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Herald Journal | DC Enterprise-Dispatch | Delano Herald Journal
International music project has local ties
June 3, 2013

By Ivan Raconteur

Howard Lake, Winsted, Cokato, MN – Following a three-year writing and development process, the studio cast recording of Caroline Wigmore's new musical, “Van Winkle – A folk musical,” is set to begin recording in London during July.

Wigmore lived in Howard Lake, Cokato, and Winsted before moving to London with her husband, Chris.

The album will feature mostly London singers, with two American singers, Cokato native Rachel Kurtz and Daniel Greco of Minneapolis in principal roles. Kurtz will sing the role of Wanda Van Winkle, the hardworking, under-appreciated wife of Rip Van Winkle, and Greco will sing the part of Rip Van Winkle, a lazy, but beloved farmer in early America who is looking for a better life.

“When I tell people that I write musical theatre, I often get a similar response, such as ‘what a fun career,’” Wigmore said. “My writing partners and I always struggle to respond to this sort of statement properly, because there is an element of fun to it, but mostly, it’s lots of hard work. Musicals typically take quite a few years to get off the ground, and in the case of ‘Van Winkle,’ I’ve sunk about three years into writing, rewriting, work-shopping, and now we're ready to step into the studio to produce the studio cast recording. It’s amazing to be at this point in the process.”

“Van Winkle” has been performed at Waterloo East Theatre (London) and in two further developmental workshops with Skewbald Theatre (London).

The studio cast recording will act as a promotional tool for producers, theaters, and schools that want to produce the musical, as well as an aid to the sheet music or casts learning the music. Fans of the show will be able to purchase the album on iTunes and similar online stores later this year.

The music in “Van Winkle” was written in the idiom of American folk, and it became apparent to Wigmore and her music director/arranger, Jen Green that it was important to cast American singers in the two key roles of Rip and Wanda Van Winkle, in order to produce an authentic sound.

“I remember one workshop when our music director, Jen, was teaching a cast of Brits one of the new songs for the show, which is a pretty standard square dance sort of song, and there was a line that read ‘pumpkins, apples, and tomatoes’ and all of the singers sang the word ‘tomato’ with a really strong British accent, and we had to stop rehearsal because we were laughing so hard,” Wigmore recalled.

“Beyond it just being an issue of getting the accents right, it’s about how the music is sung,” she continued. “American folk singers have a particular way of bending notes that Rachel Kurtz and Daniel Greco have no problem mastering. There are also a slew of British characters in the show, and we’re obviously casting those roles with British singers.”

The album is being funded through an online crowd-funding source called kickstarter.com, where anyone who is interested in the project can watch a video produced by the “Van Winkle” team and donate towards the making of the album, in exchange for various gifts listed on the site.

“This is my first time funding a project through Kickstarter,” said Wigmore. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous about reaching the target amount, because if we can't reach it, we won't receive any of the funding and the project will have to be put on hold –probably for ages. I’m just hoping people will at least watch the video we made and see if the project might be something they would want to help fund.”

Wigmore looks forward to being able to share her music with people on both sides of the Atlantic.

“It seems like this is a good international project because no matter where you live, you can experience the final product, the CD itself,” Wigmore commented.

This is an international recording project. The two principal singers, Greco and Kurtz, will be recording from Minnesota, while the company recording, instrumentals, and mixing will take place in London. The recording will take place at Auburn Jam, a London studio with experience on similar projects.

Pledges collected on the Kickstarter website will pay for studio time, mixing, mastering, physical production of CDs, and will contribute to the costs of the musicians and singers.

Wigmore has a bachelor of arts degree in musical theatre writing from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in musical theatre writing from the University of London, Goldsmiths.

She is currently writing another show called “Surplus Women,” which follows the lives of young women after the end of WWI, when 2 million men had been killed, forcing women into the workforce.

June 14 deadline approaching to support the recording

To see a video describing the production of “Van Winkle – A folk musical,” follow the link on the Herald Journal home page, www.herald-journal.com.

Incentives are available to contributors at various levels of support.

Deadline to contribute is Friday, June 14.

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