Sunday was a llllllllllllllllllllllooooooooooonnnnnnnggggggggg
day for me. . . stretching from church in the morning to evening rehearsals for juries that lasted until 11:04 p.m. – (and I had to sign up at the station Monday morning.) What made it a super day in the end was the pleasure of being part of the Honor Recital that afternoon at 3. As I talked about in the blog back on May 8th, we dramatically overhauled the process by which participants in the honors recital were chosen. In the past, what little process there has been was haphazard (to put it mildly) and it was a refreshing and welcome change to have an audition process created which insured that the honors recital indeed represented the best our music students had to offer.
And what a fine group they were. . . ten musicians in all and a very nice mix of vocalists and instrumentalists, seniors and younger students, music majors and non-majors . . . All they really had in common was Carthage itself and strong talent and skills. And although the program was a bit on the long side (our original hope was to hold it to 90 minutes, but we exceeded that by about 15 minutes) I don’t think anybody there was bored – – – and frankly, if they were, there’s something really wrong with them. This was a terrifically entertaining and varied program with plenty of serious substance yet with some things that added some spice or some fun.
Just to summarize: We got off the ground with Rachel Bishop playing music from Maurice Ravel’s Sonatine for solo piano – a complex and colorful work which she played very well. That was followed by a senior soprano, Kristen Barnes, who sang movements two and three of Mozart’s “Exultate Jubilate” (climaxing with his famous “Alleluia.”) She sang the daylights out of it, and it was my pleasure to play for her. After that was a senior guitar major named A.J. Hanson (the same guy who played ukelele for Bryan Chung’s voice recital Friday night) playing something or other very nicely. (Is there anything more beautiful than solo guitar, especially in a space like Siebert?)
After that, another of our senior singers, Shannon Burke, sang Libby Larsen’s “My Antonia,” a set of songs springing from the Willa Cather novel of the same name – and she sang them even better than she did on her recent recital. I believe a freshman organist came after that, Mark Paiser, playing a lively piece by Max Reger and playing it quite well. Next was a superb flutist whose name escapes me – as does the piece she played – but she and pianist Jane Livingston played marvelously.
After that was an especially happy moment for me – a voice student of mine, Andrew Lenox, sang the Five Shakespeare Songs of 20th century English composer Gerald Finzi. These are absolutely amazing songs, brilliantly crafted right down to the smallest expressive details- and Andrew really sang them wonderfully. (What is it about Rockford and singers? First Trevor Parker and now Andrew Lenox? Must be something in the water.) Rounding out the program was organist Sean Knudsen, playing something by J.S. Bach and really well . . . senior soprano Caitlin Smulski singing two opera arias including the dazzling Doll Song from The Tales of Hoffmann. . . and finally, xylophone soloist Mike Wagner and three of his percussionist buddies brought down the house with a piece from the Far East that had us all agog.
When it was all done, we were all just basking in the glory of such talent. . . and also such good people. These are all strong students who have contributed so richly to our department and college – and they seemed interested in each other’s performances and happy at all of the excellence which was being displayed, not just their own. If there is anything to regret about the day, it’s that it didn’t get recorded by the department- which is a real shame because it would be so cool to put excerpts of it on our department website as a testament to the quality of our finest students. As it is , the recital was only preserved (I’m pretty sure) in the amateur videos of proud parents scattered throughout the chapel) but that just gives us something to remember for next time. I did suggest to Dr Ripley that we get a photo of all of the participants, and he came up with the idea of a final collective bow, during which I took the above photograph. They are a superb group, and the only sad thing is that we are about to lose five of them – but the good thing is that five of them aren’t going anywhere and will continue to enrich our little music community along Lake Michigan. That’s one nice thing about being in a school – the departure of graduates and the influx of new students gives the place life, almost like the circulatory system of the human body. And what a joy to be part of it. Even on a day that went sooooooooooooooooooooooo long, what a joy to be part of it.
pictured: from left to right- organist Sean Knudsen, singer Shannon Burke, singer Caitlin Smulski, flutist ? (sorry), organist Mark Paiser, singer Andrew Lenox, pianist Rachel Bishop, singer Kristen Barnes, guitarist A.J. Hansen, and xylophone soloist Mike Wagner. (One of his assisting percussionists is next to him.)