Southeast Missouri State University
For more information, contact:
Ann K. Hayes (573) 651-2552




CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., March 14, 2003 - The Southeast Missouri Music Academy will stage Benjamin Britten's interpretation of the story of Noah March 21-23 at the First Baptist Church in downtown Cape Girardeau.

The performances of "Noye's Fludde" will include about 150 children and adults from around the region. Performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. March 21-22 and 2 p.m. March 23. Tickets are $5 in advance.

"Our goal in producing a work of this magnitude is to build support for, and access to, music for our children," said Hays Hendricks, director of the Southeast Missouri Music Academy. "This is an attempt to provide a high quality musical opportunity for young people from across the region and to raise awareness that children really can perform high level music and rise to the level you ask of them."

The costumed performances will include children ages 3 to 18. The children's opera will feature performance units as diverse as a string orchestra, a "chorus of gossips," a recorder consort, a youth orchestra, a percussion battery, a handbell choir and a "chorus of animals and birds." Accomplished musicians from Southeast Missouri State University and the public schools are working with the children in preparation for the performances, Hendricks said.

"It would be difficult, even for most large school systems, to pull off a performance of this magnitude," Hendricks said. "It really has taken a huge pool of parent volunteers who are working very hard."

Hendricks said the entire opera is being performed by children with the exception of two roles. Tyson Zahner, a music teacher from Jackson, Mo., is playing the role of Noye. Leslie Jones of the Southeast music faculty, is performing the role of Mrs. Noye.

"Everything is meant to be done by children," Hendricks said, adding that children will play the roles of 39 pairs of animals, including mice, lions, leopards and polecats. "It is going to be an extravaganza."

She said the Music Academy is hopeful that the production of "Noye's Fludde" may plant the seed for a future youth orchestra and youth choir within the Academy.

Hendricks said rehearsals for the performances began in September. "Noye's Fludde" is being performed at First Baptist Church because the opera requires the use of an organ.

The 1958 opera is based on 13th century Chester Miracle Plays originally performed by local Craft Guilds from the local church or cathedral. Miracle plays lasted from sunrise to sunset and Guilds performed them on a mobile cart called a "pageant," which moved around the town. The plays were named the Chester Miracle Plays because of the city in which they were performed from 1475 to 1500.

Britten, who wrote the opera "Noye's Fludde," became known as one of the greatest of the generation of English composers which followed the so-called English Musical Renaissance of the early 20th century. He frequently based his work on the conflict between a simple man and corrupt society, a theme present in "Noye's Fludde." In this performance, the innocent children and animals present a strong contrast to the wickedness of the society destroyed by God in the flood. The original Chester Miracle play contained 49 different species of animals. Britten used 35 kinds of animals in pairs in the first production of "Noye's Fludde."

The music for the production was written for both amateur and professional players. Britten added unusual instruments, such as handbells, and cups and mugs slung on string by their handles to form a rough scale. Performers hit them with wooden spoons to produce the sound of the first raindrops hitting the roof of the ark.

Britten was born in 1913 in the North Sea coastal town of Lowestoft, East Anglia. He began composing as a child, encouraged by his mother do to so. In addition to his operas, Britten wrote a large repertoire of orchestral music, chamber music, songs and song arrangements, secular and church parables and canticles, and non-operatic music dramas, works for solo instruments, and incidental music for films, radio dramas and plays.

Britten moved to America in 1937 to escape the war approaching in Europe. Love of his homeland remained constant, however, and he continued to write music concerned with Britain and British subjects. In 1943, he returned home to finish work on his opera "Peter Grimes," one of the most popular of all 20th century operas. Later, Britten would become largely responsible for the Aldeburgh Festival, which served primarily as a showcase for English operas. Many of Britten's operas premiered at the Aldeburgh Festival.

Britten came to Aspen in July 1964 to receive the first ever Aspen award, a $3,000 prize given by the chairman of the Institute of Humanistic Studies to honor an individual anywhere in the world "judged to have made the greatest contribution to the advancement of the humanities." In 1976, the year of his death, Queen Elizabeth II elevated Britten to a life peerage, honoring his service to British music.

The Southeast Missouri Music Academy at Southeast Missouri State University is dedicated to enriching the lives of its students by stimulating a lifelong appreciation of music.

For more information on the Music Academy's performances of "Noyes Fludde" or for tickets, call the Southeast Missouri Music Academy at (573) 651-2378.


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