Curtain Call, a University of Lynchburg musical theatre performing group, will present a unique concert of never-before-heard music at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 29, in Dillard Theatre.
The concert features five new songs that the theatre department commissioned from a group of songwriters in New York City, plus another song that the writers had recently finished and asked the Lynchburg group to premiere.
Because the songs are brand new, the students have the unique experience of going into it without any popular performers to imitate, or judge themselves by. They also have the pleasure of introducing the audience to brand new work. That’s exactly the point, said professor Loretta Wittman.
“Most of the time young artists are working with material that has already been artistically styled by another performer,” she said. “But with this project, our students will be the first to bring their original voices to newly composed material.”
Dana Ballard, a music professor at Lynchburg, proposed the “Curtain Up Writers Workshop” as a way to give students more experience with original songs. Her son, James Ballard, is a composer in New York and agreed to write a song for the group. He also introduced the college to other songwriters who could help with the project.
To help the writers craft original songs that connect with the performers, Curtain Call students replied to prompts such as, “What is your greatest strength?” and “One word to describe your hope for the New Year?”
“The writers have been in contact with the students on a one-on-one basis to make sure that the songs fit their personality and their vocal range,” Wittman said. “Receiving these emails from people working in the business has been very exciting for our students.”
Jordan Champe ’21 was paired with F. Michael Haynie, a songwriter and actor who recently performed in “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” on Broadway. Champe responded to questions and sent video recordings of him singing so Haynie could tailor the song specifically for him.
“It’s been such a cool process because he’s been really eager and excited about writing the song, as much as I’ve been excited to sing it,” Champe said.
He was excited to find the music and lyrics in his email one morning. “I loved every part of it,” he said. The song, titled “Dear You,” has a jazz feel and a theme about a young person wanting to grow up and be an individual, rather than be controlled by others.
Deciding how to sing the song without anyone to emulate has been a learning experience. “I’m always wondering, is this how I should sing it? I have nothing to base anything off of,” Champe said. “I’m using my own emotions and my own past experiences.”
Other soloists singing the commissioned songs include Jenna Bohrer ’21 and Sydnee Smith ’18. Brooke Bosiger ’19 will premiere a song that one of the writers recently completed for the musical “Hart Island.” The writers also wrote two ensemble numbers for Curtain Call.
Curtain Call was formed to give students more opportunities to rehearse and perform songs from musicals without having to produce entire shows.
Champe, a relative newcomer to musical theatre, said he loves being a part of the group. “Once coming here and finding my place, and being a part of Curtain Call, I’ve made a lot of friends, and I’ve learned a lot about music,” he said. “This has been overall a great experience.”
The April 29 concert is free and open to the public. The songs contain mature themes.