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Soundscapes for Shakespeare

Banter between mad, vengeful and melancholic prince Hamlet and two gravediggers helped get Lytton High School student Mat Hatten direct entry to a major Shakepeare festival. But a little-known festival category won by Emma Burgess means the Gisborne Girls’ High School student will also attend the festival in Wellington. Having won the Shakespeare Globe Centre New Zealand/Morrison music composition earlier this year Emma will attend the festival as a student composer.

The two young artists are among the 48 student performers who won in regional Shakespeare festivals around the country, made it through (or bypassed) a national festival in June and made the final cut for the October event. From this festival, known as the SGCNZ National Shakespeare Schools Production (NSSP), 24 will be selected for next year’s Young Shakespeare Company that will travel to the Globe theatres in London and Stratford-Upon-Avon next year.

Play onThe music composition component is part of the student Shakespeare festival categories. According to the composition brief student musicians can compose a work for use in a Shakespeare play or compose music inspired by a Shakespeare play. The brief required student composers to reflect on which play their work is for and to summarise in 250 words why they consider their composition is appropriate for the play, why they chose a particular style and the development process behind the composition.

Songwriting is a significant focus of Gisborne Girls’ High music teacher Jane Egan’s programme and three of her students placed in the national Shakespeare festival in June. Chloe Turner came third in the music composition category, Paris Maxwell came second while Emma was overall winner.

Emma was unavailable for comment but Egan detailed the young composer’s unique approach for the Guide.

“Emma is an electronic music composer. She does all her composition on computer. She’s into experimenting with different sounds. Emma is someone who thinks outside the box.”

How she got to submit a piece to the Shakespeare festival came appropriately from out of left field.

Soundscape“We were supposed to be writing songs for Rockquest. Emma started with sounds but she couldn’t find inspiration for lyrics. I suggested she compose something for the Shakespeare she was doing for drama. Something clicked. That was the solution to her soundscape.”

Her soundscape that accompanied the performance of a scene from Shakespeare’s comedy Two Gentlemen of Verona included a sample of dialogue from a British screen version of the play.

The young composer works on several soundscapes at once but often over a period of months. The NSSP presents a short time frame of five days. During that time the 48 students will work under luminaries that include ballet dancer Sir Jon Trimmer and music educator and composer Julian Raphael.

Workshops will be held in the morning. For the afternoon of each day, the artists that make up three pre-allocated groups will be cast, learn their lines and rehearse their scenes. Then at the end of just five half days they will perform those scenes to the public. Winners of the SGCNZ/Morrison Music Trust, and costume design competition, will be the student composer and costumier for the productions.

MOODY FOOD: The caption title comes from Shakespeare’s play Antony and Cleopatra but the electronic soundscape Gisborne Girls’ High student Emma Burgess composed was for a scene from Two Gentlemen of Verona which was performed as part of a Shakespeare festival. Emma’s winning composition means she will join actor Mat Hatten at a final national festival where 24 artists will be selected to attend the Globe theatres in England next year. Picture by Tami Wilson