IF YOU GO:
When: Sept. 15, 16 at 8 p.m.
Where: Conwell Hall
With his boyish looks and sheepish smile, conductor Mark Doerries doesn’t seem like the revolutionary type. But Doerries,
a graduate conducting student in Temple’s Boyer College of Music and Dance, is on a mission to bring choir music to a new generation.
After he attended a seminar on classical music earlier this year, Doerries said he came away with a fear that choir music was a dying genre. That’s a scary prospect for a young conductor. His response was to create Luminescence, a revolutionary exploration of sound and light.
Along with theater major and lighting designer Maria Shaplin, Doerries is piecing together what he calls “a multimedia music experience.” Through the use of color and light, Luminescence
will draw the audience into the performance, making them participants rather than droopy-eyed observers.
“I wanted something different from a traditional choir,” Doerries said. “Instead of a choir dressed in tuxedoes, this choir will be dressed like the audience and look like the audience.
The lighting will incorporate the audience, making them feel like they are occupying the same space as the choir, and drawing them into the emotion of each piece.”
The show will take the audience on a rollercoaster ride through the emotions of love with a blend of sensory experiences.
Doerries described one piece, “Words of the Sun,” as a comparison between the rising of the sun and the growth of love. Shaplin chose to use deep oranges and yellows to represent sunlight.
Another piece, Schonberg’s “Peace on Earth,” concludes with a climactic “struggle between life and death.” Shaplin designed a lighting sequence for this piece that floods from behind the choir, illuminating them in silhouettes of black and grey and giving it a rock concert effect.
“We tried to create a concert for the modern culture,” Doerries said. “It is fast-paced and multi-sensory for the generation of e-mails and iPods.”
Luminescence has not come to fruition without its fair share of criticism. Doerries said that traditionalists in the classical music scene argue that adding extra elements to the music will distract from the music itself.
“That might be true if it’s gaudy, or guided in a way that is all flash and bang with no substance,” Doerries said. “But both Maria and I have studied the music and come to understand it thoroughly to create something that is very cohesive.” Doerries’ vision of Luminescence was to create a musical event that would stir the emotions of people from all backgrounds – specifically, young people who associate choir music with Catholic boys in robes and graying, high-society types.
“Most choirs today are church choirs filled with women over 65,” Doerries said. “As their generation ages, the quantity and the quality of choirs [are] declining.”
By creating a new way to experience classical music, he said he hopes to generate young interest in a genre that seems to be waning as its patrons age.
Cheryl Ellis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.