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Thursday, May 31, 2012 - Music, Theatre & Dance: The Performance Season in Review

by Gillian Ellis



With the busy and diverse 2011/2012 performance season over, we wondered what you felt had been the highlights. Mike Moreno,(B.Mus.'00) alum and choir teacher at H. Frank Carey High School in New York City wrote, “Oakland Chorale's tour of NYC! They were awesome and generous with their time to bring some culture to my school!” Mike posted several video links of the chorale’s performance on MTD’s Facebook page, for all to enjoy, but many of you probably saw one of their performances in person. Their regular season recitals at University Presbyterian Church, along with the University Chorus, played to packed audiences, as they do every year.

The University Chorus and Oakland Chorale also performed as part of our new Thursday Arts-After-Work Series, which offered a smorgasbord of events, designed to suit every cultural taste. Each concert began at 6 p.m. and was preceded by a 5 p.m. offering of appetizers on the Varner mezzanine, designed to suit every foodie taste! Many people relished the opportunity to stay after work for a performance and be home by the normal concert starting time! The After-Work-Arts lineup included some offerings that were also featured in our regular season, like performances of Cosi fan tutte, Much Ado About Nothing, and Little Mary Sunshine.

Others were special events offered just once, like the amazing OU Jazz Faculty concert that launched the series back in September and more recently, the Faculty Collaboration Showcase in April. Both of these events drew big audiences. The spring event, which offered a chance to see our faculty work together across their disciplines, not only sold out, we are sad to report that there were disappointed would-be audience members in the hallway outside. Some of our finest student dancers also performed at this event, leaving dance program director Greg Patterson in no doubt when choosing his season highlight. “For me, the collaboration of the faculty, combined with students, was truly remarkable and great to see.”

Terry Herald, our technical coordinator who teaches Audio Techniques and Film Music and is a respected composer, played guitar at the event and he writes, “There were so many great performances, it is hard to choose just one. However, the collaborative Arts-After-Work was the highlight for me. Experiencing the immense talent of my colleagues in all of the areas of music, theatre and dance, was an artistic highlight of my career!”

The daunting nature of having to pick just one event or performance was a thought echoed by many, including Phyllis White, a composer who teaches music courses for non-majors. But she did it! “I have to single out . . . the work between Tony Guest and Thayer Jonutz (inspired with the muse of Karen Sheridan) in a breathtaking soliloquy from Hamlet. [It] was unforgettable!” The actor, the dancer and their director combined speech, movement, stage combat and a creative sensibility into something unique as they illuminated new meaning in “O that this too too solid flesh would melt.”

George Stoffan, coordinator of the winds program, played clarinet in the faculty collaboration and says he was “proud to be a part of it.” But for him the true highlights of the year lay elsewhere. “I think the opera [Cosi fan tutte] was outstanding artistically and represented a significant milestone in the growth of our program.” The opera program will present another fully-staged and costumed evening of opera in the upcoming season. If you missed Cosi, (or even if you didn’t) we hope to see you at our opera this year.

The other performance George singled out was the fourth Oakland Symphony Orchestra concert of the year. “Our performance at Orchestra Hall was a highlight of the season to me.” And we are sure for many others, including the student performers in the orchestra and the Symphony Chorus, many of whom will never have another chance to perform in such a prestigious location.

We also had prestigious guests this season, among them the innovative 20-piece ensemble Alarm Will Sound, who wowed the packed recital hall with their virtuosity and their groundbreaking new music, a new experience for at least some members of the audience. They featured works by several 20th-century composers, but many audience members cited “Dowland Remix” by ensemble member John Orfe, a rave recomposition of the 16th-century composer John Dowland’s “Lacrimae,” as their highlight of the evening’s performance. It was the most meaningful to publicist Carly Uhrig who wrote, “The driving drum beat somehow made the melody less haunting and actually uplifting. It simultaneously reminded me of studying for a music history exam in college . . . then going out afterwards to dance!”

Offering a more traditional program was guest baritone Lucas Meachem, whose fall concert was the choice of e-newsletter editor Gillian Ellis for season highlight. It was both a delight and an honor to hear so wonderful a voice in such a relatively small auditorium, and it was enchanting to watch the audience fall under the spell of his undeniable charisma.

Business manager Manjit Gill who, with no performing commitments herself, attends many events, reports that one of the most emotional experiences for her was the play The Women of Lockerbie. “The elements of the play came together so seamlessly, and my friends and I, some of them grown men, felt the heartbreak as a communal experience in the true tradition of the theatre,” she says. On a much lighter note, and with her eye on the bottom line as befits her “role,” Manjit says she loved that the box office sold out almost every performance of our production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing!

In fact, all our theatrical productions and most of our other events are well supported, but there is always room for a few more in the audience. And we invite you to join us next season! Check our homepage soon for an updated season listing or contact us if you would like to be on our email list or receive your own personal copy of our season brochure in the U.S. mail.

We will leave the final word about our season to our senior faculty member, John-Paul White, professor of voice. “I’m sorry I can't pick just one, but under the category of "things vocal" I was thrilled to be a part of Oakland University . . . for the excellent productions of (in no order) Cosi fan tutte, the Chorus/Chorale concert at University Presbyterian and with the Oakland Symphony at Orchestra Hall, Grey Gardens, numerous senior recitals and masters recitals, and Senior Showcase and cabarets. Our students make my job so much fun!”

Exactly. All the hard work we do in class and rehearsals results in amazing concerts and moments of transcendence for both performers and audiences. Fun, in fact. The best kind.

Photo: The Women of Lockerbie, photo by Rick Smith
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