Mary Grim and Daniel Hernandez walked into Dr. Jerome Bierschenk’s office last semester with an idea never before done at Texas Wesleyan: a concert of gender-swapped songs.
On Thursday, their idea will become reality. Wesleyan’s Department of Music will host its first Voice-Versa concert at Nicholas Martin Hall from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. The student-directed show will involve students, faculty and alumni performing gender-swapped songs, many from Broadway productions.
Even though the concert is free, the department will taking monetary donations for Hurricane Harvey relief.
Hernandez, a junior-senior vocal performance major, had a joking demeanor when he proposed the idea, but it was well received by Bierschenk and all the other professors.
“You feel the pressure,” Hernandez said. “There’s definitely some pressure, because you want it to go so well. We really do and you can tell they’re (the professors) at the point now where they want it to go really well too, which is really nice.”
Hernandez and Grim, also a junior-senior vocal performance major, are co-directing the show and have been working on organizing it since last semester.
“(The organization process) was rough and hopefully for whoever does it next year it will go a lot smoother,” Grim said. “We had auditions last year actually, so no newbies are in it this year, because we knew we would have such a quick turnaround time. Luckily, he (Hernandez) and I have done a lot of musical theatre so we kind of know what needs to be done. We’re really good with working together and saying you do this and you do this.”
The music professors are also letting the students’ creativity run free to do whatever while doing some check-ins every now and again, Grim said.
“Because they really want to foster creativity, they’re just like going with it,” Grim said. “I mean they’re keeping a nice reign and checking in with us. We (did a hearing Monday) where the professors had to sit and watch us do it, so they know what we’re putting on. They’re like do what you’re going to do and that’s so cool.”
Junior music major Chanel Hurd said she likes the freedom of the student-lead show and that’s one of the factors that has pushed people to work hard to make sure Voice-Versa is a success.
“You had to work over the summer just to get ready, because it happens so quickly,” Hurd said. “It’s less than a month into school and the performance is already here. That was a huge stress ball in the whole thing, but it’s worked out. We want it to be a great show, so we’re putting in the effort to make it one.”
Hurd’s favorite part of the show is the opening and closing numbers with everyone involved; she is excited for the opportunity to do some contemporary music and solos.
“With it being student-lead, it’s something that we can hold on to and look forward to every semester,” Hurd said. “It’s something that we can control, because sometimes we don’t get to control the rep that we’re given and it’s fun. We get to sing songs that we probably normally won’t sing in front of people just because this is sung by a man or something like that.”
Hurd will be performing “Bring Him Home” from Les Misérables where she will play a father singing to his stepdaughter’s fiancée, who is going off to war.
“It means a lot to me,” Hurd said. “My grandmother recently passed away so that song really hits home when it’s like, ‘bring her home, bring her back to me’ stuff like that. I’m glad that I got the piece that I did.”
Hurd doesn’t think it will be weird for anyone performing opposite gender pieces.
“For me no and I would say for most people no, just because we are such artsy people,” Hurd said. “We kind of grow up with the whole, if you’re told to do this we do it and you have fun with it. A lot of the people who are singing this Thursday are on the theatrical side, so we really don’t have a problem with acting in a different way.”
Grim says in future years she’d like to combine the event with more theatre students joining in. Right now, they have one.
“We wanted to get our two departments together,” Grim said. “Since we’re not in a single building anymore we don’t see each other anymore or do anything together. We only have one theatre kid, but we’re hoping in the future when we do it we’ll get more theatre kids. This last year, we were in a recital, a lot of music recitals although beautiful, can be a little stiff at times and very professional. We were thinking, well to get them over here we need to shake it up a little bit.”
With men and women swapping parts, Grim says the show will mainly be about adapting the song to fit the performer and their vocal range.
“What’s really cool is we are trying to go with this whole be who you are kind of thing with our closing song being “You Will Love Me How I Am.” It’s kind of like taking a song that we really resonate with, but we would never be able to do because we just wouldn’t be cast as that character. It’s not necessarily I’m acting like a man or he’s acting like a lady. It’s really this is how this resonates through us, so it’s really personal and kind of a really beautiful thing.”
Grim and Hernandez really want people to come to this concert, because it has something for everybody.
“It’s a free concert, and this show has something for everybody,” Grim said. ‘It’s got a little tiny bit of opera, it’s got some Hamilton, which everybody loves, it’s got Les Misérables, Dreamgirls, Wicked, etc. It’s got everything. We really want a big showing, so that we can fill this auditorium and get some money for Hurricane Harvey relief.”