|Jason Robert Brown in concert (Erika Kapin)|
|Roosevelt High students performing The Trumpet of the Swan (James Bernard)|
The Trumpet of the Swan
Roosevelt High School
March 7, 2020
A very exciting event is happening this weekend (3/7, Saturday night, 7:00p.m.) at Roosevelt High School! Their theater department has paired with their orchestra program to present composer/musical writer Jason Robert Brown’s The Trumpet of the Swan. Not only that, but Jason Robert Brown is going to be there! Not only that, but he’s going to perform a special benefit concert after the school’s 70-minute presentation as a benefit!
The benefit is to help pay for subsidized tickets of K-8 students and for buses to bring them to hear the work. Tickets are on sale now at www.rhstheatre.net.
The Trumpet of the Swan is a young-person tale originally written by E.B. White. It’s the tale of a young trumpeter swan who was born unable to make swan sounds and is rendered mute until he first learns to read and write and then is provided a trumpet and learns to play so beautifully that he makes a living as an international jazz musician! (Clearly this is fantasy…)
Louis the Swan (named after Louis Armstrong) is assisted by a young boy, Sam, who starts the process of teaching Louis to read and write. After finding his trumpet voice, Louis is able to serenade his love, Serena, and live a prosperous swan life.
Noted playwright Marsha Norman adapted the story for actors and orchestra, and the music was written by Jason Robert Brown. The orchestra plays and actors narrate, and often, as in this case, puppet swans are used as props. This debuted in 2011.
Those who love musical theater know Jason Robert Brown well from his seminal musicals The Last Five Years – which is about a failed marriage told in forward time by one spouse and backward time by the other, and 13 which is an autobiographical musical about that very awkward age and is beloved by those who remember that age vividly.
In 2016, Sound Theatre Company mounted an award-winning production of his musical Parade. It’s about a notorious case in Marietta, Georgia in 1913 where a Jewish man is falsely charged with murder and then lynched by a mob.
SGN got exclusive access to JRB, as he is affectionately known in the musical theater world. Asked what might bring him out to Seattle for a high school performance, JRB answers, “I love The Trumpet of the Swan. I loved the original EB White novel, I love what Marsha Norman did with it, and I love the music I got to write for it.
“It makes me cry with happiness every time I see it or hear it or conduct it. Actually, this will be the first live performance I’ve ever seen that I’m not conducting, so I’m excited to take it in that way. That said, I wouldn’t go to just any high school. Roosevelt has an extraordinary instrumental program – I’d heard about it here in New York long before this concert came up – and I’m thrilled to get to hear those kids in action.”
And how did the composing of the piece come about? “Marsha had fallen in love with the book and had been commissioned by the Kennedy Center to create a sort of Peter and the Wolf-style piece for orchestra and narrator. She asked me to come on board and I almost fainted because it’s so exactly the kind of thing I always wanted to do.
“Working with live musicians – and particularly BIG GROUPS OF THEM – makes me so happy, and being able to share it with family audiences is a particular pleasure. When we did the premiere at the Kennedy Center, they were selling big swan puppets in the gift shop, and I turned around at one point while I was conducting and saw about 100 kids holding their stuffed swans aloft and making them fly through the air right when Louis first takes flight. Nothing will ever top that for me.”
JRB will be performing that evening and SGN asked for a hint of what he might include. He says, “My concerts are always a mix of songs from my shows and songs from my albums, so you can expect a song from Parade sitting next to A Song About Your Gun or the opening of Honeymoon In Vegas. I’ve got thirty years’ worth of material now and I love being able to pull from different periods of my life and see what happens when you put a song from 1995 next to a song from 2018.”
It sounds like a great evening! Tickets are selling quickly now so you’ll have to jump to get in. Check availability at www.rhstheatre.net
More info about Jason Robert Brown is at www.jasonrobertbrown.com.