Gallopaway Music – Who we are

Frances and I registered The GallopAway Music Company with the US Patent and Trademark Office in 2004. But that “stake in the ground” came 25 years after we began playing music together at work and “on the street,” or entertaining inmates at the Santa Cruz County jail and Soledad State Prison. Or entertaining friends and friends of friends in Mendocino County. Jan Luby was the other member of the intermittent “Hat Band,” with her wonderful singing and  guitar playing, interesting original folk songs, naturally engaging presence (on-mic or off), and her effective gig-getting skills.

Frances and I got married in Mendocino, California, and began a decade of adventures as a couple, more or less on-the-road. We wrote reams of journal entries, song lyrics, musical ideas, and finished pieces. When something was ready (and sometimes not), we recorded and scored our songs and instrumentals, filling boxes and hard drives. At last count we have 35 filing cabinet drawers of finished and unfinished material (if we include robot parts and original software code), enough to keep us busy for a couple more lifetimes of mining for nuggets that could spring to life, given the right treatment of the right stuff.

Meanwhile Frances worked for eight years in locked psych hospitals and wrote books about some of the fascinating people she met, including their writings and artwork when permission was granted. A few of their stories were rendered as drama, and some of the plays were produced on small stages in New York and California.

Yes, we bumped into interesting people, some with famous names. But there came a time when we needed a level of stability that only putting down roots could provide. We returned to the region where we started, in or near Santa Cruz, California. I fit easily into a day job of technology (my other passion since childhood), and Frances finished her degree in Literature/Creative Writing at University of California – Santa Cruz. As we write this, with GallopAway Music in its sixteenth year, we marvel at the journey and the artifacts that attest to what a mutually supportive relationship and persistence can achieve.

Musically, our songs with words often tend toward little “radio plays.” And they are very rarely finished on the day of their birth. “Sadie,” on our CD, Good Morning San Juan, contains the third completely different lyrical treatment to the same music. It was about a flower, then a spider, then a maybe-romance. Brand new songs can creep into our lives through our musical directorship, as was “Moon Song” for a college production of Frederico Garcia Lorca’s Blood Wedding. Or they can arrive unbidden, as was “Good Morning San Juan,” in response to the neighborhood rooster outside our window that used to wake us up crowing in A-flat (the last sound heard on the recording).

FRANCES plays violin and piano, reads music and improvises. She sings and  cooks giant batches of granola, seasoned refried beans and mysterious soups. She also wrote the 300-year history of our town into the narrative of Daniel “Zoot Suit” Valdez’s oratorio Cancion de San Juan, which was produced and performed in 2012 to enthusiastic acclaim at the El Teatro Campesino theater in San Juan Bautista.

TIM plays cello, guitar, guitarron, piano, and recorders, plus a bit of drums and harmonica. He composes instrumentals and writes songs, especially with Frances, scoring our pieces and others’ to support performing, collaborating and sharing. He sings on stage and off, especially during the commute to and from his day job as technical support and engineering sales for demanding industrial temperature control systems, mainly in Silicon Valley.

The musical story of our past two decades would be woefully incomplete without highlighting Luis Valdez’s famous theater company, El Teatro Campesino, the reason for our moving to the little town in which it is headquartered: San Juan Bautista. We became the string section of the house band and have been very fortunate to participate in thrilling and important work there. We enjoy the brilliant acting, directing and writing, often pertaining to the cross-cultural challenges and rewards of examining stereotypes and laying preconceptions bare, enabling improvement in public understanding and policy.

~ Tim and Frances Tompkins

P.S.  OK, but where did “GallopAway” come from?
My favorite gramma was Emma Gallaway.
Joseph Weatherbottom, the title character in one of my plays, had no way of knowing this in real life. But he was Irish and began calling me, his supervisor at the sheltered workshop, Mrs. GallopAway because I am fast, Fast Frances: when it is time to go, I’m gone. We needed a fast name for our new music company and GallopAway won.

~ Frances

Tim and Frances playing strings at a Swanton district Pacific overlook near Santa Cruz, CA. Circa 1980.
Tim and Frances playing strings at a Swanton district Pacific overlook near Santa Cruz, CA. Circa 1980.
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