Monthly Archives: November 2017

Fall 2017 Dance Concert Preview

This year’s Fall Dance Concert will feature Taiko, modern, tap, and classical ballet, along with a work by Pitch (a dance co.), and pieces by student choreographers Marion Kudla and Sophie Gray-Gaillard. Performances will be held on December 8th at 4:30pm and December 9th at 8pm. Both shows are free and open to the public.

As part of the class on Pointe and Partnering that she teaches, Dance Professor Chandra Moss-Thorne often stages excerpts from classical ballets that require pointe work. Last year, for example, students performed the snow section from The Nutcracker. This year, Professor Moss-Thorne has staged the Jewels Divertissement from Sleeping Beauty, one of the most iconic divertissements in all of classical ballet. With music by Tchaikovsky and choreography by Marius Petipa, considered the most influential ballet choreographer in history, the short piece is a beautiful and efficient display of the most that classical ballet has to offer.

Pitch (a dance co.) will perform their piece, Request. Pitch is a “cross-disciplinary incubator” from the works of the accomplished dancers and choreographers Meredith Webster and Tania Isaac. The company combines  modern and balletic techniques with “converging forms and ideas.” Request is a duet that the pair created in response to dance requests submitted to them by outside parties. With music by Arvo Part, the piece “is a collage of short dances that thread together the memory of people, relationships, fears, aspirations and moments in time.”

Marion Kudla ‘19 and Sophie Gray-Gaillard ‘20 will each present contemporary pieces that they have been working on since last spring. Both have trained extensively in classical and contemporary techniques and have been interested in choreography for a long time. Their pieces are part of their work for Dance Lab with Professor Kim Arrow. Kudla’s piece expands upon Thoreau’s idea that “the most alive is the wildest.” Her work, Imprints, “is inspired by places of wilderness, by places that remind us of what it is to be freed.” Gray-Gaillard’s work is a solo that focuses on the fluidity of the body’s movement through space, a style she admires in the work of Alonzo King and the Cambrians, among others. She based a large amount of her work in the convergences of improvisational and choreographed movement.

Each semester, the Dance Concert is a chance for students to share the hard work they have put into each of their classes, and for student choreographers to offer their first exciting takes on various dance forms. The concerts showcase the powerful dynamism of Taiko, the rapidly-evolving techniques of modern dance, and the rhythmic beauty of tap, along with new interpretations of classical and contemporary ballet. Swarthmore’s Dance Program gives voices to many different styles of dance, and the concerts are the realization of those voices.

Gabriel Hearn-Desautels ’20

(Dan Z. Johnson / staff photographer)

Jazz Ensemble Concert: From Cole Porter to Radiohead

On Sunday, November 19th, the Swarthmore College Jazz Ensemble will perform in Lang Concert Hall. The concert begins at 7:30 and will feature the 21-piece student ensemble. They will perform a cross-section of music from the Great American Songbook, Latin jazz, big band standards and modern rock. Andrew Neu has been the conductor of the ensemble since 2014 and continues the long tradition of big band jazz at Swarthmore.

The program begins with the jazz standard “In a Mellow Tone,” composed by Duke Ellington. This arrangement was written by saxophonist Oliver Nelson and recorded by the Buddy Rich Big Band. It features freshman trumpeter, Owais Noorani-Kamtekar. The appropriately titled “Kids Are Pretty People,” by Thad Jones, was originally composed to be performed in the tiny jazz clubs of New York City. This performance features Sam Gardner on trombone. “What is This Thing Called Love” was composed by Cole Porter and arranged by conductor Andrew Neu. This up-tempo treatment features Vaughn Parts on alto saxophone and Josh Freier on tenor saxophone. Josh is again featured on the jazz ballad “Misty,” a tune made famous by Johnny Mathis. The first half wraps up with a very atypical piece for jazz ensemble. Originally recorded by the rock band Radiohead, “Bodysnatchers” has been adapted for big band by Fred Sturm. It was commissioned by the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble and features Nathan Anderson on soprano saxophone, Sumi Onoe on piano, and Max Marckel on baritone saxophone.

The second half begins with “Cottontail,” another Duke Ellington piece, this one arranged by Duke himself. Olivia Gubler takes the lead on tenor sax. “Lament” is a haunting ballad composed by trombonist J.J. Johnson, and features Ben Hejna and the entire trombone section. Eric Chen plays a Debussy-inspired solo interlude on piano in the middle of the piece. Continuing with another intimate piece by Thad Jones, “Tip Toe” is based on the chord progression to “I Got Rhythm” in the less standard key of Ab. It features the saxophone section up front and a challenging trombone and bass soli featuring Derek Kinsella on the bass. Audiences will also hear solos from Owais, Josh, and Nathan, this time on alto saxophone.

The finale of the concert is an epic Latin jazz piece by trumpeter Arturo Sandoval called “A Mis Abuelos.” This tribute to his grandparents naturally features the trumpet section, along with Dakota Gibbs on guitar. Seth Stancroft drives it to the end with an open drum solo.

This year, the Department of Music and Dance is very excited to host jazz singer Janis Siegel at Swarthmore. She is a founding member of the musical group Manhattan Transfer and a multiple Grammy-award winner. On February 11, she will lead a workshop and perform a concert with pianist John DiMartino, bassist Gerald Veasley, and Andrew Neu on saxophone. She will join the Swarthmore College Jazz Ensemble for a special concert on April 7. This is a great opportunity to hear a world-renowned musician perform with the talented jazz students of Swarthmore College.

Andrew Neu
Wind ensemble

Wind Ensemble Concert to Feature American Ragtime, Lincolnshire Folk and Cuban Dance

At 8:00 P.M. on Nov. 18 in Lang Concert Hall, the Swarthmore College Wind Ensemble, conducted by Professor Andrew Hauze, will bring its audience back to the early 20th century–back to the time of piano four-hands played in British and American homes, of ragtime in bars and brothels and dance halls, and of charismatic folk singers.

The hour-long concert will open with Lincolnshire Posy, an experimental fantasia by Australian composer Percy Grainger. Each of the six movements of the Lincolnshire Posy represents a different folk song that Grainger heard in his tour around the small villages of Lincolnshire. The folk songs memorialize historical events, including an unresolved feud between friends and the story of a missing sailor, once thought dead, returning home to his betrothed.

“In the music, it’s really interesting for the performer to see, ‘Okay, how’s Grainger taking this story and reimagining it in the way that he writes for the instruments?’” Hauze said. “Percy Grainger is not a household name, particularly in America, but he wrote some of the most original music you’ll hear. It has very traditional material so it’s very approachable—there’s a tune, you’ll get that—but at the same time it goes in these directions…when you listen to it and then you step back from it, it takes a moment to fully realize what you’ve heard.”

The second half of the concert will begin with dances composed by Antonín Dvořák. Dvořák’s mentor, Johannes Brahms, had written wildly successful Hungarian dances and suggested that Dvořák do the same. “These composers are mostly writing symphonies and very serious chamber music and in some cases opera, and these are kind of prestige things, but they’re not necessarily big moneymakers,” Hauze said. Some of Dvořák’s most popular and lucrative pieces were the Slavonic dances he then wrote, inspired by his home, the Czech lands. They were piano four-hands duets performed for family and friends as a favorite pastime of middle-class Europeans and Americans in the early 20th century.

In addition, the wind ensemble will perform “Danzon,” a Cuban-inspired piece from Leonard Bernstein’s score for a ballet called Fancy Free. “[“Danzon”] is also a little homage to Bernstein, because he’s entering his centennial year,” Hauze said. “He’s also one of my favorite composers, and wind ensemble in particular plays a lot of Bernstein. It’s really well suited to the group.”

The closing piece of the concert is “The Thriller,” a ragtime piano piece composed by May Aufderheide that Hauze arranged for wind and percussion instruments. According to Hauze, Aufderheide and her contemporary Julia Lee Niebergall were especially notable as a female composers from Indianapolis. “They weren’t in New York, they weren’t in one of the major metropolises, and they were women, and ragtime was dominated by male composers, both black and white,” Hauze said.  “They wrote some great rags but they’re mostly kind of forgotten these days, and I really like to play them on the piano, so I thought it would be fun to start making some arrangements for wind ensemble.”

The link between the varied compositions chosen for the concert is that none were written as concert pieces; they were intended to be sung or danced along to. The lively and lighthearted rhythm of the concert may just make it hard to stay sitting down.

Bayliss Wagner ’21

Fetter group

The Fetter Chamber Music Program Concerts

Student musicians from the Elizabeth Pollard Fetter Chamber Music Program will perform three concerts in the upcoming months. The Elizabeth Pollard Fetter Music Program began in 1975 as the “Pollard Scholarship Funds,” with an initial contribution from Elizabeth Pollard Fetter ’25 in memory of her mother, Emilie Garrett Pollard ’93. The program has evolved several times since its conception, first granting scholarships for string quartets in the 1970s and eventually reaching its present form in 2001. The program currently helps fund the coaching of several chamber music groups. Students are required to audition, but as Fetter faculty advisor Dr. Michael Johns cautions, “[the] Program does not exist to discourage playing, it is here to share the beauty of collective music making with as many willing students as possible.”

Fetter student musicians come from a diverse background of musical styles and a broad range of experience but once a group is formed, Dr. Johns says, the expectation is the same for everyone: play your best, prepare your part, grow with the ensemble, and contribute.” In addition to their coaching, each Fetter group must conduct a one-hour, student-led rehearsal each week. As Dr. Johns emphasizes, “The students are not merely encouraged to take ownership, they must take ownership if the music is to come alive. Chamber music is conversation, not a top-down structure.”

The first program will be held on November 17th at 8:00pm in the Lang Concert Hall, and will feature the Swarthmore College Gospel Choir, a student piano composition, cello sonata, piano four-hands, and a piano quartet (piano, violin, viola, and cello). The program includes pieces by Johannes Brahms, Samuel Barber, and Antonín Dvořák, among others.

The second program will be held on December 1st and is part of the Eugene Lang Celebration. Dr. Johns says that while the Eugene Lang Celebration did not directly influence the program, “the student performers are aware that it is an honor to be on this concert and that they represent generations of Swarthmore students, faculty, and community members who have benefitted from Eugene Lang’s leadership and generosity.” Mr. Lang has made it possible for a great deal of students to pursue their passions in the arts, and the Fetter performers undoubtedly embody his vision of a rigorous, collaborative environment in which diverse musical styles can converge to create something meaningful. This concert is more focused on vocals and will include a vocal quartet, opera scenes, a soprano-piano repertoire (including one piece by the soprano herself), and a piano quartet.

The final program, held on December 2nd, will include three student composer’s string quartets, Renaissance vocal music, a string quartet, and the Swarthmore College Lab Orchestra with student conductors. Student conducting is an incredibly important part of Swarthmore’s music program that permeates virtually all of the performing arts on campus. For example, Shira Samuels-Shragg ‘19 was recently the Music Director for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a job that combines orchestral conducting with dance and musical theater. To have a concert that features student conductors heavily befits their importance, and that of the musicians’, to Swarthmore’s performing arts community as a whole.

In addition to the many things that make the Fetter Music Program special, most groups within the program are taught by an outside professional musician that coaches the group throughout the rehearsal process. Swarthmore Music Chair Thomas Whitman ‘82 appreciates this attribute of the program in particular: “these coaches typically have particular musical expertise that is not present in the core Music Faculty, so Fetter enhances and deepens the overall curriculum of our Department.” He thinks that “Fetter is an under-appreciated gem that exemplifies what is best about the Swarthmore College experience,” molding an already-talented group of musicians into valuable contributors to the larger music world through rigorous practice and a deep intellectual engagement in their material. Dr. Johns agrees, adding that the world we live in now has a need for chamber music that many people probably do not realize: “Chamber music–the art of intimate musical conversation–is a vehicle that allows performers and listeners to experience their full humanity. It has never been more necessary. Students playing chamber music is enormously encouraging because they are the future and they will bring the qualities reinforced through chamber music–cooperation, respect for tradition, increased expressive and concentration capacity–with them into our fast-moving world.”

All of the concerts are free and open to the public

Gabriel Hearn-Desautels ’20

Shira Samuels-Shragg as Musical Director of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

From November 10-12th, a group of Swarthmore students will perform The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a musical comedy by William Finn. The musical made its Broadway debut in 2005 to widespread critical acclaim, winning a Tony Award and several Drama Desk Awards.

Swarthmore’s production falls under the musical direction of Shira Samuels-Shragg ‘20, a sophomore with a rich musical history and a preternatural gift for conducting, who also loves to dance. Samuels-Shragg grew up in a musical household, listening to classical music and attending concerts with her family. She began playing piano at a very young age and picked up the viola soon after, but it was in eighth grade that she discovered her love for conducting. She had been working on a project called “Women in Conducting,” and the orchestra director at her school allowed her to continue studying the craft. “There was an ‘aha’ moment where I realized conducting combined my three favorite things: music, dance, and being in charge.” Thus began a fruitful career in orchestral conducting. In 2015, Samuels-Shragg was selected to be one of two inaugural conducting apprentices with Carnegie Hall’s National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America. The following year she became the first high schooler to be selected as a conducting intern with the Los Angeles Youth Orchestra. In the fall of 2017 she conducted part of a concert with Chamber Orchestra First Editions, “a professional ensemble that combines new works with early Mozart.” She currently helps conduct the Swarthmore College Lab Orchestra as part of her studies with Lecturer Andrew Hauze.

Despite working more than 20 hours per week on the production, Samuels-Shragg says directing The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee has been immensely rewarding. In addition to working with the actors, she says that collaborating with the pit musicians has been especially fulfilling: “We have an all-star team of musicians and they’re cooperative and patient with me. Conducting for theater can be very different from classical orchestral conducting, so it’s been a joy being surrounded by supportive musicians as I figure out what works and what doesn’t.” Although her experience has primarily been in classical orchestral conducting, she says that she has always had a love for musical theater, and that working on this production has reaffirmed her desire to work at least partially in show business. “After Swat I’m planning on going to grad school and then pursuing a career in conducting, so I’m hoping I can find a professional balance between the orchestral and theater worlds.”

Her love for this production is clear: “I’m deeply grateful to be part of this project. It’s been an insane semester of rehearsals, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. We’ve poured so much of ourselves into this show, and I’m proud of the result.”

The November 10th show will be held at 8pm. On November 11th there will be two shows, at 2pm and at 8pm. The last show, on November 12th, will begin at 2pm.

                                                                               Gabriel Hearns-Desautels ’20

Concertmaster-David-Kim

The Swarthmore College Orchestra and David Kim

This fall’s Swarthmore College Orchestra concert will be one for the books. Each semester, the orchestra graces the community with a culminating musical performance as a result of their many rehearsals and efforts, but rarely is the orchestra joined by such musical greatness as in this upcoming concert, featuring David Kim as guest violinist. David Kim has studied violin from the age of three, receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Juilliard School, and is now the concertmaster for the Philadelphia Orchestra. He has received accolades from the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, and will perform with the Swarthmore Orchestra in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto.

The Swarthmore Department of Music and Dance has a long relationship with David Kim, who has previously given solo recitals and master classes at the college.  Kim will also return to the college in the spring to play a Bach Concerto alongside the Swarthmore Lab Orchestra and lead a violin master class. He last performed with the Orchestra in 2013, so current students will now have the opportunity to hear him for the first time. Andrew Hauze, conductor of the Swarthmore College Orchestra, remembers his last concert with high regards. “Those of us involved will never forget the power and beauty of that performance,” says Hauze. “It is such a great experience for our students to get to play alongside one of the greatest violinists playing today. Our students always give intensely committed and exciting performances, and the energy will be even higher with our collaboration with David Kim.”

In addition to the featured Tchaikovsky Concerto, this semester’s set list includes two pieces from English operas: the overture to The Wreckers and “The Walk to the Paradise Garden” from A Village Romeo and Juliet. Both songs are rarely performed; Hauze had to obtain the score for The Wreckers from a UK library, which he newly engraved for future orchestral performances. However, Hauze considers his efforts worth the reward of exposing the community to such music. “I am especially excited that we are playing the overture,” he says. “The music is magnificent, with lush harmonies, striking themes, and wonderfully colorful orchestration.” The program features Romantic themes and, Hauze notes, should please anyone who enjoys beautiful, sweeping orchestral sounds. “To get to hear such moving music in such an intimate space should be a real treat for our audience.”

The Swarthmore College Orchestra’s fall concert, featuring David Kim, will be held on November 12th at 7:30 PM in Lang Concert Hall. This event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit https://www.swarthmore.edu/music/concerts-events.

                             Maya Kikuchi ’20

Josh Mundinger ’18 Profile and Senior Recital

At his senior recital on Nov. 3 in Lang Concert Hall, music and honors mathematics major Josh Mundinger ’18 will perform selections of Bach’s 24 preludes and fugues (The Well-Tempered Clavier), Shostakovich’s Opus 87 from his 24 preludes, and Chopin’s B Minor Sonata. He has played the piano since he was six years old, yet his most enthusiastic comments concerned music theory and its mathematical elements.

“If I were to continue music academically, it would probably be in theory, especially because I would try to connect that to my interest in math as well,” he said. “Jon Kochavi, I have him now in a seminar in music theory and that’s been really enjoyable. It, for one [thing], touches on these mathematical connections, and we’ve been getting into weird music, and that’s something I really enjoy.”

Mundinger’s love for music theory animated his speech and actions as he described Chopin’s exploratory B Minor Sonata. “There’s these small little melodic fragments that are constantly trading off and appearing and disappearing and they slide together in really interesting ways,” he said, emphatically moving his hands in waves as he visualized the different melodic lines, harmonic shifts and textures all simultaneously present in the piece.

Mundinger first heard the sonata performed by professional pianist Ilya Poletaev at Swarthmore and the crescendo of the piece convinced him to study it. “The moment that really made me sit up in my seat was this chromatic scale setting in the bass,” he said, raising his arms and stretching them wider and wider to represent the range of the scale. “The bass line has this chromatic scale that goes up the piano and is crescendoing and the tension just builds and builds and builds.”

He values exploration of music so much that he dared to go against Beethoven lovers when he was younger. “I said I didn’t like Beethoven and I’m not really sure why,” he said. “Maybe it’s just because I didn’t want to accept what other people told me was good.” Despite his former disdain for Beethoven’s music, he has found that his study of the composer in high school and at Swarthmore have made Beethoven into a formative influence on him. “Music 13 and 14–in that class, I learned a lot about the music of Chopin and Beethoven and these Romantic composers that have been that cornerstone of my piano music made a huge impact on how I approach that repertoire,” he said.

For the 16 years he has been playing piano, Mundinger has preserved his passion for music and music theory by tackling new composers, new techniques and new forms of music, from Chopin’s études to the “weird music” he studies in his music theory seminar,  because they inspire him to push his skills further and get into the “nitty-gritty” of the music.

At 12, he learned the oboe. He performed new piano pieces he had learned for the prelude, postlude, and offering of the Lutheran church his family attended in his hometown of Boulder, CO, and even worked on learning the organ around age 16.

He has played chamber music since he was a freshman, at first in a piano trio with Noah Rosen ’18 and Jasmine Sun ’18, then in a quartet when violist Ayaka Yorihiro ’20 joined. And during his semester in Budapest junior year, he continued to play solo piano.

“I think for me a lot of [my interest] comes from renewing the type of music I’m listening to, renewing the styles that I’m playing, not just settling for the same composers,” he said. “Eventually you stop growing and…you get all you can from a particular genre, a particular composer, a particular set.”

After leaving Swarthmore, Mundinger will continue to play solo piano. Mundinger also plans to pursue a Ph.D in mathematics. He feels he will miss fellow music majors and their respect for musical exploration and individual taste.

“Everyone has a deep respect for each other’s music-making. Everyone has different aesthetics [and] different ideas about what music is good and yet we’re able to talk to each other and our friends, so that’s something I really enjoy about this particular community.”

Bayliss Wagner ’21