Composer sets children's book to music - Albuquerque Journal

Composer sets children’s book to music

Composer Patrick Neher will be among those playing his piece based on a children’s book.
Composer Patrick Neher will be among those playing his piece based on a children’s book.

Double bass player and composer Patrick Neher thought it would be fun to put his 6-year-old daughter’s favorite book to music, so in 1996 he composed “The Frog Prince Continued.”

Published in 1991, Jon Scieszka’s book is a sequel to the tale of The Frog Prince in which a princess kisses a frog that turns into a prince. In “The Frog Prince Continued” the princess wants the prince to do more than hang around the castle catching flies. Fed up with her nagging, he runs away.

“I wrote the work in 1996 for violin, double bass, tenor and soprano,” said Neher. “The text of the book is mostly set verbatim to music. It had to be done that way so that I could get permission to use the text from the book’s publisher. It’s one long movement, like a mini operetta. I asked my colleagues at the time, tenor Grayson Hirst and soprano Betty Allen, if they would sing in it. All of us were teaching at the University of Arizona.”

Hirst and Allen travel to Taos to sing in Taos Chamber Music Group’s presentation of “The Frog Prince Continued” next weekend at the Harwood Museum of Art. Violinist Mark Rush, who also was a colleague in Arizona and performed in the work at the university, plays the violin part.

“Most vocalists are trained to sing with a piano, and in my piece they have to be able to sing with accompaniment from a violin and double bass,” Neher added. “That’s part of the reason I wanted Grayson and Betty to come to Taos for the performance. Training new singers to do this piece would take too many rehearsals.”

Neher, who now lives an hour east of Taos, composed a multimedia piece for Taos Chamber Music Group several years ago. When the group’s artistic director Nancy Laupheimer asked to hear recordings of some of the other pieces that Neher has written, “The Frog Prince Continued” was in the mix.

“I’ve performed the work three times before,” said Neher. “In each case, Grayson and Betty sang the vocal parts.”

“The Frog Prince Continued” is included in Taos Chamber Music Group’s concert called “Animal Variations.” Music with themes from the animal kingdom are featured including “The Swan” by Camille Saint-Saens, the “Trout Quintet” by Franz Schubert and “Six Tunes for the Instruction of Singing-birds” by Richard Rodney Bennett.

Allen, Hirst and Rush perform on stage with Taos Chamber Music Group members Elena Sopoci (viola), Sally Guenther (cello), Neher (double bass), Debra Ayers (piano) and Laupheimer (flute).

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