Juniper Dreams

Posters are up and rehearsals have started. I’m feeling remarkable fortunate to be having my first musical theatre work performed by the pupils I teach. For the first time in my compositional work I have the opportunity to work with the performers over an extended period and I am finding I am also composing as I rehearse at the piano – hearing ideas for scoring as well as rethinking harmonisations and melodic lines. I am also forced to reflect on the suitability of keys and how well they sit with the voices I am working with.

I am increasingly concerned by the super-structure – that of the whole musical in terms of it’s musical content. I have made it a priority to draw connections between different songs through motifs and their subtle transformation and this helps to draw the songs together as a whole. I am writing in an extended tonal landscape and also try to use harmonic material to be expressive yet making use of conventional progressions such as a focus on primary triads. There are no intended key connections between the songs so tonality is in no way structural in the work.

I am looking forward to writing a trio, which combines three songs found earlier in the show. How I can combine them is still uncertain as I am undecided about which song – out of the three – will provide the context for the other two. In addition to the trio I need to compose a song ‘Try Harder’ for the teacher characters to sing.

Underscore is something I am particularly keen to include and I hope I can create material that uses previously composed ideas in a changed context – be it harmonically primarily but also in terms of mood. I was determined from the outset that there be as much congruence between the songs as possible, to create a satisfying whole across the entire musical and not be a series of numbers. Developing melodic ideas from the various songs in the underscore should help to give the show cohesion.

Choice of instrumentation is clear in my mind – I’m hearing woodwind with their various doublings and some brass, piano and percussion. Young voices will need careful consideration to ensure the ensemble do not obliterate them in some numbers. The task of scoring is increasingly feeling like a rather large one so I will start planning the completion of the items over the coming weeks. I am thoroughly enjoying the process and look forward to another week of rehearsals.

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