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Thursday, February 28, 2013 - March Music

by Gillian Ellis

For many in Michigan the month of March can seem like winter is holding onto its grip just a few weeks too long. We long for the scents and sights of spring. Usually in vain!

Outside there may still be snow, or perhaps, even worse, slush on the ground, but inside Varner there is most definitely a flowering of sorts. All through the winter semester our music ensembles have been hard at work, and it is in March and April that we can all enjoy the results of those labors. Please join us for some of these March offerings and decide for yourself which are musical flowers: beautiful to hear, and which are fruit: food for the spirit.

The opening concert of the month will be a guest artist concert on Sunday March 3 at 3 p.m. when the renowned Gould Piano Trio will play with clarinetist Robert Plane as part of their U.S. tour. No chamber music lover will want to miss this performance, and if you are a chamber music novice this would be an excellent choice for your first experience of the genre. They will play music by Beethoven, Bartok, Haydn and Brahms. You can read more about the trio on their website here. Please note this concert is off campus at St. Paul’s Methodist Church on Romeo Road in Rochester. In addition to tickets being available for purchase online, by phone and in person at the box office and the Center for Student Activities Service Window, tickets will also be for sale at the church in the hour preceding the concert at the church. Tickets are $20 for the general public and $10 for students.

Three student ensembles will offer free concerts this month. They are open to anyone, and if you find yourself in the mood for music offer the perfect opportunity to just drop in and to invite a guest to join you. The concerts are held in the Varner Recital Hall and there is ample space and plenty of free parking space around the building.

First up will be the Oakland Jazz Singers and Jazz Combos on Thursday, March 14 at 8 p.m. Carl Cafagna, director of the Oakland Jazz Singers, has invited Trish Shandor (B.Mus.'04), a Detroit Music Award-winning vocalist, in both jazz and classical genres and an OU alum, to sing with his students as a guest artist. Trish will do several feature solos with the ensemble. Carl writes, “We are pleased to be able to bring her around our students, to help inspire them. We will do two of my own arrangements, of the "Star-Spangled Banner" and Charlie Parker's "Bluebird," as well as other exciting material." The jazz combos, also playing that night, are under the direction of Sean Dobbins.

On Tuesday, March 19 at 8 p.m. the Clarinet Ensemble will give their concert. This year the focus will be on solos, and director of the clarinet program George Stoffan says it might more accurately be described as a clarinet studio recital. Featured pieces will include Songs Without Words by Mendelssohn, Sonata by Poulenc, Bagatelles by Finzi, Mini-Concerto by Gordon Jacob, and Sonata by Saint-Saens.

Another free concert will showcase the Percussion Ensemble on Monday, March 25 at 8 p.m. Dan Maslanka, director of the ensemble, writes, “The percussion ensemble will be paying tribute to George Hamilton Green by playing some of his concert works for xylophone, along with some ragtime pieces. Each member of the ensemble will be featured.” They will also be playing Word Games by Stanley Leonard. Dan plans each concert to combine modern works with traditional ensemble literature.

We also have free two concerts you will want to make special note of because they are not listed in the season brochure. On Monday, March 4 at 7 p.m. soprano Amy Pfrimmer will give a recital in Varner Recital Hall. The diverse program will include songs by Felix Mendelssohn, Erik Satie and Kurt Weill.

On Sunday, March 24 at 4 p.m. the piano department is sponsoring a free recital by Tian Tian, who will play Liszt/Gounod, Ravel and Schumann. A masterclass will follow at 6 p.m.

Each of these free events offers the perfect opportunity to try out a style of music that you don’t know you like yet! Why not take a risk and broaden your musical horizons?

Also this month, we have the very popular spring concert of the University Chorus and Oakland Chorale on Friday, March 22 and Saturday, March 23. These performances are off campus, but close by, at the University Presbyterian Church at 1385 S. Adams, in Rochester Hills. Included in this concert will be pieces by Bach, Schubert, Morales, Farrant, Glass, Clausen, and Mitchell, as well as folk music from French Canada. There will also be world premieres of a new piece by Detroit's own Stacey Gibbs, the most important arranger of spirituals in the world today, and a new choral arrangement of "Everything in its Right Place" by the avant garde rock band Radiohead. Some guest instrumentalists will also be featured, including OU faculty member Carl Cafagna. Tickets for this exciting, eclectic concert are just $8 and those not sold in advance will be for sale at the church in the hour before the concert begins, but please note, these performances are usually very well attended!

The final week of the month is rich with musical offerings. On Tuesday, March 26 at 7 p.m. the OU Chamber Orchestra, will close its season with Dvorak’s String Serenade, Mozart’s Adagio and Fugue in C minor and Danny Rocks by Bob Phillips. This ensemble is under the direction of Alan MacNair and tickets for the event are $8.

On Wednesday, March 27 at 8 p.m. the Wind Symphony and Symphonic Band will give their final concert of the year. Both are under the direction of Associate Professor Gregory Cunningham.

Finally, rounding out the month is an Arts-After-Work event which begins at 6 p.m. and offers an opportunity to “pay what you wish” for your ticket. Don’t miss this chance to hear and see renowned Detroit-area jazz drummer Sean Dobbins playing with the OU Jazz Band on Thursday, March 28 at 6 p.m. Sean brings a high voltage blend of technique, sensitivity and flair to jazz and you won’t leave this concert feeling March is going out like a lamb!

Tickets for all events that require them are available for purchase with no service fees at or by phone at (800) 585-3737. They can also be purchased at the Center for Student Activities Service Window in the Oakland Center or at the Varner Hall Box Office. Complete ticket information is available at

Photos: Top right: The Gould Trio.
Middle left: Robert Plane.
Bottom left: Dan Maslanka (top of the stairs) and the students of the Percussion Ensemble.