ELLSWORTH – Cedar Ellis had only a few weeks to compose the score for an original play that’s now showing at The Grand.
The Mount Desert Island High School freshman worked long hours in those few weeks, squeezing in time between school and sports. The score was due by the beginning of October to give the choreographer and dancers time to work with the music.
The score is computer-generated, not played or recorded live.
“I used this program called Logic, it samples the sounds for you,” Ellis said. “I didn’t even have to do any recording.”
The final product sounds like a big orchestra, he said—good thing, since it would be nearly impossible to get a full orchestra together to learn and record the score on such a tight timeline.
“It’s like a big movie soundtrack,” he said.
Grand director Nick Turner wrote the adaptation of “Through the Looking Glass” by Lewis Carroll. It follows a similar project, performed this time last year, “Alice Down the Rabbit Hole.”
For that production, Turner tapped trumpet player Mark Tipton to write the score. Tipton, who works as development director for the Criterion Theatre, wrote the score for a jazz combo.
So when Turner began planning for “Through the Looking Glass,” “Nick asked Tipton again,” Ellis said, “but then Tipton recommended me.
“Nick gave me the story line and I had to come up with the music.”
In one case, Turner even rewrote a scene in the play to better match the movement of the score the way Ellis had written it.
“I had a lot of freedom,” he said.
The story centers on Alice and the monster called the Jabberwocky. Each have their own theme in the score, Ellis said.
“I made up this weird noise for the Jabberwocky,” he said. “It’s like this bass sound effect, it’s kind of gritty.”
Alice’s theme, on the other hand is “a light, ballet type of thing.”
Ellis has been playing music since he was a toddler. His parents bought him his first drum set before he was three. Drums, piano and trumpet are his primary instruments.
He played drums in the “Bee Parks and the Hornets” show this summer, plays drums in a jazz ensemble and jazz band at the high school and played drums in the pit for “The Addams Family.”
In 2017, he won an award in the Bagaduce Music Lending Library’s Young Composers Festival for “Boom,” a piece he wrote for the Tremont School jazz band.
Remaining performances of “Alice: Through the Looking Glass,” an original adaption of Lewis Carroll’s classic story, are 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23, and Saturday, Nov. 24, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 25. Directed by Georgia Zildjian, the production stars Ana Valenzuela-Tyson as Alice. Northern Lights Director Shelbi Werner has directed the dancers.
Tickets cost $15 per person for adults and seniors and $10 per students (17 and under). Call 667-9500 or visit www.grandonline.org.