Arts & Culture / Mosaic / Music / March 3, 2010

Music professors and students switch roles

On Friday, February 26, a selection of Knox’s music instructors took the stage. For many music students, it was a first to see their teachers perform.

The recital starred voice instructor Sarah Moran and piano instructor Ashlee Mack and featured violin instructor Louise Polay and voice instructor Lynn Maxfield. Wishing that there were more faculty performances, Moran suggested this idea of a Faculty Recital to Mack at the end of spring term 2009. After deciding on the musical selections, the two began rehearsal during fall term.

The program included a diverse range of repertoire representing many musical eras from the classical Mozart to the modern Bernstein. When choosing the music, Moran ensured that the program had a “certain kind of thematic consistency;” in this case, the songs were all unified with the idea of love. Another important factor considered in the selection process was the “pace” of the program so that Moran would have “some pieces [she] could rest on” in between the pieces that are more demanding. Lastly, the multiple languages represented in the repertoire—German, English, Italian and Russian—were meant to provide a pleasing variety for the audience’s ear.

This recital, like most musical performances, was a strong result of collaborative effort on behalf of all four of the musicians. The pieces had to fit the stylistic technique of all of the performers, even if it meant that certain pieces would prove to be more challenging for other instrumentalists, as was the case with the Rachmaninoff selections. These pieces are written in Russian, a language Moran had not previously worked with. However, despite posing both a lingual and expressive challenge for the vocalist, they included a more virtuosic piano accompaniment. More often than not in vocal music, the piano part is merely accompaniment, playing a role in the foreground. However, with Rachmaninoff, “It felt like a real collaboration between the two of us,” said Mack, who found these selections to be her favorite in the program. A pianist himself, Rachmaninoff ensured that the both the piano and vocal lines in his compositions were equally intriguing.

Overall, the moods of the song varied, displaying the showmanship skills of the performers and their highly perfected technique. Their rendition of Mozart’s “L’amero saro costant” from La Finta Simplice with violinist Louise Polay provided an enjoyable variety of musical texture. Lynn Maxfield proved to be a strong tenor in his and Moran’s performance of “Gluck das mir verblieb” from Korngold’s Dir Tode Stadt. The duet demonstrated an excellent vocal blend. The program concluded with a modern comedic piece from the Bernstein’s English Operetta Candide. In contrast with the more serious art songs, this vocally demanding aria was a great conclusion to the performance.

Both Mack and Moran have hopes of doing a faculty recital next year, introducing new repertoire and continuing to provide “a model” for their students. Live performances such as these give music students an opportunity to see an application of the techniques they learn in their lessons. Moran said that for students crafting their musical skills, “there is no better thing than live performance.”

The level of professionalism of these four performers is something that the music students of Knox strive for in their lessons and recitals such as these could be very inspiring for student musicians. Hopefully, more of Knox music faculty will participate in such recitals, showcasing both their musical talent and joy for performing!

Katrina Firor

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