A NEW FUSION OF STORYTELLING AND CLASSICAL MUSIC: Danika the Rose

I was onstage at the Thoreau School in Concord, MA, warming up my harp for a show when a young woman entered the empty auditorium and walked up to the stage. “Odds, my name is Jazimina MacNeil,” she said. “I’m a singer, and I have a proposition for you.”

Never having met her, I kept on playing. “Do tell,” I replied, intrigued. “What’s your name again?”

“Jazimina. I’m a mezzo-soprano.”

Interesting name, I thought. “Classical music?”

“Yes.” She and a colleague, a soprano, Sarah Shafer, Jazimina explained, specialize in singing Antonin Dvorak’s Moravian Duets, a little-known set of songs with lyrics in Czech, the preponderance of them for two women’s voices.

I’ve loved Dvorak’s music all my life, especially his New World Symphony. “So why are we talking?” I asked.

“I want you to write a fairy tale based on the duets,” she said. “One that you can tell, while Sarah and I sing the songs in between.”

I immediately thought of Serge Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, a favorite of mine as a child. A combination of storytelling and classical music. This project could be similar, but new.

“Not many people know about these duets, but with a story,” she added, “they might love them as much as we do.”

Long story short, two years later we’re preparing summer rehearsals with pianist Emely Phelps for the premiere of Danika the Rose in October. It will take place in Peterborough, New Hampshire at Bass Hall, with the help of The Harris Center and Electric Earth Concerts.

 

Tickets are on sale.

 

THE OLD MAN SPEAKS: A Story for the AMC Trail Crew

Here’s a quick preview of this new commissioned work, to be debuted in August 2019.

Legendary for Toughness

When you think of physical toughness, who comes to mind? Army Rangers? Navy Seals? Elite athletes? Well, add one more category: the White Mountains Professional Trail Crew of the Appalachian Mountain Club. With 80 pound packs on their backs, they are known for sprinting the trails of the Presidential Range, including Mt. Washington. Steep trails. Up into the clouds, in sun or fog or downpours, they run at full speed with their axes, freeing the forest trails of downed trees and hoisting five hundred pound rocks around to build stairs.

Every hiker who has ever climbed New Hampshire’s White Mountains has walked over bridges the Trail Crew has built, or rock stairs they have constructed. You don’t see them much. When you pass a sign that reads, “Trail Closed,” that’s where they are. A crew of men and women, living in the open for long stretches of time, unable to bathe for days, covered with spruce pitch to fend off bugs. A wild bunch. Smelly. Dirty. When they emerge from the trees to surprise hikers, they often resemble something out of Deliverance. Many hail from the country’s best universities.

Founded in 1919, the AMC Professional Trail Crew is a hundred years old this summer, and to celebrate their centennial on Mt. Washington this August, they’ve asked me to tell their story.

I’ve been working on it for a year. It’s called THE OLD MAN SPEAKS.

More to follow.