Monday, October 12, 2009

Inside the Composers Workshop

Click image to see more Jan Abbot photos of Enemies, a Love Story

It's appropriate following Andrew Adler's article in the Courier Journal on Sunday, that we hear from one of the participants of this very important program. It just so happens, that one of the Louisville Orchestra interns, Jenifer Thomas is a student at UofL's School of Music and has participated in the Composer Workshop for the two years the program has been going on. She was able to give a bit of insight on her experiences.

Now, after two years of Composer Workshops, I am hit with two huge realizations: 1. I am so blessed to have had the opportunity to work with these living composers, and 2. I am amazed at how much talent composers today have.

Jake Heggie, last year’s composer, was an enthusiastic, personable, and anxious to work with as many students as he could. His love for his music, obvious ability to write for the voice (a task not easily done), and desire for the singer to break out of his or her shell and truly embrace the music were the major tenets of his master classes. He had the singers jumping around the room, shouting, singing directly to other students, or other tactics to allow freedom and expression in singing.

Ben Moore, however, had very different tactics. His background as an actor (as well as a painter, composer and lyricist) allowed him to embrace the more subtle nuances of his songs. His music is more lyrical than Heggie’s, perhaps edging towards musical theatre- which makes sense, of course, since he has written several musicals. The lyricism, however, does not detract from the underlying sadness of many of his songs. His approach to interpreting the pieces was also inspired by his acting background. Singers were asked to identify a feeling that was in harmony with the song, and recreate it. Perhaps this is the influence of method acting? Regardless, it allowed for more understated, gripping performances in the singers- a vast difference from Heggie’s more external style.

Nonetheless, both composers provided tools to be used in performance from this point on. I feel honored to have been able to work with such talented men, on their music, from their point of view. And what a positive outlook modern opera has! With such talented composers out there (with Heggie and Moore being only a small sampling), new operas are compelling, musically interesting, and based on stories to which audiences can relate. What a lucky group of singers (and audience members) we are, to have such talent at our fingertips!

Jenifer Thomas

Along with students from UofL's School of Music and the Academy of Music at St. Francis in the Fields, Kentucky Opera Studio Artists also participate in the Composer Workshop program. To audition for a Studio Artist position with Kentucky Opera, visit the website for forms, schedules and so much more!

No comments: