Concert Hall Column: Concert Review

By: Nina Campli, Assistant Editor of Student Life and Arts Pictures Courtesy of Communications

This past week the Concert Hall was filled with the sounds of the many amazing ensembles of Drew University. Each of these musical ensembles, which are comprised of students, faculty and community members, showed off all their hard work with an end of the semester concert.

This week’s set kicked off on Saturday at 8 p.m. with the Songs in the Key of Life, featuring Drew’s two choirs, Alta Voce and Chorale. Chorale is a chamber choir, which has the usual vocal arrangement of soprano, alto, tenor and bass. Alta Voce, meaning in high voice, is a treble choir, which only features those who can sing in the alto or soprano range. Under the direction of new conductor and director, Matthew Webb, both choirs did a fantastic job. The songs were well chosen and there was not a single one that seemed out of place in the set. The song “As” performed by Chorale and written by Stevie Wonder, from his album Songs in the Key of Life, was a definite highlight of the night. The piece was performed a cappella and featured David Van Dongen (’19) and Brandon Johnson Douglas (’18) as soloists, both of whom sung absolutely phenomenally. Dorian Crimmins (’19) and Max Lozynskj (’19) had a duet as well, and their harmony was blended quite nicely. Siobhan Quinlan (’19) dropped some amazing vocal percussion. Chorale also performed a piece by Eric Whitacre called “Fly to Paradise.” The piece was stunning and breathtakingly beautiful. In addition, Ashlie Sicilia (’19), a soprano, had a featured solo, and her voice seemed to float above the group. One piece that stood out in Alta Voce’s set was “Five Hebrew Love Songs” by Eric Whitacre. This piece featured Michael Avagliano, adjunct professor and director of Drew’s Orchestra, on violin and a small solo by Stefanie Defronzo (’20). One of the best things about this concert was the attire, as everyone was required to wear all black with a pop of color, which was a nice change from the concert dresses and stiff tuxedos worn previously.

On Sunday, at 3 p.m. the Flute Ensemble, directed by L. Elise Carter gave a lovely performance. The program was titled How Lovely is Our Dwelling Place and was a celebration of Earth Day. “Visions of Grace” by Adrienne Albe was especially noteworthy, as it was played by the Low Flute Choir. The Low Flute Choir uses only alto, bass and contrabass flutes, creating a richer timbre. Makayla Pardo (’20), Flute Ensemble President, had a solo in a piece by Astor Piazzolla called “Oblivion”. The piece was lovely, and Pardo did a phenomenal job. Overall the concert was very good and the pieces were gorgeous, however it was simply too long. The concert lasted almost an hour and a half with no intermission. It was difficult to sit and listen to the same instrument play for that long of a time period.

Later on Sunday the Jazz Ensemble had their concert, titled Jazz and Politics at 7 p.m. Directed by Jim Saltzman, the ensemble always gives an amazing performance. Three of the five members, Jeff Moorhead (’18), guitar, Marc Randall (’18), bass, and Jihoon Kim (’18), paino, are graduating, leaving Peter Bacas (’19), tenor and baritone saxophone, and Ricardo Duran (’19), drums, to keep the jazz ensemble going. All the songs from the performance were written in response to a significant political event. One of the highlights of the night was “Haitian Fight Song” by Charles Mingus. “Haitian Fight Song” was written about the Haitian Revolution which called for the ensemble to have a rowdy and rebellious sound. This piece is also Randall’s capstone piece (see Foraging in the Forest on page 5 for more) which included sections that featured Randall throughout. In addition, Bacas switched over to Bari Sax and was joined by Saltzman on Tenor Sax. Another highlight was the final piece on the program, “I Wish I Knew How It Felt to Be Free.” Kim played a stunning introduction alla Dr. Billy Taylor, a figurehead of the Civil Rights Movement in the 60’s, and the piece became one of the themes of the movement. Trevor Weston, Chair of the Music Department, said the group, “captured the spirit of the song,” and “I clapped along on beats 2 and 4 as you would in gospel songs.” Although they are losing three members, the remaining members and Saltzman are passionate about the music and should have no trouble finding new members to fill out the ensemble.

Usually held on the Friday before the Choral Concert, the Orchestra Concert was bumped to Monday night this semester. Held at it’s usual time of 8 p.m., this concert, although they only performed three pieces, was the longest they have had since Michael Avagliano took over as director in January 2015. One piece, Franz Schubert’s “Symphony Number 8. in B minor”, commonly known as the Unfinished Symphony, is a half an hour long and only contains two movements. Symphonies (in Schubert’s time) commonly contained four movements and are usually a half an hour long completed. This piece was the last to be performed, and it was definitely a good decision on Avagliano’s part. The members seemed to love this piece and seemed quite proud of how it came together. This concert also featured Katie Reveas (’20) and Caitlin Shannon (’19) playing Felix Mendelssohn’s “Konzertstuck for Two Clarinets and Orchestra.” Revelas and Shannon did a phenomenal job, and it was evident that they had really put in work on this piece. The orchestra has grown in membership since Avagliano’s arrival and hopefully this growth will continue in the future.

This semester featured an additional concert called the Composers Concert. This concert featured Drew students who are taking electronic music composition this semester. Each student’s electronic composition was wildly different, yet refreshing in manner, from Ricardo Duran’s (’19) low-fyi composition to Marc Randall’s (’18) composition, which featured a video narrative. In addition to the Drew Students, the concert also featured Professor Pablo Chin’s musical group, Fonema Consort. This group played some unique experimental music which encomposes electronic devices with natural acoustic sounds being performed at the same time. The combination made for an interesting experience.

Although all of Drew’s Ensembles may be finished for the semester, the Concert Hall still has more events to host. Check out their website for a list of upcoming events, https://www.drew.edu/concerthall/

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