Talking to Rodney George Peacock about his history as a musician, you would probably not think of him as an opera man. After all, the Urbana native has recorded with Chicago hip-hop artists and lived and played music in San Francisco’s heyday from 1967-70.
He is an eclectic artist, however, who has played the flute, organ, piano, harp, bass clarinet and saxophone in performances and recordings, and perhaps that explains his dabbling in opera composition.
This Sunday, June 16, Radio Free Urbana (WRFU-LP 104.5 FM) will air Peacock’s artist statement at 8 p.m. The two-hour program will chronicle his history as a musician and poet. The emphasis will be on his upcoming mythological opera, Noontide Trilogy. The interview is conducted and scripted by Adam Thomas and produced by Will Freyman.
Four partial scenes and one full scene of the drama will be presented in the radio program, performed by six actors from the University of Illinois and the community and funded in part by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council.
A self-described perfectionist, Peacock said that recording the scenes was grueling, but he is pleased with the result.
“We rehearsed for several weeks for 17 minutes worth of recording,” Peacock said. “I’m pretty thorough. I worked them pretty hard.”
But that’s only because Peacock himself works hard. He has contributed to several albums on Chicago’s Audio 8 label, playing flute and saxophones. In 1993, Peacock went to Vienna, Austria, after 10 years working locally in social services and wrote Noontide: Part 1 before returning to Champaign-Urbana.
Today, besides working in his Urbana studio, Peacock works part-time at Jon’s Pipe Shop on Green Street.
Noontide began, however, while he was still a young man in Carmel, Calif. He wrote the opera’s opening speech in a cabin there a block and a half from the beach, where he was studying with J. Christopher Harold, Peacock said.
Peacock said that the opera, while classically structured, is simply written so that people can understand it.
“The music for the drama is classically structured,” Peacock said. “But the script is written so that people can get involved with the characters and get involved with the plot. I didn’t write it to try and be above anybody.”
Pogo Studio in Urbana recorded a CD of Noontide: Part 1 in October 2000, which included 11 actors and Vladamir Zirimba of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra playing soprano sax, Peacock said.
Part 1 of Noontide is scheduled to be performed live at Foellinger Auditorium in August 2007. Saturday’s radio show is intended to get the public interested in the drama, Peacock said.
“The program talk is primarily about the two dramas that I have composed,” he said. “[Its purpose is] to garnish support and hopefully get some investors to be a part of this project.”
He acknowledges that a career in the arts is not always a profitable choice, but he doesn’t mind.
“This is the lifestyle I have chosen,” he said. “It’s fun. I mean, I wouldn’t be doing it if it wasn’t …
I have to enjoy what I’m doing, and it has to be fun no matter what setbacks I have.”
“There are a lot of people that tell me I have talent, but that doesn’t mean anything until you do something with it,” Peacock said.