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Guest composer writes original music for "A Christmas Carol"

New York City composer and writer Roger Butterley has written original music for a new version of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," to be presented Nov. 30 through Dec. 9 by the New Mexico State University Department of Theatre Arts and the American Southwest Theatre Company.



New York City composer and writer Roger Butterley has written original music for a new version of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," to be presented Nov. 30 through Dec. 9 at New Mexico State University's Hershel Zohn Theatre. (New Mexico State Univers

Butterley found himself composing in New Mexico after responding to an ad placed at the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Web site by Tom Smith, theater professor at New Mexico State.

"It's been nice to just sit back, focus and write," Butterley said of his stay here in Las Cruces.

Butterley wrote the music for the opening and closing numbers of the production as well as the background music, or the underscore. The lyrics for the opening and closing numbers were written by Smith, who also adapted the Charles Dickens classic and will be directing the play. Butterley said the words guided him in the direction he wanted the music to go.

"After writing the opening and closing, the rest of the score wrote itself," he said.


Butterley said that the music is influenced by common holiday tunes, but described his compositions as "Christmas music turned on its head." The closing number called "Join Your Fellow Man" sounds much like a Christmas carol with the jingle of sleigh bells.

Most of the underscoring music plays when the ghosts visit Scrooge. He said that they are not the bumbling ghosts that are often associated with "A Christmas Carol," but are darker and more dramatic with music to match.

"I think the music has heightened the dramatic aspects of the play," he said.

Butterley said he enjoyed this production of "A Christmas Carol" because the aspects that he likes, including the ghosts, were played up and he was able to enhance certain scenes.

"It really gave me the opportunity to write effective, dramatic music," he said.


Butterley has spent nearly two weeks composing and recording his music on the New Mexico State campus. The cast of the production will be singing the opening and closing numbers, as well as two songs within the action of the play, while the rest of Butterley's music will be played from a compact disk he has recorded.

"I've got a whole synthesizer studio in my room," he said. He will not be able to attend the performances, but said he had a great time working on this production.

This new adaptation is faithful to Dickens' classic, but also adds some new surprises. Scrooge will be played by Rod Mecham, a guest lecturer and actor. The set was designed by resident designer Jim Billings, and the costumes by costume shop manager Glenn Breed. Both will evoke London in the late 1800s and will add wit and humor to the show.

The show dates for this family-friendly production of "A Christmas Carol" are Nov. 30 through Dec. 9 at the Hershel Zohn Theatre on the New Mexico State campus. For information and reservations call (505) 646-4515 or 1-800-525-2782.