By Ben Reeves
The Knox Student
Kresge Hall was transformed into a Viennese concert hall on Sunday, filled by Knox students, professors, and a large swath of the Galesburg community gathered there to hear the Nova Singers’ A Night in Vienna concert. The Nova Singers, directed by Professor Laura Lane and accompanied by Ashlee Mack, walked out onto the stage at 7:30 p.m. to start the concert off with three songs by Franz Joseph Haydn. The Haydn songs were followed by a Brahms arrangement of Ellens zweiter Gesang sung by the female Nova Singers with a solo by Lori Potts. The concert continued with two more songs by Schubert and Placido e’il mar, from Idomeneo by Mozart with a solo by Emily Shenk.
The first half of the concert ended with three operatic pieces by Mozart. The operatic portion began with Giovani liete from the Marriage of Figaro, sung by P.J. Scott. This was followed by Madamina! Il catalogo e questo, from Don Giovanni, a humorous song in which the character, Leporello, chronicles his master’s sexual exploits around Europe. The audience was very engaged with Madamina, sung by Philippe Moore (who came on stage carrying a leather ledger in which he had recorded his masters adventures), and laughed a great deal, even though the song was in Italian. The audience responded similarly to the final song of the first half, Diesen Baum, and Papagena, Papageno, from The Magic Flute. The solo parts were sung by Curtis Oelschlaeger and Erika Thomas.
Following a short intermission, the concert re-started with Der Feuerreiter by Hugo Wolf, accompanied by Ashlee Mack. The rest of the second half of the concert was made up of Johannes Brahms’ Neue Liebeslieder, op. 65, accompanied by Ashlee Mack and Gretchen Church on the piano. The Liebeslieder was the conceptual core of the concert.
Dr. Lane spoke about the origins of A Night in Vienna: “I wanted to work with Ashlee Mack and Gretchen Church [….] One of them said to me ‘let me know if you ever do Brahms,’ and then right away I said, well, let’s do the Brahms Liebeslieder. Audiences like it when there’s a theme and you can tie it all together. I try to find a couple of key pieces that I really want to do and choose other pieces to go with them.”
As an encore, the Nova Singers performed P.D.Q. Bach’s Liebeslieder Poems. The humorous piece was very high-energy and both the audience and the performers seemed to enjoy it a great deal; Dr. Lane even joined the two accompanists on the piano. The piece concluded with a standing ovation.
When asked about how she felt the concert had gone, Dr. Lane replied, “It went very well; I’m very happy. Live performance is so different from anything else in that everyone is so tuned in with the moment and what will happen. There’s no such thing as perfection in live performance. You can practice, practice, practice, but then you just have to kind of let it go, so it’s going to feel different every time. Especially in the Brahms Liebeslieder where each one has a different tempo and mood and sound. Conducting live performance is so different from rehearsal, and I love it. I feel so lucky when I hear those soloists and I feel so good because each of those singers is an opera singer. I’m lucky they’re willing to use those wonderful instruments, their voices, and play them for me.”
The concert was followed by a reception in CFA with Viennese pastries and cake (hazelnut tort, linzertort, and sachertorte), and coffee prepared and donated by Innkeeper’s Coffee. Dr. Lane spoke about how Innkeepers became involved: “The president of the board and I just went to talk to Innkeepers and they said ‘We’d love it if we can afford it!’ We never could have done it without them.”
A Night in Vienna is the last Nova Singers concert of this season, but Dr. Lane has already started thinking about next year: “For next year’s theme, there is an all a-Capella Requiem that I’ve been wanting to do.”