Students in instructor Jule Jones' vocal class rehearse through scenes for things that go bump in the night on Wednesday. The scene will be part of "Fairytale, An original operetta" that the classes will perform.
Photo by Matthew Zimmerman Banderas.
WALLA WALLA — The voices of more than a dozen music students lift in song in the music room at Walla Walla Community College. Their songs about creatures that go bump in the night, and a princess who simply loves to sing, are part of this year’s “Fairytale: An Original Operetta.”
An operetta is a small opera in which singing and movement are the only form of expression and storytelling.
“There’s no speaking in it,” explained Kristin Vining, music instructor at the college. “There’s movement but there’s no speaking.”
Vining composed the music, and wrote the stories and songs for “Fairytale” to match the abilities of each student in the class. The operetta marks the fourth collaboration at the college between Vining and voice instructor Julie Jones, who is directing “Fairytale.”
Vining said she and Jones were inspired by visits from the Seattle Opera Young Artists Program to come up with an operetta with the college’s students four years ago, when the college put on “Cendrillon.”
The following year was “Cartes Postales,” musical postcards set in Paris. And last year the student production theme was “Coffee.” The operettas are coordinated during the college’s winter quarter. Vining has written the stories and composed original music for each of the operettas.
The idea for “Fairytale” came from a goal of making a production that would appeal to children.
“We saw a show at Seattle University that was all children’s music and thought that would be a good idea for us to do, because we haven’t done that yet,” Vining said.
Vining and Jones put together a show that would appeal to an audience of children. Students from Assumption Catholic School will also be participating in the shows this week by singing along with Walla Walla Community College students. College students studying art have also created artwork that matches the theme, another yearly tradition.
The fairy-tale theme was an easy choice for appealing to children, and Vining was soon at work composing — but not before students enrolled in the college’s music class.
“What we do, is every winter, whoever shows up for the class is in the operetta,” Vining said. “It’s not like I write the operetta ahead of time. I write it for whoever is in the class. If the soloist wants a song about a dragon, that’s what I come up with for them. It’s a unique model for that. Normally you would write something and find people to fit it. The people are in it just because they’re there. It works really well and shows off their individual strengths.”
Students also learned pantomime this year, or the use of improvised movement to express something or tell a brief story.
Kings, dragons and scary monsters are all explored in song and movement.
“It’s exploring different themes,” Vining said. “Each song is it’s own story.”
Although just in its fourth year, the college’s operetta is becoming a draw for music students in the winter quarter, and also becoming it’s own tradition.
“The main spirit of it is that everyone is included and everyone is part of the production no matter what,” Vining said.