Freed-Hardeman University Department of Fine Arts to Debut Original Musical


An original musical by Dr. Alan Kinningham, associate professor of music theory and composition at Freed-Hardeman University, will be presented to the public for the first time Tuesday, March 10, at 6 p.m. in the Kelley Doyle Recital Hall in FHU’s Draughon Music Center. A cast of 20 students will present a concert/reading of “The Shepherd of the Hills,” based on a 1907 novel of the same name by Harold Bell Wright.
The musical consists of 29 songs with musical orchestrations written for a 14-piece ensemble. Students will perform the songs accompanied by a computerized representation of the orchestra. They will read the script without acting or scenery, much like a radio production. Dr. Gary McKnight, also a member of the FHU music faculty, cast the production and rehearsed the students for the presentation. “Dr. McKnight has been a key player in making this production possible. I owe him a great debt of gratitude,” Kinningham said.
Although some of the songs have been performed in public to very good response, “Up to this point,” Kinningham said, “this project has been primarily just in my head and on paper. This production will provide a better sense of time and the flow of the story itself. We can also test to see if lines meant to be humorous are actually funny to a live audience.”
The musical, set near present day Branson, Missouri, is a fictional account of Ozark mountain folklore and the virtue of forgiveness. It tells the story of Dad Howitt, a popular minister from the city who has come to the Ozarks seeking a new identity and a fresh start, and Sammy Lane, a young lady coming of age who has been promised to a young man who has inherited a factory in the city. Before he marries Sammy, he expects her to become the “proper lady” a person of his stature would wed.
Kinningham undertook the five-year project because he “wanted to write something monumental” for FHU’s 150th anniversary, currently being celebrated. He estimates the play will run a little over two hours. He is not sure, since the play has not yet been performed.
Wright’s novel has been the basis for three movies and a television program. The public is invited to see the inaugural production of this musical version. Admission is free.