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Paynesville Press - February 6, 2002

Local songwriting duo wins award

By Michael Jacobson

Ken Vork and Roy Colbert A song by the Paynesville songwriting duo of Ken Vork, left, and Roy Colbert, right, was chosen as a winning entry in a song contest in January.

Their song, Heavenly Phone, was one of four songs recognized by Zeitgeist's Eric Stokes Song Contest. Colbert and Vork got to sing the song with Zeitgeist, an internationally-known instrumental quartet, at the Unity Church-Unitarian in St. Paul on Saturday, Jan. 19.

Colbert and Vork entered four original songs in the contest, and their winner, Heavenly Phone, was the last one they put in the envelope. The contest was judged only on the basis of the sheet music.

"The song Heavenly Phone came about while I was washing the dishes," explained Roy of the song's origins for the concert program. "It is just one of the many songs that has taken shape while at the kitchen sink. I think that stems from growing up in a crowded household and singing with my baby sister, Joyce, while we washed and dried the dishes. It made the task more enjoyable because she could really sing."

"Heavenly Phone really speaks to my belief as a spiritual person," he continued. "I do believe that the phone is ringing continuously, but we let fear and other obstacles interfere with our picking it up, answering that all-important call."

Colbert said that he was just a messenger for the song: God is the author.

It seems one place God reaches Colbert frequently is at the kitchen sink. "I wash dishes all the time. It's my studio," explained Roy in an interview last week. "You relax... and lyrics come to my head."

After knowing each other for a decade and talking about working together, Roy and Ken started collaborating on a song a few years ago. They were both pleased with the results, and since then have joined to write seven gospel songs.

"Usually Roy comes up with the tune and the lyrics and I work on the structure and the form," said Ken.

Heavenly Phone "We call it Swedish soul," added Roy. "Ken adds so much flavor to a song. He hears things in the music that I don't hear."

"You need someone who can bring it to life," said Roy of their creative partnership, "who can put it to notes and arrange it. Ken can do that and do it very well."

While their recent award includes a very small stipend, it won't pay any bills. Both continue to work full time and pursue their own music as a passionate hobby. Roy works nights at the St. Cloud Correctional Institute and teaches karate. Vork teaches band at the middle school and plays trombone in the St. Cloud Symphony.

"I don't believe in the starving artist bit. I'm not going to go there," said Roy.

The recognition from winning the award might be extremely helpful, they feel, when it comes to publishing their songs or making a CD. "I think - more than anything - it refreshed us and renewed our vigor to get things going," said Roy. "For me, I've been writing like crazy."

Their goal is to write enough songs so they can make a complete album. "I think we want to get a library together, so we need three or four more songs," said Ken. "Then we might want to get some musicians together and try to self-produce a CD."

But they have to be patient, because they only work on their songs in their free time. "It takes time," explained Ken, "because you only have so many hours in the day."

"We write because we love it. It's not because of all that," said Roy of the business side of music. "But if you write you want to share it. You want to get it out there."

"I do it for enjoyment. I can't see me not singing. I can't see Ken not playing," he added.

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