If you’ve ever been to a Midnight Circus in the Parks show, you’ve probably danced your way to your seat, and jumped in the ring at the close of the show to dance with the cast – or, at least your kids have! Midnight Circus puts on a two-hour, high-energy performance for nine parks across Chicago, and we wouldn’t be able to do it without the music that fills our tent.
So how does Midnight Circus create such a dynamic musical experience to pair with world-class circus acts? Well, it takes a one-of-a-kind DJ, talented artistic directors, some circus performers turned singer/songwriters, and of course some Midnight magic.
“Music is half the world of Midnight Circus”, says DJ My Boy Elroy.
As the Midnight Circus DJ, Elroy is responsible for keeping up the energy and vibe. From the moment you walk into the tent to the close of the show, Elroy is playing a combination of songs, mixes, and mashups…. and as you can see, he has the best time doing. it.
Traditionally, an entire band accompanies a circus for the duration of the show – hitting music queues to match tricks, build excitement/suspense, and adapt to the unexpected. The intimate nature of our Little Big Top doesn’t fit an entire band, but with Elroy’s expertise the show has that same live feel. He doesn’t just hit the play button. In real time he adds sound effects, accents, fades, mixes and so much more, to build excitement for each number and has to watch closely to hit the queues.
Elroy’s work starts well before the tour begins. He meets with the Jenkins a few months prior to rehearsals to brainstorm. “We want to use the show as a way to build, uplift, and inspire a community.” says, Elroy “Once we have the show’s theme, we start talking about how we’ll enhance it with music.” During the rehearsal period, Elroy takes the music from each act and tweaks it to fit time restrictions and to match the feeling the act is portraying.
Elroy’s passion for music started with drumming and beatboxing – both of which have made their way into the show. In 2017, along with his DJ duties he played the bucket drum, and in 2018, he took his beatboxing to the next level. Literally joining the acrobats in the ring, beatboxing, interacting and improvising with the acrobats all over music he produced to accompany a hand to hand act. A show stopping moment came when acrobats Tristan and Eve, suddenly freeze and replay their act in reverse, so Elroy engineered a reverse wave file and beatboxed in reverse!
Midnight Circus also incorporates some live music performances. The Clown Band, led by artistic director and founder, Julie Jenkins has been part of our circus since day one. The band is made up of circus performers who play any combination of guitar, ukulele, accordion, banjo, mandilon, and harmonica. For many years, the band sang mash-ups of popular music while the audience filtered in after intermission. In recent years, the band has expanded to performing original music written by Midnight Circus performers, Book Kennison and Logan Kerr.
In 2017, Julie asked them to write an original song for the upcoming show. They composed “Eleven Summers” which Julie sang live. In 2018, everyone upped their game. Book and Logan wrote a song that 11-year-old Sam Jenkins sang live while walking across the high wire.
Singing live on a high wire is a tall order for any kid, but Sam Jenkins is no stranger to the stage. She has been performing with Midnight Circus since she was five years-old, performed in a Chicago Children’s Theater production, and four Coonley Elementary musicals (shout out to Mr. W. and Ms. Metz…☺ ) including this year as the lead role of Aerial in The Little Mermaid.
“I’ve been singing practically since I was born because my mom sings and I love to watch musicals.” says, Sam. “I had to be a lot more focused on the wire. It was a little tough because you have to think of so many things at once, like balancing and then remembering all of the words.”
As for this year you can expect to see Elroy grooving to his masterful beats, and see Sam sing live in the ring – a super fun pop song written by Book and Zoë Kennison. Book says, “If you know Midnight Circus, and you know Sam Jenkins, you should be excited.”
Come see (and hear) Midnight Circus at a park near you, or visit a neighborhood across town! As Elroy puts it, “This is going to be the most exciting year yet!”