In October, I heard from my sister, the assistant play director, that Maranatha would be doing “The Hiding Place” in the spring. I love the story of Corrie Ten Boom, and I began to wonder if Mr. Miller would want an original composed score for the play. As a composition student, I have always wanted an opportunity to compose for an event like this. Because I desire to go to grad school, I knew an opportunity like this would really boost my resume by showing that I am an active composer. So, I began to pray about whether I should talk with Mr. Miller.
The Lord was clearly in this. A couple of weeks before Thanksgiving break, I began to have peace about asking Mr. Miller about writing music for the play so I decided to go talk with him. When I was about to reach the floor where his office is located, I crossed paths with his secretary at that time, Trisha Herbert. Trisha said she wanted to talk with me because Mr. Miller had just been asking her opinion on people he could ask to write a piano/cello score for the play. She wanted to know if I was interested. Interested?? Of course!! I was ecstatic! (It gets better!) Just about this time, Mr. Miller came out of his office, and Trisha told him that I was willing to write the music. He was very pleased, and said he would get me the script and I could start working! Needless to say, I was so excited!
Describe the process you went through to compose this music?
I have had so much fun writing for this play! The first thing I did was go to Dr. Ledge and tell him about the opportunity. He was excited for me and said this was very good opportunity since I wanted to work on composition. He recommended that I listen to Schindler’s List and try to find other composers and movie scores that had to do with the Holocaust. So, for about a month I immersed myself in that type of music in an attempt to grasp how to capture emotions, moods, and turmoil. This type of music was very emotionally taxing and definitely the opposite of my personality. I also read the book and script several times. In January, I finally felt like I had enough immersion that I could take my first step in writing a theme. Because soundtracks have a motif that is weaved throughout every piece, I wanted something that would not only fit the mood of the play, but would also be pliable so I could manipulate it in different ways. After about 15 hours of work, I had a theme that I absolutely loved and knew would work. I took it to Dr. Ledge, and he helped me begin to experiment.
In February, I was able to meet with all the directors, and talk through all the different moods and emotions they wanted to create for the play. When most reflect on the Holocaust and World War II, the thoughts that come to mind are usually ones of deep sadness. However, because this particular story is also full of hope, I wanted to keep the aspect of hope in my music as well. So the tonality structures change throughout the play depending on the scene. I love that I was able to create somewhat of a haunting mood for the beginning, but end the play with a glorious and hopeful ending.
Since the score required piano and cello, I knew that improvising would be out of the question. Writing out all of the music has been a challenge because it requires that I be exact and deliberate in my musical decisions. Cellist Elijah Walters will be playing with me, and he needs to know exactly what I want when he reads the score. Elijah has been a huge help in the writing process. His ideas for a cello line are absolutely wonderful, and I’ve learned so much from him!
Have the music courses you’ve taken at Maranatha help prepare you to do something like this?
Without all the music classes, I could not have done this. Capturing the Jewish/Dutch feel of the play was fun because I had learned about the different characteristics of their music in my music history courses. Obviously, I use a lot of theory to help me, especially when I need to improvise for an unexpected delay in the scene change! I also take weekly composition lessons with Dr. Ledge, and I think this has helped me the most because I have been able to bring in my music and get his advice and input. We’ve also been able to some excellent discussions on how soundtrack music is written, on how different moods are portrayed musically, and on how to write music that is “out of my box.” I have loved every lesson, and I have grown so much musically!
Are you interested in doing something like this in the future?
Absolutely! I have loved every aspect of this production! From the first writing session to the first rehearsal of the music with the cast, it has been an adventure. Not only have I learned so much about music and people, but I have also learned how music can portray and affect someone’s life. In the future, I would love to write not only soundtracks, but also Christmas programs and cantatas.
What tips do you have for someone interested in doing this?
Look for opportunities. Always keep an eye and ear out. You never know what the Lord has in store for you. Once you are given an opportunity, go at it whole-heartedly. Don’t give up, even when it gets tiring and you don’t know what to do next. Also, be open and flexible. Accept advice and input from others. You might not be able to use it right away, but there is always something to learn from them. You’ll find that they are usually right! Finally, seek the Lord’s guidance in every step. I could not have done this without Him. Composition is not pure inspiration. Yes, every once in a while, you will get this great music thought, but most of the time, it is pure work. It was only through Him that I was able to write this score.
When is this production?
The play is on April 11, 12, and 13, and “The Hiding Place” is a production that everyone needs to see. No matter who you are or what your interests are, this production will capture your attention. Corrie Ten Boom’s story is one that needs to be told, even though it is about 75 years old. Her story is a lesson about forgiveness and learning how to live through God’s strength in spite of our circumstances. We cannot let our past detract us from what God has planned for our lives. I love Corrie’s story, and I love how everyone involved in this production has taken these lessons to heart and really worked hard to portray them through this production. Be prepared to laugh and cry. A little advice: please bring your tissues!