CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., May 14, 2004 — The Southeast Missouri Music Academy will stage Benjamin Britten’s interpretation of the story of Noah May 21-23 at Grace United Methodist Church at the corner of Broadway and Caruthers in Cape Girardeau.
The performances of “Noye’s Fludde” will feature a cast of about 85 children from 14 regional schools and four adults from around the region. An additional 15 adults are serving as support crew. Performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. May 21-22 and 2 p.m. May 23. Tickets are $7 in advance by calling (573) 651-2378 or at the door.
The costumed performances will include children and young adults ages 5 to 22. The children’s opera will feature performance units as diverse as a string orchestra, a recorder consort, a string orchestra, a percussion battery, a handbell choir, bugle corps, recorder consort and animal chorus. Accomplished musicians from Southeast Missouri State University and the public schools are working with the children in preparation for the performances.
“The more you ask of children, the more they will give,” said Hays Hendricks, director of the Southeast Missouri Music Academy. “This is an attempt to provide a high quality musical opportunity for young people from across the region and to raise awareness that children really can perform high level music and rise to the level you ask of them.”
Hendricks said children will play the roles of 15 pairs of animals, including mice, lions, leopards and polecats.
“It is going to be an extravaganza,” she said.
She said the Music Academy decided to perform the children’s opera again this year after a very successful staging of the opera last year.
“We decided to perform it again because it was such a fabulous experience last year,” Hendricks said.
She said she also is hopeful the production may plant the seed for a future youth orchestra and youth choir within the Academy.
“We are trying to build a contingency for that,” she said. “We are looking to grow our ranks.”
Hendricks said those playing the lead roles began rehearsing in October. Performing lead roles are Ben Hendricks of Cape Girardeau Middle School, who is playing the role of Sem; Catharine Goeke of Cape Girardeau Junior High School, who is playing the role of Mrs. Sem; Carly Trautwein of Cape Central High School, who is playing the role of Ham; Alex Anne Troxel and Rachel Kahle, both of Jackson High School, both of whom are playing the role of Mrs. Ham; Phillip Brotherton of Cape Central High School and Caleb Cascairo, who is home-schooled, both of whom are playing the role of Jaffett; and Sarah Goeke of Cape Central High School, who is playing the role of Mrs. Jaffett.
“The rest of the cast has been working since February to hone their skills,” she said.
The cast will perform the opera at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. May 19 for area school groups. In addition, this year’s cast plans to take the show on the road to Minneapolis, Minn., for two performances at St. Mark’s Cathedral May 28-29. Those shows are in conjunction with the national conference of the Suzuki Association of the Americas, also in downtown Minneapolis. The cast and crew plans to attend a cast party catered by TGI Friday’s and will visit Camp Snoopy in the Mall of America.
The 1958 opera is based on 13th century Chester Miracle Plays originally performed by local Craft Guilds from the local church or cathedral. Miracle plays lasted from sunrise to sunset and Guilds performed them on a mobile cart called a “pageant,” which moved around the town. The plays were named the Chester Miracle Plays because of the city in which they were performed from 1475 to 1500.
Britten, who wrote the opera “Noye’s Fludde,” became known as one of the greatest of the generation of English composers which followed the so-called English Musical Renaissance of the early 20th century. He frequently based his work on the conflict between a simple man and corrupt society, a theme present in “Noye’s Fludde.” In this performance, the innocent children and animals present a strong contrast to the wickedness of the society destroyed by God in the flood. The original Chester Miracle play contained 49 different species of animals. Britten used 35 kinds of animals in pairs in the first production of “Noye’s Fludde.”
The music for the production was written for both amateur and professional players. Britten added unusual instruments, such as handbells, and cups and mugs slung on string by their handles to form a rough scale. Performers hit them with wooden spoons to produce the sound of the first raindrops hitting the roof of the ark.
Britten was born in 1913 in the North Sea coastal town of Lowestoft, East Anglia. He began composing as a child, encouraged by his mother do to so. In addition to his operas, Britten wrote a large repertoire of orchestral music, chamber music, songs and song arrangements, secular and church parables and canticles, and non-operatic music dramas, works for solo instruments, and incidental music for films, radio dramas and plays.
Britten moved to America in 1937 to escape the war approaching in Europe. Love of his homeland remained constant, however, and he continued to write music concerned with Britain and British subjects. In 1943, he returned home to finish work on his opera “Peter Grimes,” one of the most popular of all 20th century operas. Later, Britten would become largely responsible for the Aldeburgh Festival, which served primarily as a showcase for English operas. Many of Britten’s operas premiered at the Aldeburgh Festival.
Britten came to Aspen in July 1964 to receive the first ever Aspen award, a $3,000 prize given by the chairman of the Institute of Humanistic Studies to honor an individual anywhere in the world “judged to have made the greatest contribution to the advancement of the humanities.” In 1976, the year of his death, Queen Elizabeth II elevated Britten to a life peerage, honoring his service to British music.
The Southeast Missouri Music Academy at Southeast Missouri State University is dedicated to enriching the lives of its students by stimulating a lifelong appreciation of music.
For more information on the Music Academy’s performances of “Noye’s Fludde” or for tickets, call the Southeast Missouri Music Academy at (573) 651-2378.