USM Gorham Cultural Affairs Committee

Da Capo Chamber Player's Spring 2013 Residency, a Transformative Experience for Music Composition Students and Faculty

Da Capo Chamber Players

Da Capo Chamber PlayersThe major offering in 2012-2013 supported by the USM Gorham Cultural Affairs Committee was the March 2013 Da Capa Chamber Players Residency and Concert.

The residency proved to be a transformative experience for many of our students. To have the outstanding players of Da Capo in our midst for three days, reading student works, performing, coaching, speaking, and just being available, was like a jolt of electricity in the middle of a cold, snowy semester. Students were able to witness the professionalism with which Da Capo carried out their work, and also the level of skill and experience the members demonstrated, and were inspired.

Student composers were able to get top rate recordings of their compositions by a world class new music ensemble. Student performers were driven to excel by performers who really understood the details of bringing contemporary music to life. The public was treated to a mesmerizing performance by Da Capo and Lucy Shelton, which featured Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, and also the world premiere of a work by USM resident composer Daniel Sonenberg written for the occasion. All in all it was an educational and riveting three days.

In the first recording session, Da Capo read, rehearsed, and recorded new compositions by three students. There was time for each student to give feedback and coach the ensemble in the performance of their works. The entire session was recorded w/ the School of Music's mobile recording unit, and students were able to edit the recordings subsequently and receive high quality recordings for their portfolio. These sessions were open to the public, and approximately 20 people who were not involved w/the readings were present for each, most of them music students.

In the master class, members of the Da Capo Chamber players coached students in performances of two different pieces - a piano and violin piece by Messiaen, and a string quartet by Daniel Sonenberg. The students were encouraged to deal with various issues in contemporary music performance in elevating their renditions of the works. Approximately 50 students were in attendance.

Pat Spencer (flute) and Meighan Stoops (clarinet) attended the USM Composers Ensemble's rehearsal, and spoke with students afterwards - particularly the wind players.

On Wednesday, a unique concert of contemporary music, featuring a performance of Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire on the occasion of the work's 100th anniversary. Soprano Lucy Shelton is one of the foremost interpreters of this work, and she performed it before a nearly full auditorium. Da Capo also premiered Delve (2013) by Daniel Sonenberg, and performed a new piece by Valery Coleman.

On Thursday, Da Capo Flautist Pat Spencer gave a slide lecture on the relationship between the artist Paul Klee and musical structure. Approximately 30 students were in attendance. Most of the students were music students, while the hope for wider attendance by art students was foiled by snow.

Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire is a seminal masterpiece, but also a challenging work to take in, particularly for young music students. To hear and see an interpretation of such whole hearted commitment and such expertise as that offered by Da Capo, and particularly the dramatic soprano Lucy Shelton, was a moment of awakening for many of our students. The concert marked a turning point in the semester for Sonenberg's Music Theory and Aural Skills 4 classes, where they had spent the preceding classes studying Pierrot and Schoenberg's other compositions. Students came back buzzing with excitement after the concert, and had a renewed openness and curiosity about other challenging contemporary pieces.

Of the performances, resident composer Dan Sonenberg said, "the performance of my own piece, Delve, was personally exhilarating, and, I believe, similarly meaningful to students and the general public. As a professor of contemporary music theory and composition, it is gratifying to be able to share the fruits of my own labor with my students and colleagues, and to have it interpreted on such a professional level."

Theatre Major Nathan Lapointe did an outstanding job reading poems by Langston Hughes as part of Valerie Coleman's composition. He worked with theatre professor Meighan Brody, and gave a truly professional level reading during the concert, apparently better than some professional performances experienced by the Da Capo players.

The opportunity for music students to have their works rehearsed and read by an ensemble of Da Capo's caliber is rare for composition students, and the resulting recordings provide students with a lifelong component to their composition portfolio. Da Capo has a history of working with student composers, and it was also tremendously gratifying for myself and my students to get a sense of own works measured up to works by composition students throughout the country (answer: quite well).

Given the fact that the initial concert date was postponed by snow, the community was resilient in coming to support the main event, and there was palpable excitement among visitors during the entirety of the three-day residency.

The three-day residency was sponsored by the USM Gorham Cultural Affairs Committee, and made possible in part with public funds from the NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS, which believes that a great nation deserves great art.

The USM Gorham Cultural Affairs Committee is funded by the Dean of the College of Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences at the University of Southern Maine. Watch for the 2013-2014 schedule of events supporting cultural affairs in Gorham.