Student lecture-recital: Sydney Closson

On Friday, April 5 at 6 p.m., Sydney Closson gave her lecture-recital in Harper Hall. A junior from the studio of Ann Ellsworth, Closson is a candidate for the Bachelor of Arts in music and geosciences. She performed two solo pieces and two duets, the first with the sophomore Isaac Keith on baroque horn, and the second with junior Lauren Coon on natural horn. All of her pieces were accompanied by pianist Catherine Walby, Teacher of Piano and Lecturer of Music.

Closson’s lecture-recital went beyond the traditional recital. Inspired by her appreciation for historical fashion, Closson made four 18th-century dresses to wear for her four historical pieces. Throughout her performance, she would speak about each dress and the historical context surrounding it. She also took time to introduce the costumes of her duet partners, who were wearing traditional masculine clothes of the time. 

It was clear from the lecture part of her performance that Closson dedicated a lot of time and energy into researching the historical period that her recital was grounded in. From making specific references to the French Court to inserting moments of comic relief, her discussion was very entertaining. 

Sydney Closson performing a 1700s French horn piece wearing “the 1700s equivalent of COVID sweatpants.”
Photo by Alex Stanger.

An article on Closson’s performance wouldn’t be complete without talking about her dresses. All of them were from different years, scattered throughout the 1700s. They were also all made and constructed sustainably, something that was very important to Closson. While I enjoyed marveling at the beautiful gowns, I also appreciated their greater importance; without the visual representation of the time and place of the musical pieces, it would have been much harder to understand and engage with them.

Closson herself spoke to this in our interview before her recital. In describing her goals, she said that there is a “sense of monoculture when we look at old things,” and that she hopes “to show that there’s variety.” I can confidently say that she succeeded. As someone who doesn’t know a lot about the horn or its history, I was thoroughly engaged with the variety of her performance. 

Closson also acknowledged the fact that her gender would have severely limited her had she really been playing horn in the 1700s. Closson said that she, “as a woman, would not have been allowed to play horn, or at least not perform it,” adding that this recital is a bit of a “reclamation” and a “what-if” experiment. 

Every aspect of Closson’s recital was captivating. Whether it was the excitement built up surrounding what costume piece she would come out wearing or what witty remark she would make as she introduced her next piece, the whole experience of her performance was fun. In fact, it was more than fun, as much of her historical context was eye-opening and, at times, solemn. 

This project — to rewrite women’s history through the lens of music and fashion — was incredibly inspiring. It follows that Closson received a standing ovation at the end of her performance, in addition to a large and responsive audience. For those who could not attend her recital in person, you can find the livestream by scanning the QR code below. I cannot recommend it enough.