LDS composer performs musical on NYC stage

Published: Monday, Aug. 20 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Mozart was composing symphonies at age 5. Up-and-coming composer Erica Glenn wasn’t far behind when she wrote her first piano solo at age 6.

Now 20 years later, Glenn has composed and published six musicals, including “The Weaver of Raveloe.” The musical was performed last July as a developmental reading at the prestigious New York Musical Theater Festival.

“It was a fantastic opportunity,” Glenn said of her play’s New York reading. “It’s the musical theater world’s equivalent of Sundance (Film Festival) for film productions.”

Glenn first published a musical at age 12 when two Utah County theaters produced her play.

When she first started taking piano lessons as a child, Glenn said she always loved to create music of her own.

“I always enjoyed the creative side of things even more (than performing),” she said. “I always loved the vision behind the project.”

Glenn received her undergraduate degree in composition from Arizona State University, and in May graduated with her masters from the Longy School of Music in Boston. She also spent a summer in New York City in 2011, working with Charles Strouse, composer of “Annie” and “Bye, Bye Birdie,” and Richard Maltby Jr., lyricist of "Miss Saigon" and "Baby."

When she returned from her mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ukraine, Glenn said she came home looking for a project that would allow her to “feel like a missionary,” and allow her to use her creative and musical talents.

The story of George Eliot’s “Silas Marner” seemed like a good fit, because of its timeless themes of love and justice. In the novel, Silas Marner becomes a reclusive weaver in a village after he is accused of murder and abandoned by the woman he loves. Glenn compared the story to that of “The Secret Garden” and “Les Miserables” — it seemed like it should be musical. As she began to write songs based on the story, “The Weaver of Raveloe” was born.

Glenn said she has since revised the script of this musical at least 100 times.

“And I mean, a good revision, top to bottom, 100 times,” she said. “It’s how the world of theater works.”

Glenn said when she worked with Charles Strouse, he told her he wrote a completely new opening song for “Annie” the night before it opened on Broadway.

“It’s fun. I enjoy that give-and-take and continual improvement and working of things to get it just right,” Glenn said.

“The Weaver of Raveloe” was first selected for a workshop at Brigham Young University in the fall of 2011, then a partial performance was held at the Salty Cricket Composer’s Collective in Salt Lake City this spring. Then, the musical was selected for a developmental reading at the NYMF this July. Glenn was honored but a bit nervous about pulling off this important New York reading.

“You basically self-produce (in the NYMF),” Glenn said. “I knew that in a two-month period, I was going to have to pull together an entire cast of people and raise funds to get the cast to New York and back. And there were lots of logistics that I ended up having to head up. It was a crazy, whirlwind few months.”

But, Glenn said she was amazed at how well everything came together. Sarah Houghton, a friend Glenn had met at an LDS Church meeting in Boston, is currently working on her doctorate in music education at Boston University while directing children’s choirs at a prep school. Houghton had a background in musical directing, and said once she found out that Glenn’s musical was going to NYMF, she was eager to help in any way she could.

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