Over 100 students and community members attended the Riverview Gardens concert on Monday April 20. The event was part of a concert series, now in its second year, organized by Assistant Professors of Music Michael Mizrahi and Erin Lesser.
The event featured three performances of wildly different pieces that were connected by their focus on nature and emotion. The musicians explained aspects of the songs they played before playing them and in some cases encouraged audience participation.
The concert opened with a flute quartet featuring seniors Heather Jost, Caitlynn Winkler and Sam Rolfe, and junior Leo Sussman. They performed “Summer Day at the Mountain” by Eugène Bozza.
Before performing the second movement of Bozza’s work, one of the members of the ensemble explained that the music was supposed to sound like insects. As part of the interactive experience, two of the quartet members then led the audience in creating a “buzzing” chorus.
Professor of Music Catherine Kautsky performed two songs as part of the second set: Claude Debussy’s somber piece “Les son et les Parfums” and the fourth movement of “In the Mists” by Leoš Janáček.
Before playing Janáček’s piece, Kautsky explained that the tempo, key signatures, and harmonies change constantly within the work in order to create a sense of disorientation.
Senior Caitlynn Winkler, junior Jon Hanrahan and sophomore Miles Link performed the final song of the evening, George Crumb’s “Voice of the Whale.” According to Winkler, Crumb was inspired to write the piece after hearing whales singing in the ocean.
Winkler said that Crumb liked to use traditional instruments in non-traditional ways. Indeed, while Winkler sang into her flute to create a whale sound, Link conjured seagull sounds from his cello and Hanrahan used binder clips, wooden dowels and a chisel to manipulate the sound of his piano.
The performers wore masks during this last piece, stating that it was a way to make the audience identify with them less and focus more on the music itself.
Mizrahi and Lesser organized the series in collaboration with members of the New York-based chamber ensemble Decoda, which they are both members of.
According to Lesser, the goal of the series was to bring music to people outside of the Lawrence community. “We have a very diverse audience here,” said Lesser. “One thing we’re aiming to do is to widen our reach to get music into the community, accessible to more people—these are free concerts.”
Audience reaction was positive. Senior Alana Myatt stated that she was happy to have attended the concert. “I thought it was cool to see fellow students in another venue outside of Lawrence,” said Myatt.
She also stated “I think everyone did a wonderful job and their introductions [at the beginning of each piece] were fun.”
Winkler expressed hope that more people would come and experience these concerts. “I think we’re entering a stage where people are not as apt to go to live performances anymore, but it was really nice to see so many people here tonight.”