A passion for theatre, a love of music, and the opportunity to work closely with dramatic arts faculty members brought a unique opportunity to dramatic arts student AJ Baragar: composing music for the University of Lethbridge’s mainstage production, The Caucasian Chalk Circle.
When the production debuts, audiences will be the first to hear Baragar’s work as a composer, after he was invited to write all music performed throughout the show.
“Back in May, Gail Hanrahan (director of The Caucasian Chalk Circle) approached me and asked me to compose the music,” says Baragar. “I already write and record my own songs and Gail wanted a drama student involved.”
Baragar had the opportunity to work with Hanrahan in the past when she directed Exia, performed with him in Tribes and taught classes that Baragar attended.
“It’s really nice to be this close with your professors,” says Baragar, admitting that these earlier opportunities led to the unique chance to compose the music for an entire play.
Bertolt Brecht, the play's author, wrote the words that Baragar then put to music.
“It was tough because it’s not written in perfect verses,” shares Baragar. “It wasn’t just writing the music but picking what words to make into a song and what to leave as speech.”
The original approach that Hanrahan took in directing the show allowed for a lot of collaboration among the entire cast.
“We asked the cast what instruments and skills they could bring to the table. ‘You play ukulele? Let’s get that in the show!’ We could all bring ideas, try things and see if it worked. It’s really unlike any show I’ve ever been a part of.”
Baragar plays the role of the Singer, the show's narrator, so not only did he compose the music but he has been involved in the entire show: composing, acting, singing and more.
“The Caucasian Chalk Circle is the most immersive experience I’ve had so far,” continues Baragar. “Everyone in the cast is doing an amazing job. I’m astounded at the commitment, focus and dedication of everyone from the stage managers, to the actors, Gail, everyone.”
The Caucasian Chalk Circle opens Friday, February 5, 2016 and runs through February 13. As opening day approaches, Baragar is getting excited, and nervous, to see the final product come to life.
“I can do my part as a composer but it’s nothing without the people that sing them,“ says Baragar modestly. “It’s weird and cool to hear your own music performed. Listening to everyone sing my notes, singing their hearts out. To see people loving your music and practicing it, it feels great.”
Tickets to The Caucasian Chalk Circle are available by calling 403-329-2616 or visiting ulethbridge.ca/tickets.