Royal Conservatoire of Scotland to premiere two transatlantic musicals at Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Two moving new musicals will premiere at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August the result of a transatlantic collaboration between two world-renowned performing arts institutions.
Scotland’s national conservatoire and the American Music Theatre Project (AMTP) at Northwestern University, Illinois, have joined forces for the second time to present the thematically linked productions which will be performed in repertory by students from both institutions.
- Legacy: A Mother’s Song. Story by Finn Anderson and Tania Azevedo. Book, music and lyrics by Finn Anderson. Directed by Tania Azevedo
A new musical spanning three generations of women, who are linked through the transatlantic ballad singing tradition. It explores the complexity of family structures and the challenges of parenthood. It’s set in modern day New York, where the shadows of previous generations have infiltrated the central character’s life.
- Legacy: The Book of Names. Music by Jonathan Bauerfeld, book and lyrics by Casey Kendall. Directed by Ryan Cunningham with David H. Bell
They travelled from around the world. They came for a better life. They arrived at immigration station, Ellis Island. This new musical shows how one day can change a lifetime. Families are reunited, lovers are forever bound, and new destinies are discovered.
The Fringe partnership was forged in 2017 when the two institutions took two new works to the festival Atlantic: A Scottish Story and Atlantic: America and the Great War which earned a string of five star reviews.
Each year students from the Royal Conservatoire’s Musical Theatre Masters programme perform three fully-produced works as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, including one main stage show at the Assembly Hall and two new works which receive their world premieres. This month-long run of performance is a unique offering to the MA Musical Theatre degree. Students travel from across the globe to study at the Royal Conservatoire to ensure they are part of this exclusive opportunity at the centre of the world’s largest and most famous arts festival.
Professor Jeffrey Sharkey, Principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, said: “It’s wonderful to once again collaborate with our friends at the American Music Theatre Project and build on what was a fantastic Fringe run in 2017. A celebration of shared values, this partnership is an enriching experience for all involved, from the students to the creative teams, who are committed to creating compelling new musical theatre for international audiences.
“Collaboration is a key element of our curriculum, where students have the opportunity to work with artists across the disciplines as well as alongside professional partners such as AMTP. Both sets of students get to share knowledge and discover and develop new processes while learning from leading industry professionals. We look forward to seeing what this year brings.”
AMTP was founded in 2005 to unite America’s leading artists in music theatre with Northwestern’s faculty, staff and students, bridging the professional and educational worlds to help create new musicals.
David H. Bell, AMTP Artistic Director, said: “Theatre is a collaborative art form; there is no better way to understand and appreciate another artist and to grow as an artist yourself than by the process of collaboration, communication and creation. Last year watching the Northwestern students discover not only creative collaboration with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, but also cultural and social collaboration with the RCS students, and Scotland itself, was a profoundly exciting experience.”
David said the Legacy productions examine how cultural heritage travels and evolves through distance and time: “The enduring legacy of A Mother’s Song is an exploration of art as seen through the lens of time while The Book of Names looks at cultural heritage through the lens of Ellis Island the point of entrance for immigration on the East Coast at the moment of great crisis and change. I am as excited by the way these two pieces are in ”˜dialogue’ with each other, as I am by the process of collaboration that creates them.”
Finn Anderson, the writer and composer of Legacy: A Mother’s Song, said his initial inspiration was to explore the migration of traditional songs and how they evolve over time: “I’ve drawn on ballad songs which have travelled from Scotland, through Ireland and into the Appalachian mountains but the score is mostly original, contemporary music. We have 15 voices so it will be a full sound with lots of rich harmony.”
Finn said the piece has been created with a cast of mostly young women at a time when many women across the world are speaking up on social issues: “These young actors are very politically engaged which has inspired Tania and I to create a story focusing on three women at different points in history, in different places in the world, who find connection in the songs that have passed between them. Each on the brink of motherhood but each in very differing circumstances, this connection helps them all to move through turbulent times and make difficult life-changing decisions for themselves and the next generation.”
Tania Azevedo, Director of Legacy: A Mother’s Song, hopes the piece will draw attention to the ”˜incredible musical links’ between Scotland and America: “At its core, it’s a story about family, specifically motherhood, and how you honour the legacy left by those before you. In the current climate, it excites me to be telling stories exploring women’s agency throughout history.
“We hope audiences will connect and be moved by the musical storytelling as well as learn about this tradition of ballad singing and how it has been passed down generations. We have a company of actor-musicians who we’ll utilise to their fullest potential. We’re keen on using a sense of magical-realism to heighten the different worlds and connect them at the same time. Creating a musical is a highly collaborative process and we’re excited to share it with the new talent of tomorrow.”
Legacy: The Book of Names is directed by Ryan Cunningham, AMTP Associate Artistic Director, who said: The story of Ellis Island is made up of the multitude of stories from the people who went through there. People are what made Ellis Island known around the world and people are at the centre of our show. America and Europe are both facing issues around immigration right now. I hope that people come and see the show and learn about this moment in American and world history. But more than that, I hope audiences see reflections of our current situation and the real people that are at the heart of this issue.”
Jonathan Bauerfeld, Composer and Lyricist for The Book of Names, said: “The music aims to be expansive and melodic in order to capture the enormity of the decision that these people were making. The story of immigrants travelling to America through Ellis Island has become part of the mythos of this country, and the score reflects the nature of their journey. It will travel between small, intimate moments to fully utilising our cast of 15 wonderful singers in order to create a big, choral sound.”
Visit the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s dedicated Fringe website www.rcsedfest.co.ukfor information on performances including alumni events, reviews, media galleries and ticket details.