting to be filled again.

Malinowski began fingering the C-Major 7/9 chord. Looking up from his guitar, he saw the way Autumn had begun leaving its imprint in the way of falling petals and leaves from trees.

Nature’s confetti.

Then a lyric came into his head: Live it hard and make it personal.

It became the first line of “Confetti.”

“I was in a place where I did not desire anything,” he said. “’Live it hard and make it personal’ was about my desire to find the nuance and the color of life again, and do as much in life as I wanted to do, and make it personal to me.

“I felt that I wanted something with a childhood newness of being freshly born again, and I began with a communion with nature, because everything I had normally been engrossed in – social media, politics – had exhausted my senses. I needed something that felt more like my childhood.”

Soon, “Confetti” began to take shape, and after Malinowski recorded it with then 16-year-old Jules Corridori at Rich Degnar’s DaSa Studios in Pike Creek in October, he began to conceive of the song as a video, one that he envisioned as a moody and visual nod to his exploration of the supernatural and the occult.

He had done this before; in 2014, he turned his song “White Deer” into a four-minute video as an accompaniment to “Yes, Your Tide is Cold and Dark, Sir,” an independent film he wrote, directed and starred in. On the video, he had worked with Philadelphia-based cinematographer Ian Mosley-Duffy and editor Colby Bartine from Brooklyn, and as Malinowski’s ideas to reinterpret “Confetti” as a short film began to take shape, it was time to get the guys back together again and make a second music video – one that would end up using Fair Hill as its ethereal backdrop.

Fair Hill on film

“Confetti” was partially filmed this January on an estate near the White Clay Creek Preserve in Newark, at a private home in Hockessin, and at Malinowski’s home in Fair Hill, but its most stunning scenes were reserved for the McCloskey Ruins along the Blue Diamond Trail near Fair Hill, which were filmed in bitter cold conditions and just days after a snowstorm had pelted Cecil County with nine inches of snow. Often times during the video shoots, it was so cold that the extras – largely friends of his, who were outfitted in animal masks and danced beside an evening bonfire – retreated to their cars to warm up between takes.

Bartine said that during his editing of the video, he was amazed by the number of scenes that were captured by Malinowski and Mosly-Duffy in the spur-of-the-moment of the shooting.

“Sometimes I will go through the coverage and see what Chris wants and what he has storyboarded out, and I then I will find other moments that just come out during the shoot, when something new happens,” Bartine said.

“In the bonfire scene, for instance, I saw a lot of little facial movements behind those masks that worked so well with the song. Being able to work with Ian and Chris on these projects assures me that I will end up with a lot of these unplanned moments.”

“Chris and I had scouted a few places a few days before the shoot, but when we got on set, we made it up on the fly,” Mosely-Duffy said. “It was setting ourselves up in these different scenarios and pre-planning, but when it came time to shoot, Chris and I just riffed off one another. It became an organic experience, and then Colby found the best bits to pull together the somewhat weird narrative of the video and make it all work.

“Having the snow on the ground served to be a happy accident, and I feel that is how Chris generally works. We get to a place and things may not be going right according to the script, and he finds a way to potentially change the original idea of the video. We thought, ‘Let whatever happens happen, so let’s make do and just go for it.’”

If Mosley-Duffy’s cinematography serves to wrap the narrative of the “Confetti” video in blankets of snow, light, shadows, fire and the divine presence of the female, they only serve as the co-stars of the four-and-a-half-minute video.

Simply put, Jules Corridori, now 17 and a student at the Cab Calloway School of the Arts in Wilmington, is its star, lending a clear, soaring and haunting voice that grabs every lyric and personalizes them as if they were the story of her own life.

“I started teaching Jules the guitar when she was about 12 or 13 years old, and the first time I heard her sing, I remember crying in my lesson room, and telling her, ‘I don’t know how anyone has what you have,’” said Malinowski. “I asked her if her mother sang. She said ‘No.’ Then I asked her if her father sang, and she said, ‘No.’ Then I asked her, ‘Then where does your incredible voice come from?’ She told me that she doesn’t know.

“I’ve never experienced a more visceral response to a voice before,” he added. “It is simply this amazing organic gift she infuses in her singing that is all hers. For instance, I had written a melody line for ‘Confetti,’ but Jules embellished it with her own melody and harmonies, and it was better than anything I could ever imagine on my own.”

Pleas to the gods and the goddesses

For Malinowski, rejoining his fellow members has signaled the end of a long retreat from studio work and live performances, and said that producing the “Confetti” video has become the added fuel to the fire that is reigniting the band that originally formed in 1999.

The Collingwood is currently working with Degnars on what will be their fifth full-length album – “You Lust or You Rust” -- that will include “Confetti” as its first single. On June 12-13, a video of Malinowski’s songs from the album, “Jouissance,” will be shot by Mosley-Duffy in Fair Hill and Newark, and will bring back Corridori, who also performs on the track.

“Everything about where The Collingwood is now reverts back to my pleading to the gods and goddesses for sympathetic magic during the writing of ‘Confetti,’” Malinowski said. “It began with asking them for help and surrendering to that power, and that led to working with Colby and Ian and Chrissy and my friends again. It led to the magic that is Jules Corridori.

“It all led to something beautiful, to a fluidity that I trusted, and the gods and the goddesses all returned the favor.”

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