Meet the Musician: UCCS student writes Scandinavian-inspired musical 

Editor’s note: Gohlke’s songs will no longer be featured in the choir concert due to time constraints. It is likely that they will be performed in the fall 2023 semester instead.

Theater lovers, be on the lookout: 26-year-old sophomore music major Aaron Gohlke is creating a musical unlike any other.  

Gohlke’s “Red Maiden,” a musical inspired by Scandinavian folk songs, has created a buzz around the music department at UCCS. Several selections from his work will be performed at the upcoming VAPA choir performance on April 19. 

“Red Maiden” is a two- act musical featuring 22 songs, all written by Gohlke. Over the course of two acts, a woman from a conservative village longs to become a shield maiden, or a woman warrior who fights alongside the men of the clan. As she pursues this dream, a curse tears through her village, turning her world upside down with tragedy.  

“You have this woman going against the grain of her society to be who she needs to be.” Gohlke said, adding that his work is centered around breaking cycles of violence. 

Gohlke was inspired by the work of other musicians who have attempted to reimagine Scandinavian folk music as it would have been before the spread of Christianity. The music helped him envision what stories he could tell. 

When musicals are typically created and produced, a team of people create a plot, write dialogue, and then compose songs. While UCCS does not offer Musical Writing 1010, Gohlke was armed with composition experience, creative vision and plenty of ambition. Gohlke’s mentor recommended he start with a solid plot, and sort out songs later on. The rest of the pieces fell into place from there.  

Gohlke is not Scandinavian himself, but maintaining culturally accurate representations in “Red Maiden” is extremely important to him. He even made plot adjustments to his original story to ensure that the musical’s events feel like a real Norse saga.  

The authenticity could prove to be the musical’s crowning achievement, and its biggest opponent. Gohlke remarked that despite the rap-centric success of “Hamilton,” there are still limited ideas of what “musical music” should be: “[The genre] can be limiting.” 

While there is a full first draft of “Red Maiden”, there is still a fair amount of workshopping to do. Gohlke has applied to take part in the Osborne summer season, which will display several experimental student projects.  

Ultimately, he would like to push the project as far as he can in the professional world. He aspires for his work to eventually be performed on the West End in London, or Broadway.  

Gohlke’s songs will be performed at the upcoming University Choir concert, April 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the Chapman Recital Hall at the Ent Center. UCCS students are granted free entry, and all other tickets are $7. 

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