MACON – Mercer University Opera presents A Muskrat Lullaby, an opera for young audiences, on Sept. 25-26. Recommended for grades K-5th, the show is free and open to the public. All performances will take place in Neva Langley Fickling Hall on Mercer's campus. Show times include Friday, Sept. 25, at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Sept. 26, at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
The plot of this charming, 23-minute opera is based on the storybook Mama Don't Allow by Thatcher Hurd, in which a quartet of bayou animal musicians is looking for a place to rehearse. Their noisy activities lead their neighbors to banish them to the swamp, where they have adventures with Boss Alligator and his Alligator Gang. The quartet eventually escapes the alligators by singing them to sleep with a lullaby. The audience has lines to speak and in the final scene joins the cast in singing the lullaby upon the quartet's return home.
"Before the show we will teach the audience their part – lines to shout out and song to sing, and take them through it with cue cards. After the show, the cast will remain on stage for a question-and-answer session with audience members. The entire experience lasts no more than 40 minutes," said Martha Malone, director of Mercer University Opera.
"We have produced this piece several times, because it is the perfect vehicle for introducing children to opera or music theatre."
Local elementary schools St. Peter Claver and Vineville Academy held auditions for parts in the production and have been preparing their students for in-school performances.
"Research and practical experience in education shows that kids will fall in love with the arts when you get them involved actively, and here the audience participation pulls them in, as well as watching child performers on stage singing and dancing with our Mercer students," said Malone. "It is a unifying experience for the entire student body, because they have all participated in it as they prepared to see the performance."
All the students from the above schools have sung the music to A Muskrat Lullaby and have learned choreographed hand jive dance moves in their seats. They have learned of swamp animals and have created swamp animal masks to wear during the performance.
"I'd like to thank the principals, music, dance and art teachers at their schools for their commitment to this project and helping to integrate academics and the arts," said Malone.
"Seeing those children interacting with our college students is so rewarding, as we hope the children will think of even broader possibilities for their futures because of their involvement in A Muskrat Lullaby."
Students from Vineville Academy will perform in Fickling Hall during Friday's performances, and students from St. Peter Claver will perform in Fickling Hall during Saturday's performances. For more information, call the Townsend School of Music at (478) 301-2748.
About Townsend School of Music
Mercer University's Townsend School of Music, the Robert McDuffie Center for Strings, the Joan Stockstill Godsey Center for Keyboard Studies and the Townsend-McAfee Institute for Graduate Studies offer undergraduate and graduate professional music studies in a comprehensive university environment. Townsend is nationally recognized for its outstanding faculty, award-winning students, performance ensembles and state-of-the-art facilities. The McDuffie Center, a special institute within Townsend School of Music, is a highly selective program that prepares string students for success in the real world. Students study with some of America's most renowned string musicians, receiving music instruction of conservatory quality, while earning an academically well-rounded education from a comprehensive, nationally recognized university. For more information and a complete listing of this season's concerts please visit www.mercer.edu/music, or call (478) 301-2748.