Student Recital: Carmen Magestro

Senior Carmen Magestro performed her senior recital virtually on April 10. Photo provided by Carmen Magestro.

After the outbreak of COVID-19 forcing her to put her original junior flute recital plans on hold, senior Carmen Magestro stunned her virtual audience with a completely revamped program webcast Apr. 10. As a five-year student majoring in flute performance and biochemistry, Carmen has a lot to occupy her time. But fortunately for her recital plans, the extra year at Lawrence provided the needed flexibility to create a new program from scratch a year after students were unexpectedly sent home. Given the challenges of working with in-person musicians this year, Carmen opted for a pre-recorded program of works by living composers that did not require additional live musicians. The recital began with Pray by Allison Loggins-Hull, featured audio samples from places of worship, followed by Léthé by Sylvie Bordorová, a piece for solo flute that required no accompaniment. To close her program, Carmen performed Jacob ter Veldhuis’ work The Garden of Love, which involved both an electronic backing track and an animated video by Amber Boardman. 

This recital program afforded Carmen ample opportunity to showcase both her technique and musicality. Throughout the ethereal Pray, Carmen’s vibrant tone and emotive phrasing brought life to the electronic accompaniment, where nebulous, introspective sections contrasted with rapid technical lines that ramped up into swells of energy. Carmen described working with the rigid tempos of backing tracks as “difficult to begin with,” but gave her an opportunity to “really get to know the piece” in ways unlike playing with live musicians. The piece Léthé also allowed for a variety of expressive opportunities, and even with no accompanying instruments, the performance was rich with sound. Once again, Carmen’s evocative playing drove the piece, conjuring up vivid images of mythological spirits leaving behind their worldly memories and vanishing into the afterlife. Carmen’s performance of the final piece, The Garden of Love, wove together spiritual threads outlined by the first two works, exploring religion and death. Based on the William Blake poem of the same name, the piece features both audio and video accompaniment in a multi-media spectacle. The accompanying animation is quirky—if at times disturbing—but is appropriate for the free-spirited, scuttling quality of the music. 

In spite of the new challenges brought on by COVID-19, Carmen says that preparing this unconventional program was a welcomed learning experience. Carmen enjoyed working with Lawrence audio engineers to professionally record her flute playing while she listened to the electronics through headphones. Having only learned about the recording process second-hand from professionals, she had the opportunity to experience it herself for the first time. Pre-recording her recital also gave Carmen the opportunity to record multiple takes of each piece, reducing the pressure of nailing a one-off performance, but upping the ante in terms of her own expectations. 

The repertoire choices for this program were suitable and thoughtful. Not only did the works highlight Carmen’s strengths as a player in a COVID-safe environment, but they broke free of the gravitational pull of standard classical flute repertoire and gave recognition to contemporary composers. Although Carmen says that any overarching themes between works are purely coincidental, every piece on her program deals with deep and meaningful subject matter. In turn, it transcends beyond merely a required junior recital and becomes a spiritual journey, meditating on deeper themes of religion and mortality. 

Carmen’s recital can be viewed on YouTube via the link below.