This past weekend, the Department of Music began its concert season with a performance by the Williams Trio. The season continues with a myriad of performances in traditions ranging from Western classical music to jazz and multi-cultural music. Overall, the season provides a wide range of listening experiences for the Williams community, with particular focuses on early music, multi-cultural music and jazz. According to Professor Douglas Moore, who, along with Professor Kenneth Roberts, is instrumental in the planning of the program, “the program is designed to expose students to as many different works, and kinds, of music as possible. Going to one concert should tickle one’s interest in going to another concert, especially since there is a lot of continuity within the programming.”
The first of the Thompson Concert Series concerts will be held October 2 in Chapin Hall. This concert will feature works by Handel, Schubert, Rorem and R. Strauss, performed by soprano Lisa Saffer and pianist Judith Gordon. A young singer with a blossoming career, Saffer performed last summer as one of the principal singers at the Glimmerglass Opera Company in Cooperstown, New York.
Greg Bloch ’99, who worked as an intern at Glimmerglass last summer, commented on her talents: “She is a phenomenal singer. Not only is her voice beautiful and her technique almost flawless, but she is also a remarkable actress and a very physical performer, at least on stage.” Roberts was instrumental in luring Saffer to Williams. “We try to find young artists with promising careers, with whom students can identify,” he said. He also mentioned that young artists’ fees were more affordable considering the funds allocated to the Thompson Concert Series.
The next concert is one in a series of Sterling Brown Visiting Artist Recitals sponsored by the Dean of the Faculty’s Office. This recital, which will take place October 6 in the Thompson Memorial Chapel, features James Tinsley on trumpet and Louise Andre Baril on piano, playing works by Hindemith, Perisichetti, and others. The second Sterling Brown Recital, on October 10, again features Tinsley, along with harpsichordist and organist Paul Jenkins, playing works by Byrd, Scarlatti, J.S. Bach, Telemann and others.
While the Sterling Brown Recitals cover a range of early and 20th century works, their repertoire remains rooted in the Western classical tradition. Adding flavor to the conventional, the Williams Chamber Choir, the Kusika and Zambezi Marimba Band will join leagues with the Paul Winter Consort to perform the Concert for the Earth, selections from Missa Gaia (Earth Mass), on October 9.
On October 23, the Berkshire Symphony will perform its first concert, with the Williams Trio as guest artists. The program begins with Beethoven’s Triple Concerto and his Overture to the Creatures of Prometheus; after the Trio’s performance of early Beethoven works last Friday night, he appears to be their favorite composer this season. However, the rest of the program ventures down less conventional paths with the inclusion of Webern’s arrangement of Bach’s Fuga from The Musical Offering and Donald Crockett’s Antiphonies.
The following week, the New England Conservatory Orchestra and conductor Richard Hoenich will step into the limelight to premiere Professor of Music David Kechley’s Symphony No. 3, along with Christopher Rouse’s Flute Concerto and Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony.
Judd Greenstein ’01, who studies composition with Kechley, said, “The NEC Orchestra concert is going to be exciting: two of the hippest composers around today are represented. This is one of those ‘leave your conceptions about modern music at the door’ concerts.”
To balance classical concerts with ones in other genres, the next concert, on November 6, will feature the Williams Jazz Ensemble with director Andy Jaffe. The program will include selections for both big band and small ensembles. The Jazz Ensemble is sponsoring the Cercie Miller Quartet; they are scheduled to perform original jazz compositions by Cercie Miller (on reeds), pianist Tim Ray, bassist David Clark and drummer Bob Savine, along with works by Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, and Charlie Parker.
The two jazz events are separated by the second Thompson Concert of the year, which features the Ensemble Anonymous. Their program is entitled “Musical Creation in the Middle Ages,” and will provide a unique gamut of rarely heard early music. As if to continue the early music theme, the Chamber Choir returns on November 14 to perform works by poetess and composer Hildegard von Bingen, among other choral works.
The Berkshire Symphony returns the following week to perform Dvorak’s Cello Concerto with Jules Eskin, the Principal Cellist of the Boston Symphony. This concert will also include works by Bach and Krzysztof Penderecki.
In their second appearance this season, Kusika returns on November 20 and 21 to join the Williams Dance Company with their featured guest Obo Addy and his Afro-Pop Band Kukrudu.
Professor Ernest Brown, one of the directors of Kusika, said, “Addy is always willing to take artistic risks and respond to artistic challenges. To me, that is what keeps music and dance fresh and alive.”
Also appearing on November 21 is Baroque lutist Michel Cardin, who will perform works by Weiss and Kellner as well as premiere a new work by Alain Weber.
After Thanksgiving Break, the Williams Student Symphony plans to perform Mozart’s Overture to the Magic Flute, orchestral selections from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and Bartok’s Rumanian Dances. The season will end with the traditional Service of Lessons and Carols and a concert by the Williams Percussion Ensemble on December 6 and 8.
Ultimately, why should students spare precious drinking hours on weekend evenings to attend these concerts? Professor of Music Jennifer Bloxam answers this question by commenting, “College is about expanding horizons, exploring the unfamiliar, seizing opportunities; because we all need spiritual and emotional nourishment in addition to intellectual stimulation, and good music provides this, especially in the context of live performance. The arts need and deserve public support in order to remain viable, and a culture without a lively arts dimension is impoverished, no matter what its material wealth.”