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The music within her; UMM senior composes opera (with video)

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Anne Ternes wrote a miniature opera for her senior recital at the University of Minnesota Morris. Rae Yost/Morris Sun Tribune2 / 2

The music was her almost constant companion.

"As I went through the day I definitely had the music in my head," University of Minnesota Morris senior Anne Ternes said. "It was always present. Parts of the opera were always playing in my head."

The music is the miniature opera composed by Ternes for her senior recital project at UMM. Ternes conducted a performance of "Miriam" (Miriame) last month. She is one of the roughly 370 seniors who will receive degrees at the May 13 graduation.

"I can't think of any other student who has written an opera in the 40 years I've been in Morris," UMM music supporter Vicki Dalager said.

"It's quite ambitious," said Jonathan Campbell, a music professor at UMM. "The concept behind it, the amount of work...in my opinion, is of graduate level."

Although there may have been some concerns about the level of work required for Ternes, who is a double major in biology and music, Campbell said when she presented the idea to him, she had a structure organized.

"She's really organized. One of the most organized students I've worked with," Campbell said.

Ternes, who is a recipient of the Brion Dalager Memorial Scholarship, given in memory of former UMM music student Brion Dalager by Morris residents Joyce and Vincent Dalager, started the project in June 2016. Although she had less than a year to compose the piece, "it was good pressure," Ternes said. "Working against a deadline helped me get it done."

Ternes needed to write pieces for her roughly 40-minute miniature opera "Miriam." The miniature opera tells the story of King Herod and his wife Miriam. Miriam and the king have a tenuous relationship. Miriam's love for another and her planned escape from Herod eventually lead to her imprisonment. But a sense of duty and honor motivate Miriam to stay with the king. Her decision comes too late for the Herrod's mental health who has her executed. Eventually, he goes insane.

She chose an opera for her senior recital project in part because "I like the drama. Using music to help explain the emotions. It's not an easy thing to do," Ternes said. "Everybody hears music differently."

So the music, the words needed to convey the mindset of each character.

While composed the music on a piano, she had to write music for multiple voices and multiple instruments.

"I don't play half the instruments I was writing for," Ternes said.

She also wrote in a particular music key for each of the characters who sing in the opera.

Campbell said there are about 16 instruments used in "Miriam." "...to write for an ensemble of that size," shows the depth of the piece and Ternes' attention to it, Campbell said.

"It was an extraordinary piece!," Dalager said.

While Ternes composed "Miriam" she said it couldn't have happened without the input from her professors and the cooperation of the musicians and vocalists who agreed to perform.

"I don't know if I could have done this anywhere else," Ternes said of UMM. She's not sure she would have found the support and cooperation at a different university, even a larger one.

Now that the miniature opera has been performed, Ternes has already spent time critiquing it and plans on some possible changes.

Campbell said Ternes can make changes in this work or move forward with new compositions.

And, although, she plans on pursuing a career in biology, Ternes won't leave music behind. She will continue composing. She allows herself to hope that one day, a major opera company will perform one of her compositions.

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