By Medina Demeter, Master of House & Youth
Tucket within. All dirty jokes aside, this stage direction gave me–the trumpeter for Sweet Tea Shakespeare’s upcoming performance of King Lear–a run for her money.
What is a tucket anyway? And how does that differ from a flourish or a sennet–which also appears in the script?
Lucky for me, I have a wonderful friend from college named Alisha Huber who studied this kind of thing. She even wrote about it in “Sound Trumpets” from Shakespeare Expressed: Page, Stage and Classroom in Shakespeare and His Contemporaries, edited by Kathryne M. Moncrief, Kathryne R McPherson, and Sarah Enloe. Although I, of course, encourage you to pick up the book and get the information straight from the horse’s mouth, I will give you the highlights.
Trumpet calls are almost as important as the actual lines themselves–each of them has their own unique meaning. Each specific melody might signal a victory, a parley, or the entry of an important person or family. Mimicking modern copyrights, Alisha cites that King James I even required playhouses to get permission to use these family-owned calls and charged them a royalty (Ha! There’s a double meaning in that!)
For the purposes of King Lear, I needed to focus on flourishes (general explosions of happiness), sennets (a theatre-specific trumpet call which, as far as anyone can tell, was just used as transition music), and tuckets (a theme song–something à la Darth Vader). After an extensive YouTube search and a myriad of “Let’s find something different” comments from the director, I found a theme. From there, it was only a matter of creating variations for the different characters.
Although I am sure that I sound nothing like a Shakespearean trumpeter, I take a little pride in the fact that my music isn’t just some generic blat of noise. Each flourish has meaning. Each sennet has purpose. And the knowledge that I gleaned from this experience? I will tuck it within.