Spears’ voice studio haunts Harper

Jessica Vogt

It was a hauntingly beautiful Halloween night in Harper Hall Monday when the vocal students of Professor Steven Paul Spears performed a recital of art songs accompanied by PuoChi Huang and Nathan Uhl on the piano.
The late-night spree began with surprise guest artist Patrice Michaels singing Shakespeare by candlelight, rendering the audience speechless. Following her, students sang solo and in small ensembles. The entire repertoire was about death or mourning, and included such composers as Schubert, Scarlatti, Mozart, Britten, and Strauss. From a pianist in white tux tails to a superhero singer, all performers were costumed, including Spears himself, clad in a nightgown, bathrobe and fuzzy slippers. Other costumes included ghouls, witches, princesses, gypsies, mimes, and even Fred Flintstone.
“It was really fun,” said sophomore James Antony, who wore an Afro wig so immense one could hardly see his face. “We just kind of said, ‘Hey, let’s dress up and do a Halloween concert,'” he said.
Antony, a baritone, performed a Schubert tune about how reality can be more frightening than anything in the supernatural. Another highlight of the show was sophomore Jessica Swanson, sporting a white face and red eyes and singing the Queen of the Night’s aria from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” Michael Lund Ziegler also delighted the audience by singing an old Tom Lehrer song entitled “I Hold Your Hand in Mine,” whose lyrics leave something to be mentioned (“… I press it to my lips / I take a healthy bite from your fingertips”) and brought the audience to uncertain snickers.
Spears, when asked why he decided to do a concert of this type, answered, “I think first would be the fun of getting together and being macabre, morbid and a little irreverent of things we take seriously – death, fear, et cetera. I’m not saying we shouldn’t take those things seriously, but it’s good occasionally to relax and have some fun with them – within reason, of course.”
The concert was indeed a relaxing (trick-or-)treat. It was a night of glitz, glitter, devil horns and angel wings, chilling looks and scornful painted faces. The performers were as much actors as singers and really put on a show. Spears commented that the students also “sang with less body tension when dressed in costume. I can’t wait to figure that one out.”
Spears was enthusiastic about having such an informal recital. “We as musicians – singers, pianists, composers, instrumentalists, and so on – work so hard on making classical music – which generally speaking is a very precise and sometimes scientific art form – that we can sometimes become a little too serious and we can ignore the reasons we began our study in the first place, which is the love of making music.