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Volume 24, Number 8 — August 2017

Across a Distance: The Music

November 29, 2011

When his wife Kelly Bremner was offered a job in the Theatre Department at Emory & Henry College, composer Scott Gendel moved with her from Wisconsin to Southwest Virginia, where he has worked at E&H, with Barter Theatre (Civil War Voices) and for a variety of local recitalists. He is also the company accompanist for the Madison Opera in Wisconsin, so he travels back and forth.

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Gendel on the Madison Opera website:

"The music for Across a Distance is really written around the sounds of Julia Faulkner's voice and Nick Lantz's poetry.

"Nick's words don't shy away from complexity, but are also written in simple, plain language. To pick up on that style, my music for this show is based on the richness of Romantic and early 20th-century opera, but has elements of musical theatre and folk song woven in. In this way, the songs bridge the gap between a dense operatic language and a simpler "pop music' sensibility.

"Julia's voice is so luscious; she has an amazing way with legato lines, and a deep understanding of Romantic gesture from all her work on the operas of Richard Strauss. But not everyone knows that she has a strong musical theatre background, which lends her a wonderful ability to deliver a sung line simply, as if it were speech. So her voice is really perfectly matched to Nick's poems; her basic sound is lush and full of color, but she can also sing in a more direct vernacular style.

"My music, then, is operatic in most ways: grand gestures, long legato phrases, lush harmonies that recall Romantic and 20th century operas, and a real focus on the beautiful sound of the voice. But the songs also incorporate aspects of musical theatre and folk song traditions, so that when the poetry takes on a simpler, more direct tone, the music reflects that by moving into more speech-like modes of expression, influenced by popular music."

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Topics: Music, Theatre



Nick Lantz