On February 22, 2013 I attended the Madonna University staff performance at Kresge Hall. Before entering the venue I was not thrilled to be driving in the snow and rain and hoped that the concert was worth my time. I did think that the concert was a fun idea for entertainment and I enjoyed the performances.
When I walked into Kresge Hall, it was quiet with only the ticket guys sitting at the front table to allow us inside. Walking into the performance area, I did not get an overflowing feeling of excitement. That may have had to do with the venue being at school, in a lecture hall that I go by on an ordinary day. But as I sat in my seat toward the middle of the audience, I was excited to see what the performance was all about.
The one aspect of the concert that bothered me was that there were not a lot of people there! It made sitting in the audience somewhat awkward because I felt like I was the only one close to the stage. Everyone decided to sit in the back. I think that if there was a person in charge to seat people, maybe they could have put everyone toward the front, making it seem like a big production. I was also very distracted by some of the people attending the concert. Some were whispering to each other and there were also kids there that could not sit still. It made paying attention to the performers hard to do.
When it came to the actual performance, I thought the lighting on stage was really distracting. I think having just two spot lights on the performers would have had a great impact and drawn viewers to look at them rather than the entire stage. I also thought that some of the performers could have used more facial expression. At certain points the performers look bored and it would have been nice to see a smile. All of the performers did a great job and seemed to be having fun no matter what their faces said.
Before each performance, one of the performers would explain what each piece was about. I thought this was a good idea because most of the music was in a different language. Talking to the audience throughout the concert made it seem more personal, laid back, and calm. It definitely was not a serious performance and I liked that. The audience could see that the performers knew a great deal about music, loved music, and they were happy to be in front of us whenever they would talk.
Watching live performances is very different from listening to a recording. Not only is it clear in person, but for someone who does not know what every instrument sounds like, it is fun to see a person actually play the instrument. When I would watch the performers play, I could see if they emphasized certain notes by their strokes or plucks. Watching facial expressions also helps with understanding the meaning of a song. In a recording a person can only listen. Sitting in the audience at a live performance can make listening hard to do. It is very easy to look around a venue or study the performer and forget to listen. Recordings minimize the distraction, but it is still hard to stay focused no matter what a person is listening to.
Stanchen by Franz Schubert, performed by Barbara Wiltsie singing mezzo-soprano and Helene Rottenberg on guitar was one of the pieces that I liked the most. The song had a slow tempo but was still striking to listen to. The duration of certain notes were longer than others especially when Barbara would crescendo through notes. In the middle of the song she used so much power to make the phrase seem important which added to the story telling of the song. The same melody stayed for the entire song, which made the piece enjoyable to listen to. Throughout the song the guitar and singer followed each other in a homophonic texture. The song ended in a slow decrescendo.
The other movements in this piece did not have as much impact on me but they were still great to listen to. When Barbara started to sing for the Der Mondaben song it was shocking because she did not talk in a way that I could see her singing soprano. The song was in a medium tempo and the dynamic would get loud and then soft. In Daphne am Bach there was more emphasis on the words for this song. The accents and major scale made it more like a story. An die Musik seemed to go up and down the scale because it would switch from high notes to low notes. In this movement the guitar had more times where it was playing by itself. We were told that Wiegenlied was a lullabye and I could definitely hear why it was. It had a slow tempo and the notes seemed to be held out longer. Each phrase started off soft and then would crescendo. Heiden-Roslein was a German folk tune and it was definitely catchy. The notes were fast and short. The song was more upbeat which made the song more bouncy and happy. Aria by Eugene Bozza was a song where the flute was the prominent instrument. The song was high pitched with long duration of notes and a medium tempo.
The Foggy Dew by John Corigliano, performed by Kassia Martin on the flute and Carol Ambrogio Wood singing soprano was an exciting addition to the concert. The song seemed to have a few disjunct phrases because a few time Carol would jump from one note to another. The song definitely seemed hard to sing because of the leaps. Carol also had many facial expressions which made it hard to stop watching her. The flute started playing very fast at the beginning. She was playing many notes in a small duration. This made the song seem to be faster and upbeat but then it slowed down to notes that were more spread out and elongated.
The other movement in this piece were also fun to listen to but had less of an impact. In The Salley Gardens the singers voice was very clear. The flute had a solo which went quickly and fast through the notes. The singer hurried though a series of notes and the flute followed. In She Moved through the Fair, the singer and flute had more of a fast, bouncy series of notes. The song was quiet and then loud which added excitement and made the song seem like a happy song.
Adela by Joaquin Rodrigo, performed by Barbara Wiltsie and Helene Rottenberg was another one of my favorites. I would have been happy with just the guitar playing this piece with no singing. The singing was good, but the guitar part was my favorite. I think that the guitar did more of the story telling than the singer did. The guitar had a long solo in the beginning compared to the other songs that it was in. It made the focus of the song go to the guitar and made listeners hear the guitar more in the song than they heard the singer. The tempo was slow because the performers said that this song was a sad one, which made me think that the song was in a minor key. The notes were stretched out making the song more melancholy and soft. Throughout the song Helene would pluck one string of the guitar to emphasis one single note. I really liked that part. Every time it was played I would get the chills because that was the only note being played at that time. She would play a series of notes and then go right back to that one note.
I did not love the first movement in this piece. En Jerez de la Frontera was very short so I was just getting into the song and it ended. I expected the song to be more upbeat because we were told that it was from a Spanish origin. De Rhonda had a fast tempo. The guitar played a lot of notes while the singer sang. In this song I think that the guitar was more of the focus which was a change from the previous song that played.
Andantino by Fredrich Burgmuller, performed by Alicia Rowe on the cello and Helene Rottenberg on guitar made me realize that I really like the sound of the cello. I liked listening to pieces of music with just instruments and no singing so that I could really pay attention to the music. The guitar and cello were not playing the same set of notes but they still sounded good together. The cello added a lot of warmth to the song. The timbre was not necessarily sad, but it was also not that upbeat. The cello kept coming back to the same melody which anchored the song and made the audience start to learn the familiar notes. The cello would play softly and then it seemed like she was pressing harder on the bow to add emphasis, like they had accents.
The next two movements in this piece did not have an impact on me. Adagio cantabile and Allegra moderato started to sound the same after a while of listening. Both of the songs had a medium tempo and parts that had a high pitch sound. In Adagio cantabile the notes were low which added emphasis to that part of the song and added mystery.
Als Luise die Briefe ihres ungetreuen Liebhabers verbrannte by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by Linda Meehan singing soprano and Jacqueline Csurgai-Schmitt on piano was a refreshing piece to the concert. I really liked that Linda did not have music in front of her and used many different facial expressions. This made her seem more theatrical and the performance was fun to watch. Her facial expressions gave me an idea of what the song was about even though it was in a different language. Throughout the song she had short phrases and then longer phrases which added to the story telling of the song. She sang in a high pitch and in a fast tempo which made the song exciting to listen to and had the audience tapping their feet.
The other two pieces that were part of the piece were also as good as the song I described above. The performer definitely contributed to that. Des Veilchen had a high pitch and fast tempo. The piano would pause after a few notes and the singer would continue. This added emphasis to the phrases that she sang and to the music after the pause. Oiseaux si tous len ans was also high pitch and fast tempo. There were short and quick phrases and notes that made the song more bouncy, upbeat, and happy. The piano would play the same note many times which added playfulness to the song. Merry Widow told a story with the lyrics and certain piano notes. There were pauses between phrases which made it seem like the story was changing to a new day and the crescendos were very powerful in this song.
Overall, each instrument and performer added a different aspect to the concert. The performers played complicated songs, some long and some short, which showed their expertise of the music. Their facial expressions and changes in notes added to the storytelling of the song and made the audience excited to hear more. I thought that the concert was organized in a way that it showed different types of music and showed what certain instruments sounded like together. I was glad that they would bring back the guitar or flute later on in the concert after they left the stage. I think that if they would have done all of the guitar or flute songs at once it would have made the concert boring. The flow of the concert was definitely exciting because I wanted to know what instrument would be playing next. The concert was very fun to sit through and worth my time. I would definitely come back to see another one.