What’s old, new, enlightening, confusing but also one of the most endearing parts of last weekend? You guessed it: the folk opera that the Music department presented on Saturday evening in Gallagher Hall. “Down in the Valley,” the show written by Kurt Weill and Arnold Sundgaard, attracted roughly 70 guests from the Loras community.
Before the show began, the audience was entertained by a series of solo numbers from various musicals that stuck closely to themes of love and loss, much like the opera itself. Senior Amelia Acompanado opened the night with a beautiful rendition of “Til There Was You” from “The Music Man.” This song was also made popular by the 1998 hit movie “The Wedding Singer.” It’s about falling in love and hearing the wedding bells on her wedding day. Next, a piece about cheaters and consequences called “If You Hadn’t, But You Did” from “Two on the Aisle” was performed by sophomore Cheyenne Secor.
“Performing this piece was amazing. I got to use my own ideas to interact with the audience,” said Secor.
The other students performed with this exact enthusiasm. These included first-year Angela Richardson, juniors Sarah Statz and Jillian Knott, and seniors Michael Okas and Jennifer Kasel.
Following a brief intermission, an amazing display of musical athleticism took place. Dr. Luke Tyler and sophomore Ayla Graziano accompanied the actors for the full 45-minute production with nearly no breaks under the direction of Dr. Steven Grives, Loras’s choral director.
“The students of Loras College need the opportunity to expose themselves to diverse genres of music and performance,” said Grives.
Those who follow theatre recognize shows that dominate their genres, including “La Boheme” and “Hamilton,” but they may not be as familiar with the smaller works that helped shape these masterpieces. According to Grives, “Down In the Valley” was chosen because it integrated older styles of music going back to Romantic Germany with the newer Americana themes of the Midwest. Blending the various genres allowed the performers to better understand the transition of music through the generations.
The opera itself follows the love story of Brack Weaver, played by senior Zach Schroeder, and Jennie Parsons, performed by Acompanado. All is well and good until Jennie’s father (Okas) insists she goes to the local dance with the local swindler, Thomas Bouché (senior Christian Stillings). Jennie gets ornery and insists on going with Brack because she’s 16 and thinks she knows about love. Basically, Brack and Bouche start fighting at the dance and ruins everyone else’s day when Bouche pulls out a knife. Brack ends up stabbing the jackass in the kidney, killing him and thus sentencing the protagonist to his own death. But wait, there’s more. Brack wants to hear Jennie profess her love one more time, so he breaks out of prison to see her before his death.
The show was delightful in every sense. The black-box style presentation allowed the audience to be more involved with the show. The music kept everyone interested as it drew from both the old and the new. Anyone who enjoyed this performance can eagerly look forward to next year when the Music department will present a full stage musical.