When Western Carolina University’s original radio show “Blackbeard’s Ghost and the Queen Anne’s Revenge” takes to the stage Thursday, March 17, WCU student musicians led by the production’s composer and music director, Bruce Frazier, will be playing alongside members of the Asheville Symphony Orchestra to provide the musical underscore.
“Blackbeard’s Ghost” will be the eighth annual show in a series of academic-based entertainment productions at WCU that pay tribute to the “golden age of radio.” The show will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $10 and proceeds will be used to fund scholarships in participating academic departments.
Frazier is WCU’s Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished Professor in Commercial and Electronic Music. His family has lived in eastern North Carolina for generations, and he has spent many years on the beaches of the Outer Banks, where the legendary pirate Blackbeard once roamed.
Frazier has created an original musical score for the show that highlights the shifting emotions of the drama, ranging from swashbuckling adventure to tender romance, eerie late-night visitations, military flourish and maritime battle. The dynamic range of the full symphony orchestra characterizes the musical texture, Frazier said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for the winds players and percussion students in the School of Music to perform with professional string players in our region,” he said.
Frazier is “the perfect person to capture the feeling, the atmosphere and the unique quirkiness that is ‘the Banks,’” said Don Connelly, WCU professor of communication who is serving as writer and producer for the show. “During rehearsals, Bruce is timing every paragraph of the script and adjusting the musical underscore to support and enhance the actors’ words and emotions. It’s an amazing process to watch.”
The opening of the program, before the broadcast, features symphonic masterworks performed by the orchestra, including Hector Berlioz’s grand overture to “The Corsairs” with its swirling strings and pulsating brass, and Ralph Vaughn Williams’ “Sea Songs.”
Through special arrangement with the Walt Disney Co., the orchestra will lead into the radio show with a medley from “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Those works will showcase the “virtuosity of the ASO strings and the excellent artistic abilities of WCU’s music students,” Frazier said.
Peter Savage, director for “Blackbeard’s Ghost” and visiting assistant professor of acting in WCU’s School of Stage and Screen, said the musical themes and underscore created by Frazier “support and lift our actors to a higher level.”
“Most of the actors have never worked with live music like this before, and the experience has been great for them, as it adds so much to the show and is a wonderful learning experience,” Savage said.
Funding for “Blackbeard’s Ghost and the Queen Anne’s Revenge” is being provided by WCU’s College of Arts and Sciences, College of Fine and Performing Arts, Department of Communication, School of Music, School of Stage and Screen, Carol Grotnes Belk Endowment and Office of Undergraduate Studies.
Tickets are available at the Bardo Arts Center – bardoartscenter.wcu.edu or 828-227-2479. The March 17 show starts promptly at 7:30 p.m., and no one will be admitted after it has started. The production will be recorded for future radio broadcast.
For more information, contact Don Connelly at 828-227-3851.
— Contributed information