LGBTuben concert proves thought-provoking 

(Left to right) Aimee Patch ’26, Ahmad Allen ‘23, Peter Weyers ’26, Greta Thoresen ’25, Connor Parr ’24, LGBTuben Quintet member Leander Star and Lauren Coon ’25 perform in the Chapel. Photo by Rongyan Song.

It began with a low rumble from a circle of student horn players. One by one, members of the Lawrence Graduate Bayreuth Tuben (LGBT) Quintet joined them on stage. They coalesced into a hymn by the medieval composer Hildegard of Bingen, each with a short stroll before sitting. This Jan 7th concert was anything but typical. 

The “Tuben” of this quintet were Wagner tubas, uncommon instruments which blends the sound worlds of horns and tubas. Lawrence University’s own Assistant Professor of Music Ann Ellsworth was joined by John Gattis, Kyra Sims, Leander Star and Lydia Van Dreel. But these were not the only performers that night: a large sheet of paper sat beside them.  

As the music subtly transitioned into “From the Fabric” by inti figgis-vizueta, the student horn players exited and a figure gradually emerged from beneath the paper. It was Ahmad Allen, a Lawrence alum who brought his immense talents in song, dance and acting to the night’s forefront. First though, he was a craftsman, molding the paper into a cape, blanket and then mountain along to the music. Sometimes it seemed a battle between performer and prop—all to the tune of Wagner tubas. 

In a dramatic mood change, Allen stepped centerstage to sing “The Blood of Jesus Will Never Lose Its Power” by Andraé Crouch. His virtuosic improvisation was complimented nicely by the quintet’s energetic accompaniment. After a few thrilling minutes, the song ended at a massive climax. Up until then, the program had been too continuous to invite clapping, but here the audience gave in to thunderous applause.  

Next was “In Memory of Victor Jowers” by Lou Harrison, a brief but playful tune. What followed was “Rainfall in Dublin” by the quintet’s own Kyra Sims, a touching piece embellished by Allen’s vocal interjections. 

(Left to right) Aimee Patch ’26, Ahmad Allen ‘23, Peter Weyers ’26, Greta Thoresen ’25, Connor Parr ’24, LGBTuben Quintet member Leander Star and Lauren Coon ’25 perform in the Chapel. Photo by Rongyan Song.

For the penultimate “Black as a Hack for Cyborgification” by Jessie Cox, the quintet and Allen were rejoined by student horn players. A few musicians walked around stage as the song became a gentle jig. This faded away into the final number, “Farewell to Stromness” by Peter Maxwell Davies, which had a hymnal-feel. A work of huge proportions, it contained a poetry recitation from Allen and was a fitting ending to the fascinating concert. 

In some ways the program raised more questions than answers. Interspersed between pieces was occasional speaking, though usually consisting of seemingly unrelated poetry-like anecdotes. Between two earlier numbers, a member of the quintet spoke of leftover cold Pizza they had eaten. 

There was no spoken announcement for any titles or composers and there was generally only a minimal pause, if one at all between works. The compositions themselves varied immensely: medieval hymns to music of the last few years. The interpolations from Allen were also unusual for what typical brass ensemble concerts might present.  

Still, there was a certain artistic vision delivered by so many conscious deviations from orthodox performing expectations. The music blended into one massive composition, touching on many aspects of the human experience. There was birth, love, despair and anger. But most of all, there was passion, filling every movement, breath and note.