Music expert tunes up at McLachlan trial
The Vancouver Sun - November 10, 1998
Neal Hall, Sun Court Reporter Vancouver Sun
An American musicologist jazzed up the Sarah McLachlan civil suit this week by singing scat and playing Schubert on an electric keyboard.
He also offered vocal renditions of Yankee Doodle and On Top of Old Smokey.
Gerald Eskelin, 64, who teaches music at Pierce College in Los Angeles, was trying to illustrate the differences between composing and arranging music.
Eskelin has been nominated for two Grammy awards for his work with the L.A. Jazz Choir and has previously testified in music plagiarism cases against Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and John Fogerty.
He was called as an expert witness to testify on behalf of Darryl Neudorf, 34, who is suing McLachlan, her record company, Nettwerk Productions, and others.
The Vancouver record producer and former drummer with the band 54-40 claims he wasn't properly paid or credited for co-writing four songs and co-producing McLachlan's 1988 debut album, Touch.
Lawyer Jennifer Conkie, representing McLachlan and the other defendants, argued earlier that parts of Eskelin's report were biased. B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Cohen agreed, excluding 14 pages from the 30-page report.
The judge, however, qualified Eskelin as an expert in music arranging, composition, forensic musicology and the psychology of music.
Eskelin testified it was his opinion that Neudorf's three months of work developing songs with McLachlan in early 1988 was collaborative songwriting.
His cross-examination will continue today at the Vancouver Law Courts, where McLachlan is attending the civil trial daily.
McLachlan's legal team has retained its own music expert -- local singer-songwriter Bill Henderson -- who is taking notes of Eskelin's testimony. He is expected to testify after the defendants open their case, likely next week.
Henderson is the former leader of the band Chilliwack, currently is with the band UHF and has been a record producer for almost three decades. The author of more than 300 songs, he was president for two years of the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada.
Henderson's own expert report concluded that Neudorf co-wrote part of three songs on Touch and estimated he should have received royalties of 1.5 cents per album.
Neudorf received one per cent of the retail price of each record sold for his efforts helping McLachlan write songs and his pre-production work before McLachlan entered the recording studio, Henderson, noted.
He concluded Neudorf's one per-cent share of record sales was adequate compensation.
McLachlan, 30, is also expected to testify next week. Her manager, Terry McBride, said earlier he expects her to play her guitar in court and possibly sing to demonstrate how she developed songs.
The trial has heard how McLachlan was signed by Nettwerk to a five-record deal in October 1987, while she was living in Halifax. At the time, she had never written a complete song.
A number of witnesses have testified how various musicians, including Neudorf, were asked by Nettwerk to help McLachlan write songs for her debut recording, which went on to sell 625,000 copies.
McLachlan's most recent CD, Surfacing, has sold five million copies and won her two Grammy Awards and four Juno awards this year. She also won four West Coast Music Awards last weekend, including one for best songwriter.