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Composer Anthony Plog and conductor Chris Norton at rehearsal for Magdalene premiere

Magdalene: A Cantata

Music by Anthony Plog
Words by the Women of Magdalene
Compiled by Ronald Kidd

For orchestra or wind ensemble with chorus, soloists, narrator

Twenty-eight years ago, a community was formed. Known as Magdalene, the community is made up of women with a criminal history of prostitution and drug abuse. The women live together in houses for two years, free of charge, with no resident staff. After two years in the Magdalene community, the women graduate—not to leave, but to become sisters who are committed to one another for life.

The Magdalene community, part of Thistle Farms, starts every day by gathering in a circle, where they read the Bible, pray, and make sure everyone is all right. They share stories and wisdom. They tell the truth.

This cantata presents some of their harrowing, uplifting words and stories in a musical setting—orchestra, chorus, soloists, and narrator—by American composer Anthony Plog. The music of Anthony Plog has been performed in over 30 countries around the world and featured on over 50 recordings worldwide.

In this cantata, the Magdalene women open their circle and invite us in, seeking to share their truth that in whatever brokenness we know, the seeds of healing are sown.

God’s First Temples: An Oratorio

Music by Anthony Plog
Words by John Muir, Gifford Pinchot, and Theodore Roosevelt
Compiled by Ronald Kidd

For orchestra or string quartet with chorus, soloists

This oratorio depicts the first great battle of the environmental movement, the fight to bring water to San Francisco by damming the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park. The text is made up of quotations from President Theodore Roosevelt, father of the National Park System; Gifford Pinchot, Roosevelt’s Secretary of the Interior and America’s first professional forester; and John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club and its spiritual leader.

We meet John Muir wandering through the Hetch Hetchy Valley, admiring its beauty. He decides to leave his city life and go live in the mountains. Contacted by President Theodore Roosevelt, he takes Roosevelt on a four-day camping trip in Yosemite, during which they become fast friends. Later, Muir camps with Gifford Pinchot, and they too become friends.

These friendships set the scene for a painful showdown over Hetch Hetchy, when Congress proposes a law damming the valley as a source of water—with Pinchot in favor, Muir strongly against, and Roosevelt caught in the middle, forced to decide between them. We hear the words and thoughts of each man, leading to Roosevelt’s fateful decision to support Pinchot and dam the valley.

In the end, Muir is left alone to ponder Hetch Hetchy and its meaning. He leaves us with questions:

I often wonder what man will do with the mountains. Will human destruction work out a higher good, a finer beauty? What is the human part of the mountain’s destiny?

How the Trumpet Got Its Toot

A Children’s Opera by Anthony Plog
Based on a story by Ronald Kidd

Produced by Utah Opera, 2004

Once upon a time, a Trumpet was born to a pair of ordinary brass candlesticks. So begins a musical fable that introduces the instruments of the orchestra, while dealing in a charming, humorous way with themes that have always faced young people: leaving home to pursue one’s destiny, trying to discover what that destiny is, learning life’s lessons, dealing with rejection and failure, and following our dreams.

In Act One, the Trumpet realizes that he is not meant to be a candlestick but instead wants to play music. He meets a traveling Tuba named Joe, who describes a town called Sinfonia, where music is everywhere and the instruments of the orchestra live in harmony. The Trumpet, eager to go there, tearfully leaves his parents and sets out for Sinfonia with Joe to pursue his dreams.

Upon arriving in Sinfonia, the Trumpet is befriended by a Flute, who shows him that music can express joy, sadness, and the deepest desires of us all. As she finishes, a messenger announces a contest to determine who will be the Mayor’s new herald. Excited, the Trumpet decides to enter the contest.

A festive atmosphere opens Act Two as the crowd gathers for the contest. When the competition begins, each instrument or instrumental group auditions, so that we meet the instruments of the orchestra, discovering their unique sounds and personalities. The Trumpet, the last to audition, splatters the notes of a fanfare. The instruments laugh, and he slumps off in disgrace.

Several hours later, a disconsolate Trumpet walks the deserted streets of Sinfonia, wondering if he will ever discover his destiny. He notices that embers from the festival have started a fire, which is spreading through the town. The Trumpet yells for help, playing a fanfare loud and true. Windows open, people emerge, and they manage to put out the fire. The Trumpet’s fanfare has saved Sinfonia! He is appointed as the Mayor's new herald, finding his true calling at last.

“In the tradition of ‘Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra’ and ‘Peter and the Wolf’ comes Anthony Plog’s ‘How the Trumpet Got Its Toot,’ a fun little fable that acquaints listeners with orchestral instruments while delivering a useful lesson about perseverance, hard work, and finding one’s voice….. ‘Trumpet’ finds its voice, and it sings.”

The Salt Lake Tribune

Santa’s Tale

A Children’s Opera by Anthony Plog
Libretto by Ronald Kidd

Santa’s Tale is the story of how an ambitious elf tries to take over the North Pole, and Santa, with the help of his sidekick Blitzen and a little girl named Molly, rallies to restore the spirit of Christmas. 

As the opera opens, Floyd, the new head elf, confronts Santa with customer research showing that Christmas is losing market share to Thanksgiving, Halloween, and especially to the ruthless Easter Bunny. On advice from consultants, Floyd announces that he is bringing Christmas into the twenty-first century. Santa will get a makeover, and Christmas presents, instead of being delivered on Christmas eve, will be ordered at a website, Ho-ho-ho.com. Floyd has decided to run a beta test with an eleven-year-old girl named Molly.

Santa goes for help to his trusted sidekick, Blitzen the reindeer, and together they work to restore Christmas, delivering a teddy bear to Molly and good cheer to children around the world.

No Small Miracle

A Musical by Sherry Paige
Book by Ronald Kidd and Sherry Paige

Finalist, Festival of New Plays, Chattanooga Centre Theatre, 2004

“No Small Miracle” is the story of how a community of people surrounding a small church parish are changed by the emergence of a young teenage girl and her piano. 

In an opening number we meet those people: Jesse Wilcox, who dreams of being a powerful lawyer like her father but finds herself stuck in a temporary job at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church; Foster Sullivan, Jesse’s lifelong friend, whose deep understanding of people and their needs sings like the music he loves and promotes from his music store; Henry Torrence, the troubled rector of St. Anne’s, who finds it easier to depend on the beauty of a crystal chalice than to trust God with his own brokenness; Tilly Dodd, the choir and music director, who secretly loves Henry and would do anything to be that object of his desire; and Bobby Torrence, Henry’s son, who can’t see anything worth believing in and regularly reminds his father of that.

We then meet Merrick Curshall, who is alone in the world. Her grandmother, “Gram,” who was her best friend, parent, and musical mentor, has died, leaving eighteen-year-old Merrick with a piano, where she spends her days writing music, singing, and talking to Gram. 

Through music and story, we see how Merrick’s spirit fills the church and brings healing to its troubled community.