Comedy finds its voice


by Andy Goodell

Student vocal performers at Simpson strive for harmony – in their performances and in their social lives.

Stress that disrupts that harmony can come from many sources though, including friendly competition and upcoming performances.

“Because Simpson has such a successful music program, it tends to be very competitive,” sophomore Kathleen Schaben said. “It can be hard to maintain close friendships when you begin competing against one another for a part.”

There is a yin-yang effect for vocal performers at Simpson, according to Schaben.

“While [competition] is a good thing to a certain extent, as it makes each of us strive for perfection, it can also wear a person down,” Schaben said.

One common stress-producer for singers is preparing for an upcoming performance. Simpson’s vocal performers are no exception – many of them are currently getting ready for three performances of Johann Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus” on Oct. 7-9.

However, competition among vocal-performance majors for parts in this operetta may be relieved due to the magnitude of the cast. While the chorus remains the same for all three performances, the cast is doubled. One cast will perform twice, the second cast will perform the third day.

The size of the cast is ambitious according to director and Professor of Music Robert Larsen.

“A double cast with a 60-person chorus is a big endeavor for so early in the year,” Larsen said.

Larsen expects practicing for this performance will be especially challenging because of the operetta style “Die Fledermaus” requires.

“It is important to give students a sense of the demand of this music,” Larsen said. “Operetta is more challenging than opera.”

Larsen will also focus on the importance of hitting cues.

“Most necessary in directing a piece like this is comedic timing,” Larsen said.

As with all musical and vocal performances, memorization is key. And it isn’t always easy.

“It’s very difficult to memorize all that music and it can be really stressful,” sophomore Christy Hungerford said.

The first performers of “Die Fledermaus” probably faced more challenges than today’s singers.

The original production of “Die Fledermaus” was met with controversy when it first appeared in France. It was banned by the government for what was seen as off-color humor, according to Larsen.

At the same time, Simpson students will have to work harder to get the operetta’s message across. Today’s audiences may not understand many of the humorous references in the dialogue of “Die Fledermaus.”

Regardless of the challenges, Schaben enjoys vocal performance. She said the venue lets people present controversial ideas in public.

“It allows you to express words and thoughts that aren’t necessarily permitted in everyday conversation,” Schaben said.

She added that while it can be stressful, singing and performing are worth the effort.

“Everyone has some sort of outlet which they use to express their joys, sorrows and frustrations. Singing provides that outlet for me,” Schaben said.