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LaJolla teacher composes musical for community review Thursday

By Linda McIntosh

Two centuries after the famous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, a LaJolla music teacher is reviving the moment in history through a musical he composed.

William Reed, upper school band director at LaJolla Country Day School, is producing the musical, “Affair of Honour,” which is slated to debut in June.

The production, several years in the making, is collaboration between Reed, his orchestra students, local theater groups and scholars across the country.

But before the curtain rises, Reed is inviting the public to several workshops to critique the work in progress. The second of three workshops is Nov. 5 at Four Flowers Theatre on the campus of LaJolla Country Day School.

“Everybody gets to be a theater critic for 90 minutes and become part of the development process,” Reed said.

The workshop will focus on staging the first two acts of the three act-musical and will be led by Jim Hoare, a former high school performing arts director and currently the director of amateur licensing for the Broadway company, Theatrical Rights Worldwide.

“It’s a unique chance for the audience to have a hand in the finished product,” said Nick Munson, who plays Alexander Hamilton and is a professional singer with the San Diego Opera.

Reed, a composer with a passion for history, was fascinated with Hamilton and Burr and decided three years ago to develop of musical about the two men’s lives.

The events leading up to the fateful day in 1804 when the two political rivals aimed their pistols at each other unfold in Reed’s score and lyrics.

“It is history coming alive in very vivid colors,” Reed said.

Much of the dialogue and lyrics come from letters written between Hamilton, Burr and other historical figures of the time.

Reed spent two years on the research, consulting noted historians such as Carol Berkin, author of “A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution.” Berkin will lead the third workshop on Feb. 25.

Reed wants the audience to come away from the show with a feeling that they know the characters.

“I want people to see how human they are; they’re not just names from a history book,” he said.

Students in the production, who are studying U.S. history, gave the musical a thumbs-up.

“It gives you a more in-depth look at this historical event and puts things in a different light,” said Erica Dawson, a senior at LaJolla Country Day who is on the student board of the LaJolla Playhouse.

“In school, you don’t hear about the involvement of women in the event, but the musical brings that out,” Erica said.

Thirty LaJolla Country Day students and teachers along with professionals from the San Diego Opera and LaJolla Playhouse make up the orchestra and cast.

“It’s exciting working on a musical that our teacher is writing because we can see it growing and changing,” said Allison Rhodes, a sophomore flutist.

When the group rehearses each part, Reed asks for input from the cast and orchestra.

“He’s all ears to our opinions. It’s a cool experience to be part of putting together a musical,” said Brianna Alexander, a junior who plays bass clarinet in the production.

“The best part is seeing it all come together at rehearsals,” said Alexandra Rhodes, a sophomore trumpet player.

Before each workshop, cast and orchestra rehearse for about 10 hours.

“For students this is a unique opportunity to perform with professionals,” Reed said.

Reed, 32, came to LaJolla Country Day School four years ago to start the band program, and now that it is off the ground, he felt he had time to embark on this creative project with students.

Reed began his studies as a jazz piano major at Loyola University New Orleans and ended up with two degrees in music composition; a Bachelors degree from Loyola and a Masters from the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College in New York City.

As he worked on the musical, Reed consulted his former composition professor at Loyola, James Walsh, and spent a week studying operatic form.

“I wanted to integrate the music and action so it flows together,” Reed said.

One of the songs called, “Code Duello, is an example of how Reed weaves together music and plot. The song reflects the rivalry between Hamilton and Burr not only in the lyrics but also in the way the two sing the piece. Hamilton and Burr end up competing to see who can hold the high note the longest, which makes the scene both humorous and true to life.

“You almost don’t notice the music, it’s so much a part of the action,” Reed said.

WHAT: Workshop for the musical, “Affair of Honour” by William Reed

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Nov. 5

WHERE: Four Flowers Theatre, LaJolla Country Day School, 9490 Genesee Ave.

COST:Free

Contact: (858) 453-3440, ext. 176 or wreed@ljcds.org