Under the Moon with Aunt Birdie - Production Notes - Orchestral Version
For two actors (female) & Chamber Orchestra (44322 2222 221 1) Length: ca 45 minutes
Aunt Birdie (70 + years old) & Pearl (8 years old):
Both characters are played by one female actor (Ability to sing in tune required;untrained voice is fine.)
Played by female actor (Ability to sing in tune required;untrained voice is fine.)
(Aunt Birdie's elderly dog- a mid-sized mutt): Played by the Conductor
Aunt Birdie's voice:
Played by Horn I
Played on Recorder (Clarinet I*)
Brass stopping mute with horn mouthpiece (Horn II**)
A member of the orchestra with a good sounding “Caw”
Various Bird and Animal Sounds:
As made by members of the orchestra
- 2 Flutes
- 2 Oboes
- 2 Clarinets (one doubling on recorder* & Toy Glockenspiel)
- 2 Bassoons
- 1 Horn
- “Wah Wah Instrument” (Horn 2**)
- 2 Trumpets
- 1 Trombone
Strings (Minimum): 4/4/3/2/2
Percussion (One Player):
- Timpani (4)
- Bass Drum
- Suspended Cymbal
- Various types of Wind Chimes
- Skipping Rope and a Sheet of Plexiglass
- Pair of Stones (Palm-sized; Granite sounds best)
- Five Clay Pots, graduated sizes, suspended***
- Toy Glockenspiel
- Bird Whistles
Optional Props: Rocking Chair Moon & Tree Masks
The recorder double can be covered by any of the flute or clarinet players. If no one is able to play the part on the recorder, the part can be played on flute.
The "Wah Wah" instrument is created by inserting a horn mouthpiece into a brass stopping mute. Ideally, this part should be played by the second horn; however, it could also be covered by Trumpets 1 or 2.
In the environmental spirit of the story, there are parts for homemade and found instruments; however, alternate parts for Xylophone, Vibraphone and Wood Block are also included. Descriptions of instruments are included with the percussion parts.
Synopsis of the Story
In Under the Moon with Aunt Birdie, the moon is the storyteller. From her vantage- point in the sky, she sees and notices all the goings-on of our everyday lives. She has a desire to tell one particular story - the story of Pearl's visit with Aunt Birdie. Why does the moon choose this story? She chooses it because, though the story is simple, it illustrates and celebrates the ways humans are able to connect with the natural world.
Pearl is an eight-year-old girl who lives in Thunder Bay with her sister and her mother. Pearl's mother has just taken a job in Toronto and so the family has to move. The mother and sister (Ruby) will search for an apartment in Toronto while Pearl will be sent north to visit her Great Aunt Birdie. Aunt Birdie has a reputation for being wildly eccentric and before Pearl's departure, Ruby tells Pearl exaggerated stories about the great aunt. Naturally, Pearl is somewhat apprehensive about the visit.
Aunt Birdie is indeed eccentric and is passionate about her commitment to the environment. In her day to day life, she creates no garbage whatsoever. Initially, Pearl's visit is quite enchanting and full of discovery. She and her aunt dance under the moon, eat fiddleheads for supper and take long walks through the forest. On one of their nature walks, Pearl befriends an ancient white pine tree. In the crook of the tree, Pearl finds a smooth round stone, which she believes to be "magical".
However, there is another side to Aunt Birdie. Aunt Birdie's heart is heavy, and she retreats to her bedroom daily for hours with strict instructions not to disturb her. The second floor is strictly off limits to Pearl. Whenever Aunt Birdie is up in her room, Pearl hears strange noises that she can't identify. She wonders if perhaps Aunt Birdie is talking with wild animals. Pearl wants to solve the mystery of the strange sounds, and eventually she goes against Aunt Birdie's wishes and visits the second floor. When she peeps through the keyhole, she sees that the strange sounds are indeed coming from Aunt Birdie's lips. The next day, Pearl asks Aunt Birdie why she goes upstairs to her room every day. Aunt Birdie answers curtly by saying she goes upstairs to worry, cutting off any further discussion. Over the next few days, whenever Pearl comes close to the issue with a question, Aunt Birdie is consistently quick-tempered.
In her loneliness, Pearl befriends the dog "Bear," visits her tree, and has adventures with the ravens (one raven "steals" her special necklace and she must chase it down). Throughout all her adventures, Pearl keeps her special stone in her pocket. As each day passes she discovers more and more reasons why the stone is magical.
Finally, late one afternoon Pearl decides that her magical stone will cure Aunt Birdie of her worry. In her excitement, she forgets everything, and bursts into Aunt Birdie's upstairs room. Aunt Birdie shouts at Pearl and Pearl runs into the bush vowing to "never go back there." As evening falls, Pearl hears all the sounds of the forest. Frightened, she wraps herself around the roots of the old white pine tree.
While Aunt Birdie is desperately searching to find Pearl, she is forced to look at that place where her heart has hardened. With the help of the dog Bear, Aunt Birdie finally finds Pearl asleep inside the roots of the old pine tree.
The next morning, Aunt Birdie offers tea and toast to Pearl, but Pearl's feelings have been hurt and so she refuses. Aunt Birdie shares a piece of her own childhood, and by letting Pearl know that she has learned a valuable lesson, their relationship is restored. Finally Pearl directly asks Aunt Birdie if she talks to wild animals. Aunt Birdie explains that when she makes sounds, she is simply sending out all her good thoughts and wishes to the earth's creatures.
The final few days of their visit is precious, and soon Pearl returns to her family, this time in the big city of Toronto.
Under the Moon with Aunt Birdie is a unique journey into nature. Join us in this place where characters speak through musical instruments and the moon tells stories!