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The music man of Grover's Corners

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Jacob Augustine the live soundtrack to PTC's Our Town'

BANGOR Local audiences will soon have the opportunity to hear some new sounds associated with an old favorite.

As part of their upcoming production of Thornton Wilder's classic play 'Our Town,' Penobscot Theatre Company has enlisted local singer/songwriter Jacob Augustine to lend his considerable musical prowess to this beloved tale of small town life.

Augustine is essentially providing a soundtrack to 'Our Town,' creating haunting melodies with instruments both conventional and unconventional alike, underscoring the goings-on in Grover's Corners with a soundscape that manages to be both spare and lush.

The story of how Augustine came to be involved with the production is a serendipitous one, an illustration of the wonderful interconnectedness of the area's creative community.

'I had gotten an offer to play at the Rock & Art Shop for an event,' Augustine said. 'Magnus [Stark, marketing director for PTC] was the featured artist. Bari [Newport, PTC artistic director] was there and saw me play; she wound up buying a few of my CDs. A few months later, she asked me to be involved with Our Town.''

It seems that Augustine is uniquely suited for this unique project. He brings a wide variety of proficiencies to the table; his own music style is difficult to pigeonhole, even for him.

'I guess you'd call it indie rock or indie folk,' he said with a laugh. 'I'm an experimental indie folk musician, doing everything from guy with a guitar' to guy with 13 instruments.''

Of course, providing a live soundtrack to perhaps the greatest American play is a far cry from performing a more traditional music set. Augustine spoke about the process and the varying degrees of difficulty presented by this project.

'I had conceptualized some things before rehearsals,' he said. 'But it really came to life when I started feeding off the actors and watching them work. The writing and performances make it so much easier to know which sounds to make. It's all about trying to get into that world the world tells you what it wants.

'The most challenging part for me has been finding ways to underscore the everyday,' he continued. 'It's easier to score something heavier, but with the everyday, it's tricky to score and still maintain the right atmosphere.'

Augustine has written three separate movements to underscore the show. He has also created new arrangements of three hymns that feature prominently throughout the play. Much of this music has been made available through the Penobscot Theatre Facebook page, so if you're looking for a sneak preview of Augustine's work, you can find it there.

But even beyond the movements and arrangements, what Augustine and Newport have done is introduce a new element to a show that rarely sees them. Augustine's music is omnipresent, and while the purest of the purists might find it bothersome their attitude being 'How dare you mess with the classics?' the vast majority of theatergoers are going to find themselves captivated by the constant and consistent musicality of the piece. 

There's no denying the beautiful lyricism of Thornton Wilder's words, so why can't there be music to go along with them.

It's a bold experiment by Bari Newport, but it would seem that Jacob Augustine is the perfect test subject. His talent and perspective ideally lend themselves to this sort of project. The ultimate result is a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack to a hauntingly beautiful play.

Rest assured; you've never seen or heard an 'Our Town' quite like this.

(Penobscot Theatre is presenting 'Our Town' from April 24 through May 11 at the Bangor Opera House. Tickets are available by calling the box office at 942-3333 or visiting their website at www.penobscottheatre.org.)

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