CLASS 1-1’s FIRST GRADE OPERA – in which a dragon and a tiger meet in a dungeon

baby dragon

 

NYC’s schools closed due to the COVID 19 pandemic the week the three first grade classes at the Brooklyn Children’s School were scheduled to perform their operas, which the children had written and composed themselves.  I still held out hope at the time that the performances would only be postponed.  But schools will remain closed for the rest of the term.  The performances won’t happen.

So now, as a poor substitute, I am sharing – in three posts, one for each class – the stories and the music of the three first grade operas that never got their day on the stage.  The children have their scripts at home with them, but with this they now also have recordings of their songs to share and sing along.

Just like in class, every recording will start with three piano chords to get ready before the melody starts and you can sing along (or simply follow along reading the score).  I used a different “instrument” from my keyboard’s sound library for each melody.  For Class 1-1’s songs I used “Jazz Organ”, “Ballad Organ”, “Accordion”, “Brass Section”, “Saxophone” and “Vibraphone”.  Can you guess which sound is the melody for which song?

 

CLASS 1-1 OPERA

“Into the Dungeon and Out Again”

 

Dragons are popular with this generation of 6 year olds.  Last year two of their kindergarten operas featured dragons.  And this year two of their first grade operas do.  Incidentally the same two also feature big cats.  For 1-1 it’s a tiger who joins the dragon as a main character in the opera, along with two people, one very nice, one very nasty.

If Class 1-1’s opera were written this fall, it would easily be thought of being a response to the quarantine, as the bulk of the story involves the four main characters stuck together for a long time in a dungeon.  But Class 1-1 came up with their story last fall, so the parallels must just be a coincidence, or a premonition.

We first meet Ashley, a kind hearted person, who just adores baby dragons:

 

SONG #1 – BABY DRAGONS

1-1-1

 

The baby dragon is hungry.  There isn’t enough food for it in the forest.  Ashley suggests the baby dragon sneak into the dungeon through a little hole in the wall to find food.  The baby dragon sneaks in successfully, but is scared away by the presence of a full grown tiger inside.

The baby dragon runs back into the forest.  Ashley follows it.

Meanwhile at the the town market, Bashlyn is bullying the other villagers.  Taking all the tomatoes, stepping on feet, bumping into people and insulting them.  The townspeople finally have enough, and throw Bashlyn into the dungeon.

tigerOnce in the dungeon, Bashlyn yells at the tiger, who backs away and covers his eyes.  Then Bashlyn makes fun of the tiger, calling him a big striped baby.  The tiger cries.

The next day the baby dragon, even hungrier, dares to go back into the dungeon for food.  The tiger says hi.  The dragon realizes the tiger is nice and they become friends.

The dragon asks the tiger why it is locked up in the dungeon, and the tiger says: “I started scratching things I shouldn’t.”

 

SONG #2 – TIGER’S SONG

1-1 song 2

Ashley sneaks into the dungeon to play with the dragon.  Guards appear and lock Ashley up.

Now all four of the main characters are in the dungeon.

Time passes.  The dragon keeps eating and gets bigger:

 

SONG #3 – DRAGON EATS IN THE DUNGEON

1-1-3

 

Bashlyn makes fun of the now adult dragon, calling it big and fat.  The dragon gets upset and Ashley asks Bashlyn to stop teasing.  But Bashlyn keeps on saying mean things and even jumps on the dragon’s back to hit it on the head.

That is when the tiger bites Bashlyn so hard he screams horribly.  And the dragon finally defends itself too.

Everybody is in a pretty rotten mood…

 

SONG #4 – GET ME OUT OF HERE

1-1-4

 

Ashley has an idea.  Now that the dragon has grown big, maybe it is pretty strong too.  Maybe it can use its fire to make a hole in the dungeon walls so they can escape.

The dragon tries.  It works!  The dragon also burns a hole into Ashley’s and the tiger’s cages.

 

SONG #5 – I’M THE DRAGON

1-1-5

 

adult dragon

 

Bashlyn wants to be saved too.  But the dragon says “No, I’m going to leave you in your cage.  You were being mean.  You have to stay in the dungeon.”

Bashlyn tries to apologize, make promises, and screams and yells.  It doesn’t help.  The dragon says “No way am I going to help a meany like you.  In you stay.”  And that’s that. Ashley and the dragon and the tiger leave together without Bashlyn.

 

SONG #6 – WE ARE FREE

1-1-6a1-1-6b

 

PS:  Eagle-eyed and bat-eared readers may have noticed the tiniest difference between the melody as written in the score and as played in the recording in a small section of two of the songs.  In this case in recording the audio track I played what I remember the children singing, and not what was still written in the score (and didn’t even notice I had done so until later).  Sometimes these changes happen when the class during rehearsal collectively adjusts the way they sing the melody, and I as music director decide to adjust to the will of the collective and not be a stickler for singing these incidental notes exactly as originally scored (it’s still the children as a class making these compositional choices after all).

About dannyashkenasi

I'm a composer with over 30 years experience creating music theater. I'm also an actor, writer, director, producer, teacher and general enthusiast for the arts.
This entry was posted in Notes in the News, The Teaching Artist and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to CLASS 1-1’s FIRST GRADE OPERA – in which a dragon and a tiger meet in a dungeon

  1. anne b kirchgraber-mckee says:

    fabulous!!! thank you for sharing this!!! Opera at its finest, purest form , just a simple story and a happy ending 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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