Apocalypse now, put it down in lyric.
Basically, that’s the premise for an upcoming island original production called “Last Poem on Earth: A Jazz Requiem.” Twelve different poets looked at leaving Earth through the pen and Bainbridge composer Paul Lewis then took a step, framing the words into a choral compilation which the Bainbridge Chorale and several other island ensembles will be performing this weekend at BPA.
“This is going to be moving and beautiful, and something that’s going to stay with you,” said Bonnie Wallace, poet and co-creator of the event.
The idea was born when it almost literally dropped out of the sky from one of Wallace’s poems onto Lewis’ head.
While making his way down the ramp of the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal, Lewis looked up and caught a glance of a poem which Wallace had entered in the BI Arts and Humanities Council’s Islands Portraits contest in 2005 and he found inspiration. Walking by, one line invoked his interest, a question, “How do we measure our lives?”
Viewing that thought as a dynamic platform, Lewis consulted Wallace about constructing a somewhat theatrical production, fusing poetry work with singing. Two years later the two are on the verge of opening night along with three choirs — the Bainbridge Chorale, SoundWave, Side by Side and the Bainbridge Children’s Choir, under the direction of Jennifer Jett Cunningham, Kathleen Bullivant and Karen Rice.
“As we started to figure out how this would manifest, we started, or (Paul) started to get this vision for a big sound,” Wallace said. “The Chorale was the next logical step.”
They called for poets to send in the poem they would write if it was their last poem on Earth, and whittled a list of entries down to 12 tops. The applicants were as diverse as one could imagine from a 12-year-old middle-schooler to a 90-year-old nun.
Sally M. Baumgartner of Woodward Middle School on Bainbridge pondered the end of existence on Earth had her poem, chosen from a select group of 70 total pieces.
It’s as inspirational and as energetic as one would expect of her youth, and it sounds off straight to the point.
“You have to have it within yourself / To speak your mind – So please don’t hold back / Because you only live once / Make every day count / and take a chance,” it reads.
“We were worried that we were going to get all these day of doom, apocalyptic tales, but there really weren’t that many,” Lewis said.
“It was a scary poem to write because it was a naked poem,” Wallace said.
Wallace scribed “Last Poem: An Invocation, – an extended poem which will begin and close the program. It segues from first line love, into the desert alone. Darkness and despair. Questions and thought.
Then – ‘a blurring of vision / possibly a new way of seeing? / The line between one thing and another / softened –’ it reads.
Now imagine that put to a jazzy, musical theatre style of arrangement and one will conjure an idea of “Last Poem on Earth: A Jazz Requiem.”
Lewis, as composer, took that thought from imagination onto the musical charts, and the creation will debut at 7:30 p.m. April 20 at Bainbridge Performing Arts – 200 Madison Ave. Bainbridge.
“It was very delightful, but very challenging,” Lewis said of orchestrating the slate of emotion. “I really learned an appreciation for poetry – I find myself now slowing down to enjoy more poetry when I encounter it.”
Last Poem on Earth: A Jazz Requiem
April 20-22 at the Bainbridge Performing Arts Playhouse ñ 200 Madison Ave. N, Bainbridge
7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday
3 p.m. Sunday
Tickets are $15 adults/$10 seniors, students, military
Available at BPA or by phone at (206) 842-8569