Whisper House – Studio Recording 2009
Set in 1942 at the height of WWII, Whisper House centers around eleven-year-old Christopher, an imaginative but melancholy child whose father recently died in the war. While his mother copes with her grief, Christopher is sent to live with an aunt he’s never met: Lilly, the reclusive woman who serves as the keeper of a remote lighthouse.
It doesn’t take long for Christopher to realize his aunt has little experience with or patience for children. To make matters worse, the lighthouse is also home to Yasujiro, a Japanese immigrant who works for Lilly and whom Christopher suspects may be a spy.
Soon after his arrival, Christopher worries that his new home may be haunted – and, in fact, the story is presided over by a band of ghosts (appearing in the costumes they died in) that only Christopher can see. They serve as a spectral Greek chorus: only singing, never speaking. The ghosts represent Christopher’s subconscious thoughts, articulating his fears and doubts with a cheerfully macabre wit. Their songs give the show a uniquely Brechtian structure in which the music stands separate from and as commentary on the action.
When Christopher confides to his Aunt Lilly that he thinks the house may be haunted, she reassures him that there is no such thing as ghosts. As soon as she leaves, however, the ghosts appear to Christopher, informing him that there are, indeed, such things as ghosts … and that we live in a world where you are supposed to be afraid of pretty much everything. Sound familiar? This sets up the thesis/antithesis structure of the piece where something that is put forward in a given scene will be swiftly contradicted by the song that follows. Is this Christopher’s imagination getting the best of him? Or are the ghosts revealing something our hapless characters don’t understand? Perhaps it’s just a matter of perspective.
The show draws inspiration from two true pieces of history. First, that German U-Boats were active off the East Coast during 1942, sinking several ships and engaging in battle with US Naval forces, suddenly making lighthouses an important part of the war effort. Second, in February 1942 President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, instructing the military to create high security zones in which no foreign nationals from Germany, Italy, or Japan were allowed to live.
A new musical collaboration between composer Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening), writer Kyle Jarrow (A Very Merry Unauthorized Children’s Scientology Pageant) and director Peter Askin, Whisper House is a ghost story about growing up and facing fears. By examining a period of conflict in American history with many parallels to today’s climate, Whisper House explores how easily a nation can be driven to persecute the innocent. Through it all, there’s the simple human story of damaged people coming to terms with their fears.
For information on Whisper House visit www.duncansheik.com/whisperhouse/.
Music & Lyrics by Duncan Sheik Book & Lyrics by Kyle Jarrow MUSICIANS Duncan Sheik: Guitar, Vocals, Keys, Bass Gerry Leonard: Guitar Kevin Garcia: Drums, Percussion Holly Brook: Background Vocals and Lead Vocals on “And Now We Sing” Nick Bucknall: Soprano Chalumeau, B-flat Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, B-flat Contrabass Clarinet John Barclay: Trumpet and Piccolo Trumpet Richard Watkins: French Horn Ghostly wind section arranged and conducted by Simon Hale Strings recorded by Niall Acott at Angel Studios, London Assistant Engineer: Mat Bartram Music preparation: Mike Hornett