RED WING -- “Crocus Hill Ghost Story,” a unique music event inspired by one woman’s experiences in a St. Paul mansion, will be performed at 7:30 p.m. March 20 in the historic barn at the Anderson Center.
Twin Cities contemporary music group Zeitgeist collaborated with flutist Julie Johnson; her sister, award-winning writer/teacher Cheri Johnson, and filmmaker DJ Mendel to create the show.
Julie Johnson, who is also a composer, and her sister, who typically writes young adult books and short stories, wanted to create a ghost story, according to Zeitgeist artistic co-director Heather Barringer.
The result is “Crocus Hill Ghost Story,” a tale of a house possessed. “Cheri used her experience in the Crocus Hill neighborhood,” Barringer said. The work explores the complex relationship between two friends and how that relationship evolves during the haunting.
The house where Cheri stayed in the 1980s is not necessarily as haunted as the story suggests, but “it resulted in her writing the original story.”
The next step was for Zeitgeist, the Johnsons and Mendel to “transform it into a screenplay with a narrative, music and film,” according to Barringer. “We all worked together.”
Zeitgeist is a quartet of musicians – two percussion, piano and woodwinds – who are committed to performing new music. They define it as “an extension of the classical music tradition” that “represents the cutting and creative edge.”
According to Barringer, a Pierce County woman who now lives on her grandparents’ farm in Ellsworth, “We’re all about creating and performing brand new things.” Their collaborations frequently involve other disciplines, from choreography and visual arts to film and story telling.
Zeitgeist contacted Julie Johnson about three years ago about collaborating, Barringer said. The music Johnson creates on flute “is very engaging to listen to, but also very new. It expands what the flute can sound like.”
The score, described as “wildly evocative and colorful,” is performed by Zeitgeist – Barringer and Patti Cudd on percussion, Pat O’Keefe on woodwinds and Nicola Melville on piano – along with Julie Johnson.
“Julie’s flute playing is very spooky, very haunting,” Barringer said. Her distinctive music is described as “rougher and more soulful than a typical classical sound, yet more pure than a typical jazz player’s” as she blends genres.
Mendel’s video “ends up being sort of another character” in the story, Barringer said. “It is the house,” and the video is what enables the audience to see evidence of the ghost. “It’s pretty spooky,” she admitted.
Mendel, who also is an actor, director and writer, works extensively with avant-garde theater and emerging writers and theater groups.
Merging with the music and the film is the story, as narrated by Krisanne Weiss, a Twin Cities singer/actor. “We’ve worked with her a number of times before,” Barringer said.
Put all those elements together, she said, and “It’s pretty spooky.” At the same time, the show leaves room for people to reach their own conclusions about what happened on Crocus Hill.
“We’re really excited to be at the Anderson Center” for a third time, Barringer noted. Previously Zeitgeist and Kevin Kling performed here, and last year they collaborated with Ragamala Dance Company.
They especially enjoy the fact that “the audiences are so receptive” in Red Wing, she added.
The project received support from a Legacy grant and the Knight Foundation.
“Crocus Hill Ghost Story” is suitable for teenagers through adults. Tickets are $15 general admission, $10 for students and seniors, $5 for Anderson Center members. A cash bar will be available.
Seating is limited. Advance tickets can be obtained online at the Zeitgeist website, www.zeitgeistnewmusic.org/chgs-anderson-center.html. Tickets also will be available at the door.
If you go …
Who: Zeitgeist and friends
What: “Crocus Hill Ghost Story”
When: 7:30 p.m. March 20
Where: Anderson Center historic barn
How much: $15, $10 students/seniors, $5 members