GROWING YOUNG (2017)
Concept and music by Peter Michael von der Nahmer
Libretto by Marianna Mott Newirth and Peter Michael von der Nahmer
Based on interviews done with Seniors from Orchard Hill, New Ulm:
Doris G., Dolores K., Mae S., Jeannie G., Al R., & Vern S.
Led by Peter Michael von der Nahmer
Premiered: August 26, 2017 at the State Street Theater, New Ulm, Minnesota
Directed by Michael Koester
About: This past June I had the privilege to meet with several seniors at Orchid Hills and talk with them about their lives and what it was like when they were teenagers. I wanted them to „grow young“ again in their minds; hence the title of today’s program. My intention was that through a series of interviews I would not only learn more about those old times and how people lived eighty years ago, but I would also learn what was important to them, what made them happy, what scared them, what made them who they are today.
I was specifically interested in the German-American heritage here of New Ulm and what it meant back then and how it resonates today. During the interviews with these lovely people, who shared such amazing insights into their lives, I had a personal revelation. I came to understand that I was having a conversation with my grandmother who had passed away when I was just a teenager. In order to achieve my goal of writing stories about the lives of these seniors from Orchard Hill, they needed to get to know me so we sat and talked over several weeks. I learned about each of them and their backgrounds and they, in turn, asked many questions about me and my background. Magic happened when these six people started to become my grandparents.
Our conversations were recorded, yielding many wonderful hours of conversation on tape that needed to be transcribed. Bunny Hanson came to the rescue doing this critical work for me. My next step was to turn the transcriptions into theatrical pieces. This is where another good friend of mine from New York City, librettist – Marianna Mott Newirth, stepped in to help me finish the libretti. Music theater is always about a collaborative process and I am so appreciative to both Bunny and Marianna for all of our good work together.
I am immensely grateful for the stories my new grandfathers and grandmothers are sharing here today. They have helped me grow as a composer, allowing me to discover a fresh new approach to creating unique theatrical pieces. They have also helped me to grow as a person because I have learned so much from them about the world from which we all come. Growing Young connects different generations here in New Ulm and connects me with my forbearers through the voices of many different and wonderful people.