According to the Director of the Samford Opera, Kristin Kenning, the Samford Opera was supposed to perform the musical, “Into the Woods” last semester. However, due to all the restrictions and guidelines of COVID-19, they were not able to.
As a replacement to the musical, the music department decided to restructure its focus into the Sondheim Intensive class.
Within the class, students learn about the musical works of Steven Sondheim. Sondheim not only wrote “Into the Woods,” but according to Kenning, he was the most important musical theatre writer in the 20th century.
The department decided to have a class dedicated to learning all about his works.
“In the class, students watch Sondheim’s musicals and they read some of his books about how he chooses his lyrics and music,” Kenning said. “They are also learning solos, duets and trios from all of his shows.”
On Fridays at 3:30 p.m, students will perform a mini-concert in Boren Courtyard of what they have learned from the class.
One student from the class, senior Blake Mitchell, discussed how he felt about the preparation for these performances.
“It has certainly been a different rehearsal process. With the nature of the course, instead of preparing one larger production, it has been a different experience for us to share the fullness of a character or story in a single number from a show,” Mitchell said. “Even though we are unable to spend as much class time on preparing some numbers, it has helped us learn the practice of self-preparation both musically and dramatically to a greater extent.”
Kenning went on to describe how COVID-19 has changed the world of the arts, especially the music aspect.
“In the arts, especially in music, we are so used to working for an extended period of time and then putting up our work in one show,” Kenning said. “However, because of the pandemic, we have had to rethink our original ways. So, we have shifted from being product-oriented to a process-oriented view by letting our audience see our process instead of one finished product.”
Mitchell gave his thoughts on how COVID has impacted him as a vocal performance student.
“Simple things like initiating a proper inhalation or producing clarity of diction while singing, prove difficult with a mask, though they are certainly necessary to maintain safe environments. It has certainly been a disappointment to not share works and performances as easily or broadly, but this has proven to still be a time of personal growth.” Mitchell said.
Kenning discussed the benefits of a process-oriented approach for the arts.
“I think that this process-oriented semester that the arts are going through is remarkable,” Kenning said. “Because we can slow down and talk about craft, how we build a character, how you learn a song, and how you learn more about the people who created what you are presenting on stage.”
There is no charge to view these performances, so any member of the Samford community can attend upcoming performances at Boren Courtyard on Fridays at 3:30 p.m.