New Music Ensemble

The Return of the (Mad) King

Thirty-year reunions are usually the province of high school classes and close-knit families. Who stages a 30th anniversary reunion of an opera about a lunatic monarch? That would be Dan Welcher, composer, teacher, and founder of the New Music Ensemble at the University of Texas. It was in that ensemble's first season back in 1978 that Welcher programmed a chamber opera by English composer Peter Maxwell Davies called Eight Songs for a Mad King, which cast a singer as England's George III and six musicians as the bullfinches that he tried to teach to sing with the aid of a tiny windup organ which could play eight melodies. The performance of the one-act – which was and still is called daring and disturbing – went so well that Welcher thought it worthy of reviving, even three decades later. So he's doing just that, and joining him will be John Duykers, the tenor who sang George in the 1978 performance and will reprise the role, and Melissa Weaver, who helped out on the show then as a lighting design student in the Department of Theatre & Dance and now will direct it. (By the way, the two are now husband and wife.) Filling out the bill will be The Tyrant, a work about a despotic king written by composer Paul Dresher as a companion piece to Davies' opera but never produced on the same program with it until now. If you can't get to campus, catch the live webcast at This promises to be a major event, and you don't want to wait 30 years for the next reunion.

The UT New Music Ensemble will present Eight Songs for a Mad King and The Tyrant Thursday, Oct. 2, 8pm, in the McCullough Theatre on the UT campus. For more information, call 471-5401 or visit

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New Music Ensemble, Dan Welcher, John Duykers, Melissa Weaver

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