Shakespeare Festival debuts 'A Christmas Carol' CD
Fans of the Shakespeare Festival’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol” usually rely on memories to hold them until the next year’s show.
Now those fans can listen to the music – instrumental and vocal – throughout the year, thanks to a CD that will be available for purchase when the annual production opens tonight with a final dress rehearsal.
The musical score is an integral part of the production of Dickens’ classic tale of redemption that’s prodded by ghosts at Christmas. It provides background reinforcement to set moods, but it often takes front-and-center billing, in the form of joyous carols – some traditional and some original – performed in party scenes and in situations designed to involve the audience.
The original score was written in 1988 by David Bishop, who lives in New York and has worked with the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival intermittently since.
For at least 10 years, Shakespeare Festival leaders have talked about recording the score, a project for which fans also have been lobbying, said Pedro Silva, managing director and the play’s director for the 10th time.
“People have expressed delight over the music that is such a wonderful part of our annual production, and we’ve always been very grateful for that response,” Silva said.
The Festival finally has staff for the project that it began last summer by gathering approximately 20 singers who have been in the production. They recorded the vocals in the fall and used a remastered digital version of the instrumental portion that is used each year in performances.
“The key to the music for me is that David Bishop was able to capture the tone of key scenes and develop music that enhances actions,” Silva said. “The music has a very strong traditional feel and motif, using harpsichord, trumpet, wind instruments, cello, violin and organ.
“It has a strong, rich element that has over time distinguished our production from other productions of the show. It provides a strong musical spine.”
This year’s production features Michael Huie as Ebenezer Scrooge for the fourth year and newcomer to the Shakespeare Festival James Stewart as Tiny Tim. Huie is a professional actor, director and outreach and education director for the Festival. James is a home-schooled seventh-grader who has portrayed Tiny Tim twice before.
At the start of rehearsals last month, Silva hinted that he may make subtle adjustments to the scene in which Scrooge awakes and begins to wonder if he is dead or alive and why he is being visited by ghosts.
“I’m wondering if there are alternatives to how it’s being played, possibly a little lightness we want to explore and maybe – just maybe – that might make it into the production,” Silva said.
The heart of Dickens’ story set in 19th-century London amid fog and damp, but also love and human fellowship, will remain.
“ ‘A Christmas Carol,’ as our patrons have known it, will again be up on the stage,” Silva said.
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Want to go?
What: “A Christmas Carol”
When: Thursdays through Sundays through Dec. 23 (with performances for school groups in the mornings)
Where: High Point Theatre, 220 E. Commerce Ave.
Tickets: $15-$32, with the following special event prices: $10 for final dress rehearsal tonight, $12 for previews Friday-Sunday and Dec. 13, $15 in advance for Community Performances, pay-what-you can one hour before curtain time at specified shows. Tickets are available online at www.highpointtheatre.com or at the theater box office, 887-3001
CD soundtrack: $15, available at performances or at NCSF offices, 807 W. Ward Ave.
Information: www.ncshakes.org, 841-2273