April 17, 2024

This weekend, a home-grown orchestra concert for families

UCR faculty member Tim Labor has developed a concert based on 'Journey to the Center of the Earth'

J.D. Mathes
Author: J.D. Mathes
April 17, 2024

Concertgoers will be treated to a high-spirited adventure when the UCR Orchestra and the UCR Chamber Singers, along with guest narrator Martha Demson, perform the world premiere of composer and UCR faculty member Tim Labor's “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”

Concerts will be 8 p.m., Saturday Saturday, April 20, and 3 p.m. Sunday, April 21 in the University Theatre. The concert is free and open to the public. 

“Journey to the Center of the Earth” is the 1864 science fiction-adventure novel written by the French author Jules Verne. The story centers on the teenaged Axel Lindenbrock, the narrator, who lives in Hamburg, Germany with his uncle, Professor Otto Lindenbrock, an impetuous geologist. In a runic manuscript, the professor discovers directions to a passage in a dormant Icelandic volcano that leads to the center of the earth. When he reads the entrance will be revealed by shadows at noon for a few days in June, the professor dashes off for Iceland,  dragging along his skeptical and reluctant nephew.

Labor adapted “Journey to the Center of the Earth” because “it’s a piece I remember as a kid. It’s a magical story about finding something in history that leads you to something in the future.”

“It very visual. It has all those things kids love. It’s got treasure and things like that. It lets kids know, ‘adventure is just around the corner, discovering what other people left aside, but you can still be the one who discovers it, even though you are the kid,’” Labor continues.

 “Tim’s music is amazingly descriptive and partners closely with the narrator,” conductor Ruth Charloff said. “He establishes very vivid motifs early in the piece, so when he brings them back later it lets the audience and musicians know what is meaningfully going on underneath what is said. It’s exciting how he draws on so many musical styles.”

In his adaptation, Labor said the chorus has a personality all its own. 

“There is a comic aspect to the choir, which acts like a Greek chorus,” Labor said. “They respond to what the actors are doing and what the audience should be feeling at times. The comedic aspect is that you don’t expect a chorus like that to have its own character. It can mug for the audience and tell a story like a camp counsellor for kids around a campfire.” 

Martha Demson will join the performance as the narrator. She will dramatically narrate Professor Lindenbrock and his nephew Axel. Demson is the artistic director for the Open Fist Theatre in Los Angeles and an award-winning actor, producer, and director. 

 “She does so much with what really isn’t a lot of text,” Charloff said. “She uses her facial expressions and body to help make clear what we are talking about.” 

This concert is part of the Family Concert Series made possible by the Esther F. Hays Endowed Fund in Music.

“I meet people who are young adults now who say they attended one of our kids’ concerts,” Charloff said. “It’s such a wonderful thing to give to the community.” 

She promises this show will be as memorable: “It'll be a splashy event that will certainly be attractive to grownups as well as kids There is the joy of hearing a story, the joy of hearing a fantasy story, and the joy of seeing live musicians on a stage full of 80 people performing for an hour just for you.” 

Attendance is limited to 450 for each performance, and seating is first-come, first-served. Parking is also free; for parking and other event information, visit https://events.ucr.edu/event/journey-to-the-center-of-the-earth

Tim Labor
Tim Labor has created a composition for a family audience based on Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the Earth." Photo by Stan Lim.

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