A Vanier College original musical production: Whisper
It’s chaos and rehearsal time for Whisper, composed by Vanier Music student Yao Wang. Yao was only ten years old when she started composing music. That’s fairly unusual,
but even more surprising is that nine years later she has composed Whisper, a full length original musical that she and fellow Vanier music students performed publicly in April, 2013.
Exploring the lives of modern teenagers
Based on the themes of love, friendship, disappointment, homosexuality, parental conflicts, drugs and depression, Whisper follows the lives, loves and problems of students in a performing arts school. It’s funny, and real and moving.
Ready for the task
As a third year student in the Vanier College Professional Music and Song Techniques program, Yao certainly had acquired the skills and knowledge needed to compose and arrange a large scale work.
Exploring music styles
Inspired in part by the television program “Glee”, Yao decided she could go further with her musical explorations in Whisper by using many diff erent styles of music, such as classical, popular and jazz, depending on the scene, the story line and the emotion being conveyed. “We also wanted to pay tribute to former Broadway musicals such as Chicago, Grease, Singing in the Rain, and Phantom of the Opera,” says Yao.
I like playing around with music
“I like playing around with music. I used to take the works of composers and change them. I’m not the best pianist – far from it, I could never make a living as a performer, but I can fool around with music and transform pieces. That’s the musical skill I’m most proud of.”
From an idea to the stage
Putting on Whisper was an adventure shared with her friend Chelsea Pringle-Duchemin, a gifted singer, who wrote the play and performed one of the lead roles. “We were in the metro coming from school,” Yao explains, “when we got the notion that it would be great if we could write our own musical. And Chelsea said, ‘Why don’t we’. So we did. Chelsea wrote the story but it’s the music that interests me most, so that’s what I concentrated on. I left the performing and directing to others.”
A unique opportunity for students to perform more than fi fty Vanier music students worked on the production, which gave them a unique opportunity to do something original whether as a member of the cast and stage crew or the orchestra. It meant months of rehearsals every week.
Weeks of rehearsals
To ensure a smooth run during the live performances, the orchestra, composed entirely of Vanier music students, was pre-recorded six weeks before the presentation of the show so the cast was able to do their fi nal rehearsals to the unwavering tempo of the recorded music.
Music that sticks in your ear
Vanier Classical voice teacher Tamara Vickerd who mentored the students, is enthusiastic in her praise. “The quality of the music is phenomenal,” she says. “It’s hard to believe one person wrote it all, let alone a 19-year old. It’s filled with earworms – that’s when a song sticks in your head or nestles in your ear. This is the type of work that could go elsewhere.”
Indeed, with a gifted cast that sometimes brought the audience to tears, it’s a work that we might hear about again in the future. With this kind of musical talent where is Yao headed when she graduates? “I plan to study business at university. I’d like to work at Disney, compose for films, Broadway and pop music.”
“I don’t have one. I listen to all kinds of diff erent styles.”
“I also like old traditional Chinese instruments. They are very interesting and I may want to use them some day in an arrangement.”
“I hated piano until I started composing at age 10. I just hated being told how to do something. I like to take classical music and mess with it. Movies inspire me a lot to write music.”
Favorite place at Vanier:
“The piano modules in the Music department. A lot happens there. We harmonize and we chill together.”
“The Studio Recording class – it taught me how to set up microphones and what mike to use for what instrument to get the best sound.”
Favorite part of Vanier:
“The teachers. Tamara Vickerd is a sweetheart. She pays attention to students’ needs. For Whisper, she coached us, gave us tips on acting and singing. I respect her as a teacher. She really knows what she’s doing.”