By Ralph Morang firstname.lastname@example.org . Sep 22, 2017
SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — After piling out of their bus, Marshwood Middle School seventh- and eighth-grade chorus members skipped, ran and walked down Vine Street to the Great Works Bridge Tuesday morning.
Vine Street, blocked off at number 44, is beginning to be choked with grass and weeds between the barrier and the closed Great Works Bridge at Leighs Mill Pond. The students made and recorded observations of the road, pond, bridge and surroundings for an original musical composition.
Last year, for the first time, chorus director Kristine Bisson composed music with her students; they had no outside experts. This year, she and the students have the help of artist-in-residence Brian Evans-Jones, a poet, writer and teacher.
Bisson chose as the theme of the composition the Great Works Bridge, which has been condemned and is closed. It will be removed next year, and there is a grassroots effort by the Great Works Bridge Brigade to build a covered pedestrian bridge in its place. The chorus students will have the opportunity to discuss their work with the brigade.
Brian Evans-Jones will lead the students in finding their writing, speaking and singing voices. He visited the school last week to explain his creative writing process, and he led them Tuesday past six “stations” along the roadway where students wrote down their impressions of the environments.
“I am very excited to see how our learning will evolve this year with Brian’s expertise on this project,” Bisson said. “In fact, that is one of the aspects that is most intriguing about this project.”
Evans-Jones said he wants the students to observe with their eyes, skin and noses. “It’s my first time working with music,” he said. “I love to expand what I know.”
Evans-Jones was born in Wales and grew up in England. He earned a master of fine arts in creative writing at the University of New Hampshire and has lived here for three years.
He asked the chorus members about metaphors, how words are a river or time is a river. He and Bisson met at a Maine Arts Commission program that connects arts teachers with teaching artists. His residency at Marshwood Middle School was made possible by a grant from the Marshwood Education Foundation.
At the bridge, closed behind another barrier and a chain-link fence, seventh-grader McKenzie Breitkreutz said, “It is sad it is closed. People can’t use it.” Fellow student Cameron Deguisto said one of his thoughts was, “The closed bridge makes you think about things you can’t do you wish you could.”
Kimberly Whalan was one of the parent chaperones for the trip. She is also on the board of the Marshwood Education Foundation. “This is fantastic,” she said, adding the MEF made the grant two weeks ago. “This is so phenomenal.”
Evans-Jones will work for five weeks with the students, but they will continue all year creating the composition. “Bridging Adolescence: A River Runs Through Us, Composing Our Future” will be performed in June.