REVIEW: Historical Performance Institute Enthralls IU Museum Audience

Early music fans given much to enjoy at Sunday showcase

It was a fascinating showcase on Sunday afternoon, and in a venue that of late has welcomed too few musical events. Gathered on the second level of the atrium in the Indiana University Art Museum were avid fans of early music who came to hear ensembles from the Jacobs School’s Historical Performance Institute, formerly the Early Music Institute.

Prepared to perform were the various ensembles that exist under the label Concentus: Voices, Renaissance Winds, Renaissance Viols, Renaissance Trombones and Plucked Strings. So, too, at the ready was the Baroque Orchestra and its conductor Stanley Ritchie, who had just been informed of being raised to the level of distinguished professor, the highest honor that an IU faculty member can get (and congratulations to him!).

What awaited us, the audience, was a program called “Gilding the Lilly,” an event designed to celebrate a current Lilly Library exhibit, “The Performative Book from Medieval Europe to the Americas.” More specifically, the concert recognized receipt of a medieval manuscript containing a chant donated to the Lilly by the widow of Thomas Binkley, revered founding director of the Early Music Institute. And to top that, Wendy Gillespie, the institute’s chairwoman, called upon faculty composer Don Freund to contribute a work of his making for the various performing musicians.

One heard first various Concentus groups performing chants and chant-influenced pieces by a series of 15th- and 16th-century composers. A few, such as Tomas Luis de Victoria, William Byrd, Heinrich Isaac and Orlando di Lassus, are familiar names. Others — like Francisco Guerrero, Antoine Brumel, Costanzo Festa, Peter Philips and Alfonso Ferrabosco —are less likely to be recognized. But their music, as chosen for the program, often fell radiant on the ears. The performers, instrumental and vocal, were superb in navigating through the musical challenges. And when the Voices glorified their selections under the guidance of Dana Marsh, coordinator at the institute and specialist in early music voice, one sometimes turned breathless, so lovely were the sounds produced.

The newly tapped distinguished professor, Stanley Ritchie, then took over, using the Baroque Orchestra and the Concentus Voices for a sumptuous reading of later music, Antonio Vivaldi’s Magnificat in G Minor, written in the early 18th century. It is a stunning work, Vivaldi at his melodic and emotionally strongest. Orchestra and vocal soloists matched the music in quality; the result was a pleasure to experience.

Don Freund’s “Discubuit Jesus,” scored for orchestra (the Baroque in reduced number), Concentus instrumentalists, and five vocal soloists, ended the program. The piece served as aural time travel, switching the dominant theme, a chant, through passages for voice, for the Renaissance ensembles with their instruments of long ago vintage, and for the Baroque Orchestra strings. The music swung back and forth from one grouping to another, dramatically and yet comfortably, too. Freund’s grasp of the various period sounds was phenomenal. He gave the musicians an enticing and engaging assignment and the listeners an enticing and engaging listen-to.

Reaction to “Discubuit Jesus” and to the rest of the program sounded enthusiastic. Ovations were warm and, at the end, extensive, just what the performers deserved.

Soprano Kelly Cae Hogan joins Indiana University Jacobs School of Music as Adjunct Lecturer in Voice

Soprano Kelly Cae Hogan joins Indiana University Jacobs School of Music as Adjunct Lecturer in Voice. Hogan is a dramatic … Continue reading

Opera review: ‘Cosi fan tutte’ IU’s ‘Cosi’ filled with action, humor and gorgeous music

Indiana University | courtesy photoCadie Jordan and Jonathan Bryan rehearse a scene from “Cosi fan tutte” at Indiana University’s Musical Arts Center.

Indiana University | courtesy photoCadie Jordan and Jonathan Bryan rehearse a scene from “Cosi fan tutte” at Indiana University’s Musical Arts Center.

By Peter Jacobi H-T Reviewer

The stage is eye candy, a comfortable-to-look-at seaside resort or perhaps residence that, if you saw “Cosi fan tutte” in the Musical Arts Center in 2011, you’ll recognize. A few significant changes have been made to C. David Higgins’ set, this to remove elements that placed the action at the Breakers, a handsome spot in Palm Beach, Florida, from which to tell the story of Mozart’s comedy about infidelity and identity.

This year’s stage director, Michael Shell, decided that the Higgins set was fine but that an American location did not suit the opera’s content. He preferred Italy at an indefinite time somewhere in our past, and that’s what we apparently get. What we also get while watching and listening to the current Indiana University Opera Theater production is an entertainingly put together presentation, with two casts that successfully tackle the continuing flow of difficult arias, duets, and ensembles that distinguish “Cosi.” And, fortunately, we have the knowledgeable and artistically sensitive conductor Arthur Fagen in control of both those hard-working soloists and the Concert Orchestra in the pit. Musically, this 2016 production is very strong.

It’s amazing, in fact, that the two casts, each of six singers, were able to last from start to finish, considering the amount of music each soloist has to supply. There are two major arias, meaning extended and technically challenging, for each character, and the additional sing-together requirements seem endless. In a good way, mind you, because nothing Mozart wrote for “Cosi” is anything but exciting or gorgeous to hear.

As actors, the chosen singers scored, too. Under director Shell’s guidance, they caught the characters that people this story about a wager that pits two fellows in love against a friend, one Don Alfonso, who insists that women are fickle and lack the strength to stay true to their partners in love. As it turns out, neither the women, Fiordiligi and Dorabella, nor their beaus, Ferrando and Guglielmo, can be sure of themselves when it comes to love and sex.

The plot involves disguises and a stream of tests designed to weaken the will. And when the opera ends with a double wedding, no one at the nuptials remains unchanged, not even Don Alfonso and his co-conspirator, the household’s maid Despina. Confusion, matters of self, of loyalty and cheating, hesitancy and adventure, guilt and fear have brought the two couples to question just who and what they are when it comes to issues of the heart. Librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte’s story and words have undone and redone the lovers, and Mozart’s sublime score has made us care.

Director Shell has seen to it that the performance contains plenty of action and humor, even while the orchestra played the overture. Two or three crudities could have been avoided during the opera’s close to three-and-a-half hour length, but he made sure to put fun into the package, with the help of his singers. The goings-on produced plenty of laughter.

Maestro Fagen, meanwhile, kept his attention on “Cosi’s” most important element, the music. The orchestra played beautifully for him. So, too, did the small chorus, well-trained by Jaeeun Kim, a doctoral student in the Jacobs School. And the soloists, without doubt, had their conductor’s full support.

The singers chosen were all advanced students of voice. They knew their music as well as their roles, thereby shaping three-dimensional beings worth watching. Even though humor was stressed, there was no out-of-place, raucous clowning to get in the way.

It didn’t seem to matter that the two tenors portraying Ferrando looked very different, Friday evening’s Bille Bruley featuring a fuller figure and Saturday’s Paul Han a slighter one. Details in their acting made them fit comfortably and comically into the mix of lovers. Their voices differed in size and texture, but both honored what Mozart had written for them.

The Guglielmos, baritones Jonathan Bryan and Brayton Arvin, also differed as stage figures and yet managed to infuse their character’s more braggadocio personality with equal elan. They, too, brought individual tonal qualities that came to fit in just right.

Sopranos Shannon Love and Mathilde Edge interpreted Fiordiligi’s ditzy charm in their own way. More importantly, they contributed voices of assurance, span, and flexibility, just what Mozart ordered.

Soprano Rachel Mikol and mezzo-soprano Courtney Jameson made their character a troubled Dorabella, one with conscience struggling to be good, to be loyal before giving in to temptation. Again, their musical contributions, though sometimes tested, were significant.

Baritone Zachary Coates and bass-baritone Johann Schram Reed added the suave and the sly as Don Alfonso. And sopranos Cadie Jordan and Kellie Motter brought the pert and the mischievous and the vocal agility to their shaping of the maid Despina.

Patrick Mero’s deft lighting and Daniela Siena’s diction coaching proved very helpful, as did Siena’s supertitles.

Additional performances are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the MAC.

©Herald Times 2016

Cohen Plays a Masterful Brahms Piano Concerto in D Minor with the San Diego Symphony

by Ken Herman

As San Diego’s Upright and Grand Piano Festival pulls into the home stretch, it was fitting to feature a mighty Romantic piano concerto on the San Diego Symphony’s concert at the Jacobs Music Center Friday (January 29). Music Director Jahja Ling has always favored the popular piano concertos by Russian composers—Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and Prokofiev—but this time he selected Johannes Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 15.

Arnaldo Cohen [photo courtesy of the San Diego Symphony]

Arnaldo Cohen [photo courtesy of the San Diego Symphony]

It proved an inspired choice, with Ling and the orchestra boldly complementing guest soloist Arnaldo Cohen’s intuitive, commanding take on this towering concerto of the Romantic canon. According to my records, Cohen last performed in San Diego in December of 2011, a highly successful solo piano recital for the La Jolla Music Society. The Brazilian pianist’s refined, masterful technique realized Brahms’ flamboyant displays with confident assurance, but, more importantly, he portrayed the poetry in the concerto’s reflective forays with soulful insight.

Although the D Minor is Brahms’ youthful piano concerto, we benefited from the maturity of Cohen’s interpretation. After the first movement’s extended, symphonic introduction, which Ling conducted with unrelenting drive and dark determination, the piano’s subdued entry theme can sound underwhelming, but Cohen’s deep touch and resonant sonority gave it the gravitas of the composer’s late Intermezzos. I appreciated that Cohen crafted clear intention into every phrase, and his linear clarity served Brahms’ classically oriented Romantic style well.

Ling underscored the serenity of the Adagio, finding with Cohen a mystical quality the composer’s sober character too rarely portrayed, and they unleashed finale’s assertive rondo with a disciplined vigor that brought the audience instantly to its feet at the final cadence.

Cohen offered Chopin’s “Minute” Waltz as his encore.

Ling chose Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, the “Pastorale,” to open his program, apparently not wanting to steal any of the Brahms Concerto’s thunder. Especially in the Symphony’s first two movements, the orchestra’s string sections produced that warm, polished sound we associate with the great Central European orchestras, a trait Ling has averred on numerous occasions to be an important goal he hoped to accomplish during his tenure at the San Diego Symphony. This velvet sound, combined with Ling’s joyous, unhurried tempos, allowed these movements to unfold gracefully, replete with noble solos from Principal Flute Rose Lombardo and Principal Bassoon Valentin Martchev. The solid horn section energized the Scherzo, and the first violins and violas reveled in their solo moments in the final movements.

Unlike the other Beethoven symphonies, which end with climactic, dramatic flourishes, the “Pastorale” ends quietly, simply folding up its tent and walking into the sunset. Ling continues to champion this anomaly in the Beethoven symphonic canon, and I can only salute his commitment.

Arnaldo Cohen Bio

Arnaldo Cohen shines in SD Symphony debut

Piano virtuoso fills in for Horacio Gutiérrez Friday and delivers dramatic performance


©The San Diego Union-Tribune

Monroe County Jail inmates find inspiration in music

(Mary Goetze is professor emerita of music in general studies.)

By Kat Carlton

Twenty-six-year-old Bloomington native Zepha Ferguson says she’s addicted to spice — an illegal synthetic marijuana substance frequently known as K2. It’s part of the reason she’s currently an inmate at the Monroe County Jail after landing in and out of trouble for several years.

“I’m not just an addict, though,” she said, “I’m a person. I have my whole life ahead of me. … I want to keep going forward.”

Zepha Ferguson, an inmate at the Monroe County Jail, stands left of New Leaf New Life volunteer Mary Goetze. Goetze teaches a songwriting workshop to Ferguson and a group of other women each Tuesday afternoon. Kat Carlton | Herald-Times

Zepha Ferguson, an inmate at the Monroe County Jail, stands left of New Leaf New Life volunteer Mary Goetze. Goetze teaches a songwriting workshop to Ferguson and a group of other women each Tuesday afternoon. Kat Carlton | Herald-Times

Ferguson said writing music during a weekly class has given her hope for moving forward. She’s one of about a dozen women who participate in “Songwriting Workshop,” a class run by retired choral professor and New Leaf New Life volunteer Mary Goetze. It takes place every Tuesday at 4 p.m., during the inmates’ lockdown time.

“We listen to a song; we break it down, and we create our own songs,” said Ferguson. “It’s a lot of fun, and it’s just very inspiring that somebody would care so much just to share music with us.”

New Leaf New Life, a nonprofit organization, runs various programs in the jail, including educational and drug and alcohol recovery courses. Goetze began the class with men in May 2015.

“I think the thing I enjoy the most is getting to know them as individuals and watching them open up in the class,” Goetze said.

She’s reached out to local musicians with the hope they’ll produce more of the inmates’ songs. During her first class, she helped a group of men record a rap they titled “Something’s Going Down.”

It begins:

“The phone calls getting shorter and the letters stop coming.

She says ‘Hard to come to see you. Can’t afford you calling.’

I know something’s going on. Something’s going down.

That always seems to happen, when I’m not around.”

The men refer to “Jody,” a slang term common among prisoners and some members of the military for a man who steps in when a woman’s partner leaves or gets locked away. At first, they’re resentful:

“Ain’t it kinda funny that he said he’d send me money,

And instead he’s talkin’ trash and dippin’ in my honey.”

But in the end, the men take responsibility for the actions that caused their prison sentences:

“But deep down in my heart, it’s really me to blame.

If I dealt with the demons, the demons in my head,

I wouldn’t have to deal with Jody in my bed.”

Goetze said most of the songs deal with the inmates’ feelings and incorporate positive messages that revolve around ideas such as responsibility or hope for the future. One group of women, including Ferguson, wrote a response to the men’s song and titled it “Tables are turned.” Similar to the men’s song, it begins resentfully and ends with a hopeful message:

“No more talking on the wall; Baby I’ll accept your call.

We’ve been through it all. We can call it a draw.”

The songwriting class has shifted to now include only women. According to jail commander Sam Crowe, that’s because women generally make up 10 to 15 percent of the jail’s total population and have fewer options than men when it comes to programming. He said there’s been an effort recently to include women in more programs like this one.

Crowe said programs that give the inmates homework or something else to think about outside of class time are vital to keeping them active and productive in positive ways.

“There’s a lot more to managing inmates than just throwing them in a cell and closing the door,” he said. “If you don’t keep them occupied with positive things, they’ll find other things to do — sometimes negative ones.”

Inmate Ferguson said she hopes to take her singing and songwriting skills beyond the jail, once she gets out.

“Sometimes I get to be a leader, sometimes I get to be a follower,” she said. “I enjoy singing; I enjoy just writing a line – a song means something to me.”

© Herald-Times

Historical Performance Institute calls for papers for May conference

The Historical Performance Institute at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music is calling for papers for its May 20-22 conference, “Historical Performance: Theory, Practice and Interdisciplinarity.”

This three-day conference will bring together leading scholar-practitioners to examine and anticipate key issues of historical performance in the twenty-first century. Especially welcome are presentations offering research generative of new insights into performance procedures. Scholars whose work extends beyond the field of music are encouraged to contribute. Results and proceedings will launch a new annual peer-reviewed journal, Historical Performance, published by Indiana University Press.

Abstracts (200-word maximum) will be accepted which deal with any area of historical performance, especially:

  • Improvisation
  • Interpretation: connecting theory and practice
  • Reassessment of established paradigms
  • The early music movement, then and now
  • Interpretation and early recorded sound
  • Curricula: integration of academic and applied music in higher education
  • Interdisciplinarity and new frontiers in research
Keynote speaker John Butt

Keynote speaker John Butt

Please send abstracts via email with subject line “HPI abstract” to Sung Lee at no later than Feb. 15, to be forwarded for anonymous review. Notifications will be sent by Feb. 26.

A partial list of confirmed guest speakers includes John Butt (keynote address), Clive Brown, Georgina Born, Magnus Williamson, Philippe Canguilhem, Julie Cumming, Edward Higginbottom, Kenneth Slowik, Angela Mariani, Adam Gilbert, George Barth and Steven Plank. The conveners are Jacobs professors Wendy Gillespie and Dana Marsh.

The discipline of historical performance focuses equally on research and performance. Accordingly, it mediates the links and gaps between theory and practice. It takes an interdisciplinary approach to the musical evidence through early instrumental and vocal pedagogy; literary, linguistic, religious and cultural history; rhetoric, visual art, dance, drama, aesthetics, iconography, organography, paleography and philosophy, among other areas and subdisciplines. From historical performance’s beginnings, interdisciplinary dialogue has been fundamental to the greater development of the field.

The conference is supported by the Indiana University New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities program and the Jacobs School of Music.

Click here for a PDF copy of this call for papers.

Clay Wulbrecht receives Indianapolis Jazz Foundation scholarship

Clay Wulbrecht, a sophomore at the Jacobs School of Music, was awarded an Indianapolis Jazz Foundation (IJF) scholarship at the annual IJF Legacy Showcase Nov. 19. He is a jazz pianist and the youngest member of the IU Jazz Ensemble.

Wulbrecht was nominated by Brent Wallarab, associate professor of jazz studies at Jacobs. “Clay is a superb jazz pianist,” said Wallarab. “While he is extremely conversant in the vocabulary of modern and contemporary jazz, Clay has a love and respect for the tradition, which seasons his playing with maturity beyond his years.”

The Indianapolis Jazz Foundation, which works to preserve the legacy and promote the future of jazz in Indianapolis, awarded five $1,000 scholarships to central Indiana college students, recognized an Educator of the Year and inducted four musicians into the Jazz Hall of Fame at the 2015 Legacy Showcase.

The newest members of the Hall of Fame are Rob Dixon (sax, education), the late Errol “Groundhog” Grandy (pianist), Kenny Phelps (drummer, educator, label owner) and James Spaulding (sax, composer). The Educator of the Year award was presented to Marion “Mo” Trout, professor of music and director of the jazz program at Purdue University.

Itay Agmon and Alexander Lapins score tuba positions

Itay Agmon, a sophomore pursuing a bachelor’s degree in tuba performance, recently won the solo tuba position with the Minnesota Opera, beginning January 2016.

Alumnus Alexander Lapins, DM, won the permanent tuba/euphonium position as an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Matthew Recio and Christopher LaRosa winners of 2016 NOTUS Student Composition Contest

Matthew Recio

Matthew Recio

Matthew Recio and Christopher LaRosa have been named the first- and second-prize winners, respectively, of this year’s NOTUS Student Composition Contest.

Recio’s first-prize work is “How to Survive Vesuvius” for mixed chorus a cappella. A second-year graduate student, he is pursuing a Master of Music degree in composition at the Jacobs School, where his principal teachers have been Don Freund and Sven-David Sandström. He is a member of NOTUS and will sing in the premiere of his work during the March 2016 concert.

Recio says of his work, “I wanted to write a piece that would combine rhythm, melody and harmony in a way that would sparkle with energy. With this as a starting point, I asked my friend Jenna Lanzaro to write me the text for this work. . . . Having been to Pompeii, I have seen the remains of people frozen in their natural state with the exact facial expressions of when the eruption occurred. . . . I wanted the opening motive to represent lava gradually enveloping this person’s world around them.”

LaRosa’s second-prize work is “Breath” for mixed chorus a cappella. A graduate student pursuing his Doctor of Music degree in composition at the Jacobs School, he currently studies with P. Q. Phan.

Christopher LaRosa

Christopher LaRosa

LaRosa says of his work, “The text of ‘Breath’ comes from Rainer Maria Rilke’s ‘The Sonnets to Orpheus,’ a cycle of 55 poems divided into two series. Originally in German, I chose to translate the poem to English. In the poem, Rilke vividly personifies breath. Despite its invisibility, breath carries our most important ideas and intimate words. Much of the air around us has at one time been inside us—a sea of breaths surround us.”

NOTUS will premiere both of these prize-winning works on the concert program “Electric Resonances” on Tuesday, March 8, 2016, at 8 p.m. in Auer Hall.

The concert will also feature three other pieces: a world-premiere performance of “The Giver of Stars” by Sven-David Sandström; Arvo Pärt’s groundbreaking “Te Deum” for three choirs, string ensemble, prepared piano and tape; and a new piece by sophomore composition major Alex Berko, whose work “Forgiven Tears” has been named the winner of the Raymond Brock Memorial Student Composition Prize, given annually to one composer nationally by the American Choral Directors Association.

NOTUS will also perform Sandström and Berko’s works at the ACDA Central Division Conference in Chicago this coming February.

The judges awarded two honorable mentions for Nicolas Chuaqui’s “Infinity” and Felipe Tovar-Henao’s “Oh, misteriosa alma mía.”

The contest is an initiative of Dominick DiOrio, assistant professor of music in the Choral Conducting Department and conductor of NOTUS: IU Contemporary Vocal Ensemble. The annual competition is open to all current undergraduate and graduate students at the Jacobs School of Music.

Judges for the competition included John Gibson, associate professor of composition (electronic and computer music), and Betsy Burleigh, chair of Choral Conducting and associate professor of music. DiOrio did not take part in the judging panel. The submission of scores was anonymous, and the judges did not see names or identifying information until after final decisions were made.

Composer and performer in various mediums, Recio’s (b. 1991) evocative compositions generate a vivid imagistic experience for listeners. He is a summa cum laude graduate and Charles F. Hockett scholar of Ithaca College, where he earned a B.M. in composition and music education. While at Ithaca, he was awarded the Smadbeck Dean’s composition prize for three consecutive years as well as the ACDA choral composition prize. His work has recently been selected for performance at the Midwest Composer Symposium (2014-15), the UNK New Music Festival, Hammer and Nail Contemporary Dance Collaboration, and the New Voices Opera Exhibition. He is the winner of the 2015 IMTA Opus young artist composition competition of Indiana, where he was recognized last October at the state festival for his work.

He is the recent winner of the 2015 Quartet Nouveau (resident ensemble of the California Chamber Orchestra) composition competition and will have his work “Clutch of Venus” performed in San Diego this spring. His choral work “How to Survive Vesuvius” will be showcased at the 2016 ACDA convention in Boston this February in a master class with Pulitzer Prize-winner Steven Stucky. Recio is one of three finalists in Michael Kerschner’s Young New Yorker’s Choral composition competition and will have a new work premiered with the ensemble June of 2016. In the past, he has been chosen to participate in the Atlantic Music Festival as well as being selected as an emerging composer for the IMANI Winds chamber festival in New York City. Last summer, he was a composition fellow at the Valencia International Performing Arts program of Spain, where his clarinet piece “Sea Calls” was performed by Ausiás Morant (bass clarinetist of the BBC Orchestra). His principal teachers include Dana Wilson, Eric Ewazen, Don Freund and Sven-David Sandström.

LaRosa’s (b. 1990) music dramatically integrates melodic lyricism, rhythmic vitality, harmonic color and timbral shadings. His oeuvre displays a fascination for temporal perception, human aggression and compassion, and natural phenomena. His music has been described as “deftly crafted” by the Boston Classical Review and “charismatic, well scored and positively received” by the Hartford Courant. He has received performances throughout the United States, Mexico, Canada and Austria by ensembles such as the Hartford Symphony Orchestra, “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, CEPROMUSIC, Boston New Music Initiative, and Genesis Chamber Singers.

In 2015, LaRosa won the Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s commissioning competition. His “Sextet” won the CEPROMUSIC/BU Composition Competition in 2014. His “Symmetries” for two string quartets won the Frank Robert Abell Prize for Chamber Music and the Louis Smadbeck prize in 2012, and his dramatic song cycle “Vignettes of Two Lovers” was selected for the Boston Metro Opera’s 3rd Annual Contemporary Americana Festival. His flute preludes, “Mythologies,” won second place for the Louis Smadbeck prize in 2011, and, in 2010, his song cycle “Spring Giddiness” won the Jack Downey Prize and was selected by the Boston Metro Opera’s 2nd Annual Contemporary Americana Festival.

LaRosa grew up in Downingtown, Pa. He earned his Bachelor of Music degree at Ithaca College and his Master of Music degree at Boston University. During the 2012-13 academic year, he served as the composition instructor and student assistant at IES Abroad in Vienna. He has studied with Dana Wilson, John Wallace and P. Q. Phan.