In the fall, Middle School Theatre Teacher Mary Carpenter approached Middle School Math teacher and musician Justin Solonynka to ask if he’d be willing to work together on the middle school show. She explained that it would not be a traditional musical as in the past, but a play. However, Mary envisioned that there would be an abundance of transitional music and sound effects. Last year, Justin music directed the Upper School musical Peter and the Starcatcher. He liked the idea of another collaboration and the choice of A Wrinkle in Time furthered his decision as it’s a book he loves.
After reviewing the script and having a few conversations with Mary, they worked out three places in the script where a song could be sung, in addition to a reprise at curtain call. Mary wanted something that set up the play without giving the false impression that this was a typical musical.
Justin shared his creative process with This Week, “The opening song came to me in the shower, which is apparently a wonderful source for musical inspiration. There’s something to that whole ‘singing in the shower’ thing, I guess. I hit upon the idea of writing a piece that was essentially a love letter to great books and came up with the simple phrase, ‘I love a good book!’ and the melody to go with it. I also thought of the line that ends the chorus, ‘I just can’t wait to see how it ends.’ So, that’s the opening song, ‘I Love a Good Book.’” A second song, “Song of Uriel,” is performed by all the cast members, so over 50 voices meld to belt it out. The piece was formed from a place in the script where certain characters hear singing in a language that they don’t understand.
Justin said the third song was the hardest to write. The idea was to create a lullaby that a character sings to the heroine of the play after she has been through a terrible ordeal. Mary asked for it to be something comforting. Justin thought about soothing his daughter as a child and eventually remembered a lyric that “unlocked” the song for him. The resulting piece is called “What Are Words” and it’s about the failure of language to fully express our emotions.
Justin also composed transitional music for the show and eighth grader Aria Gratson will spend the show “in the pit” playing the flute, a variety of percussion instruments, and helping with sound effects. Justin noted, “Aria has been absolutely incredible – she has a keen musical ear and she’s been an essential part of creating the sound and music.”
Justin also said, “I can’t express how much joy it gives me to hear [the cast] singing my songs in the hallways in between classes, not to mention when they are singing all-out in rehearsal. The music only existed in my head until they gave life to it. I am so proud of the cast for their work!”