Chamber Players charm in first concert

The Brooks-Rogers concert hall was packed on Friday evening with students, faculty and members of the Williamstown community for the Williams Chamber Players concert that kicked off the start of a new musical season. The performers, most of whom were music department faculty members, were slated to perform a wide variety of songs ranging from the haunted and frenzied tones of Dvorak’s “Trio in E minor” to the comically ridiculous and light-hearted folk song “I Bought Me a Cat” by Aaron Copland. Both the unexpected diversity of the music played and the skill of the performers made for a truly enjoyable concert.

First to perform was a quintet comprised of an oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn and piano players (Carl Jenkins, Susan Martula, Stephen Walt, Victor Sungarian and Elizabeth Wright, respectively). Their beautiful rendition of Mozart’s “Piano Quintet in E flat Major” was characterized by a delicate, rounded sound that complemented the strict, inflexible rhythms of the piece. The first movement, “Largo-Allegro” began the piece slowly and sweetly, swelling in volume and tempo before the second movement, which was full of longer, savored notes. The piece concluded with the “Allegretto,” a lighter, faster section in which clipped instrumental melodies wove in and out, partially abandoning the smooth, polished tones of the previous two movements.

Bass-barritone Keith Kiber and pianist Doris Stevenson gave the night’s second performance. After a simple introduction of the melody by the pianist, Kiber began to sing with a power and enthusiasm which, in addition to causing several members of the audience to jump in their seats, made it quite clear why in his short bio he is referred to as “the model of what a bass-baritone should be.” Although singing a simple folk song called “At the River,” his voice had an enchantingly operatic quality, and he moved about the stage with an undeniable theatricality that kept the eyes of the audience glued to him.

After several short and enjoyable songs such as “Moon River,” “The Divine Image” and “Dives and Lazarus,” in which Kiber sang a cappella, the pair rounded off their performance with the folk song “I Bought Me a Cat.” The unexpected comedy that Kiber and Stevenson presented – as Kiber imitated the noises of every animal he had bought – had the audience laughing appreciatively long after the duo had made their final bows and exited the stage.

After intermission, Joana Genova on the violin, Ronald Feldman on the cello and Stevenson on the piano gave the final performance of the night.  Unlike the Mozart piece, which began softly, this rendition of Dvorak’s “Trio in E Minor” began with a surprising intensity that was carried throughout each of the six movements that followed. The minor key and sudden lurches into quick, frenzied melodies gave the piece a haunted, brooding quality which made the piece truly involving for the audience, as did the clear mastery and commitment of the performers.

Doris Stevenson accompanies baritone Keith Kiber on the piano.
Doris Stevenson accompanies baritone Keith Kiber on the piano.

Friday night’s powerful concert heralded the beginning of another year of musical performances, but it also marked an end for one member of the Williams music department. Many in the audience were surprised to learn that Jenny Dewar, the much-beloved concert and events manager, would be leaving the College after four years of service. In a symbolic gesture, Dewar stood before the audience to pass along her concert bell to her successor, Jonathan Meyers, as the audience wished her all the best in her future endeavors.