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From Voices to Marimbas, Recital Showcases Premier Musicians

Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 24, 2013 03:01


Rebecca Dann

Mary Sturgis ’16 performs “Bill” from the 1927 musical Showboat.


On Saturday evening, the Kenyon community was treated to a display of College musical talent at the Angela Waite Recital.  A committee selected performers from a pool of several hundred students who juried — performed for a panel of judges for a grade — as part of their applied vocal or instrumental study last semester. Top of the pops ­— they did not disappoint.

The recital began with Alex Martin ’13 playing Debussy’s “Danse Sacrée” on the harp. Martin realized the Debussy beautifully. 

His physical expression was quite calm as he navigated the stately primary and playful secondary passages, leading to a culminating declaration in the finale. Ominous concluding notes suggested the dark, yet almost nostalgic sanctity implied in the title. 

Next to perform was Mary Sturgis ’16, a soprano who serenaded the audience with a rendition of “Bill” from the musical Showboat. This piece dealt with an entirely different emotional spectrum than the Debussy, though perhaps in an equally nostalgic manner. The song was light, airy, humorous and thoroughly personal. Sturgis’ performance was tinged with “puppy love” and well received by the packed hall. 

“When I Am Laid in Earth” from Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas followed, sung by Jill Hanley ’13. This piece conveyed the same idea as “Bill” but with a decidedly ancient and dramatic overlay. Hanley’s rich, slightly dark voice perfectly complimented the overarching drama and the relentless, repetitive finality of the repeated pattern on the piano. Hanley’s singing was particularly beautiful as she inflected the lyrics “But, ah, forget my fate,” held with the desperate pangs of a love scorned. Hanley combined the high — albeit stylized — drama the song presented, and her final notes served as both a lasting testament and a departing sigh. 

Four other talented vocalists lent their voices to the evening’s entertainment, captivating the audience with a mixture of charm, technical prowess, poignance and levity. Conor Dugan’s ’15 performance of “Der Vogelfänger bin ich ja” from Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute) crackled with humor, and Dugan seemed to relish the aria’s sillier moments. 

Nick Foster ’13 delighted with another Mozart selection, “Se Vuol Ballare” from The Marriage of Figaro, in which Foster showcased both his rich command of vocal power and his grasp of fine technique. In short, the performance was the ideal of simple, classical perfection. 

In the same vein, Senior Ellen Kaufman’s performance of “Tornami a vagheggiar” from Handel’s lesser-known opera Alcina captivated the audience. Her fluid technique and deft musicality, especially in the higher melismatic sections of the aria, made a doubtlessly challenging work’s interpretation appear effortless and emotionally genuine. Finally, Willie Plaschke ’13 sang “Being Alive” from the Sondheim masterpiece Company, a far cry from the Mozart and Handel. 

Plaschke found the story in the song, bringing both a powerful tenor range and an emotional breadth to his interpretation of the melancholically hopeful lyrics. 

In the moments when his voice broke with emotion, Plaschke illustrated the essence of good music: it leads listeners toward emotional experiences they seldom expect. 

Jonathan Spiegler ’13 performed a striking minimalist work, “Michi,” on — wait for it —  the marimba. 

Speigler showcased brilliant technique and an amazing knack for creating a musical journey in his piece. 

Beginning with a frenetic interlocking of patterns and a subtly controlled structural crescendo, the first section of the piece swelled with musical color. 

The contrasting lyrical section was equal parts intimately hopeful and darkly portentous; the assertive, chromatic melodies spun themselves from the performer’s four mallets. Spiegler shaped his music directly and fiercely, generating a transfixing microcosm of sound as a potter at a wheel. 

Rioghnach Robinson ’16 and Charlotte Graham ’13 were two of the other fine instrumentalists to perform during the evening. Robinson performed another Debussy piece, the “Prelude” from “Pour le Piano,” and did so with a flourish of excellent technique, in the accompanying bass passages especially. Generally, she presented a fiery yet balanced interpretation of the Debussy classic. Graham played Rebecca Clarke’s “Passacaglia on an Old English Tune” on viola, a gorgeously earthy work made even more deep-sounding by Graham’s appropriately grave bowing and impressive phrasing. Her interpretation of the tune leapt and faded, embodying tragic and triumphant passacaglia. 

The evening closed with Yue “Katie” Long ’14 performing Chopin’s “Ballade No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 23.” Long was the only performer to receive both a standing ovation and a curtain call. 

Her interpretation was lyrical and full of melancholic inflection: perfectly poetic major melodies rose out of the tragically minor texture, drawn expertly by Long’s impeccable technique. Each theme’s recitation was slightly different, and Long presented each as a memory — concrete and cutting one moment, disappearing into melancholic wisps the next. 

Her cadenza was a deluge of uncontained emotion, controlled through the entire piece, and then released upon the mesmerized audience in a mad rush of chromatic octaves, leaving the hall raucous with cheers. 

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