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"Voices," a musical drama from composer Dr. George Mabry featuring APSU faculty to debut Sept. 4

While the town of Whittier, California looked toward its future, one 10-year-old boy was fascinated by its past.

Founded in 1887 by Midwest Quakers in search of a home for their religious colony, Whittier evolved in the shadow of Los Angeles. By 1963, the final resting place of many of the town’s founders, Clark Cemetery, had fallen into disrepair.

While the town of Whittier, California looked toward its future, one 10-year-old boy was fascinated by its past.

Founded in 1887 by Midwest Quakers in search of a home for their religious colony, Whittier evolved in the shadow of Los Angeles. By 1963, the final resting place of many of the town’s founders, Clark Cemetery, had fallen into disrepair.

When Stark Hunter was 10 years old, he became fascinated by what he described as “this neglected, rather eerie looking place.” Seeking to tell the graveyard’s stories, the now-adult poet penned “Voices from Clark Cemetery,” a collection of works based on the town’s earliest residents.

Inspired by Hunter’s work, Austin Peay State University emeritus professor of music Dr. George Mabry produced “Voices,” a musical drama based on the poetry collection. Written especially for members of the APSU voice faculty, the performance incorporates 15 epitaphs from Hunter’s book into an hour-and 15-minute musical drama.

The performance takes place Friday, Sept. 4 at 7:30 p.m. in the George and Sharon Mabry Concert Hall on the APSU campus.  Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for students and free to APSU students with a student ID.

Before the show will be a pre-performance discussion with the composer and poet from 6:30-7:15 p.m. in the Music Mass Communications Building, room 147, adjacent to the concert hall. All are invited to attend.

Mabry said Hunter’s work tells the story of 19th century Americans and their attempts to answer life’s questions. From each man and woman’s view, Mabry said, we see how people in one small community applied their own perspective to the same problems.

“Some dealt with the complexities of life with great humor, some with stoic acceptance or austere self-discipline … while others conclude life was too complex to continue the journey and opted out,” Mabry said.

Mabry has authored a production that takes advantage of the diverse array of talent among APSU’s faculty. Incorporating seven solo voices, two actors, two pianos, one clarinet, one cello and one percussionist, “Voices” is a unique production that the longtime composer said transcends the traditional labels of musical performance.

“I have attempted to create a marriage between the music and the poetic texts to form a dramatic musical narrative with a heightened sense of emotion,” Mabry said. “From this union is derived an art form that many composers before me have labeled, ‘opera.’ 

“The term opera usually refers to a dramatic work involving continuous music.  ‘Voices’ involves both singing and speaking; therefore, ‘musical drama’ seems a more appropriate descriptive term.”

For more information on how to purchase tickets, or for information on the APSU Department of Music, contact the department at 931-221-7818.