Spring Fetter Concerts Feature David Kim, Student Conductors, and Into the Woods

What do the musical Into The Woods, an experimental student orchestra, and a cello/piano sonata have in common? These are just a few performances featured in the Fetter concert series, which will run from April 20 through April 28.

Professor Michael Johns has been coordinating the Fetter Program since 2001. The program, originally called “Pollard Scholarship Funds,” debuted in 1975. As Professor Johns explains,

“In 2001, the program, which had initially supported a single string quartet, was renamed the Elizabeth Pollard Fetter Chamber Music Program and expanded to support the coaching of multiple chamber music groups. Funding continues to be enhanced by successive generations of the Fetter family. Students wanting to participate in the Fetter Program need to audition, and the time commitment is two hours a week: one hour with an assigned professional coach, a second hour-long rehearsal by the students.”

The Fetter Program has earned recognition beyond Swarthmore. Ellen Liu ’18, who will be performing in the first concert of the Fetter series, is taking part in the program for the first time this semester, after a four-year break from music classes.

“I heard about the program prior to coming to Swarthmore, because I had planned on getting involved in the music department from the beginning,” says Liu. “…last semester, one of my friends, who has played in a chamber group for all his time here, encouraged me to reach out to the department and see how I could get back into it. I was put into this group and I honestly couldn’t be more excited to be able to play again…I hadn’t played piano seriously in a long time and I was really happy to be able to return to musicsince it was such a big part of my life before college.” Liu will be performing a Beethoven trio for flute, bassoon, and piano – a rarely-seen combination.

This year’s Fetter concerts feature a variety of musical pieces and instrumental combinations. Rebecca Rosenthal ’20, another first-time participant in the Fetter series, will be singing and playing the role of the Baker’s Wife in the opening from Stephen Sondheim’s acclaimed musicalInto The Woods.

“I got involved when [a friend] asked if I would be interested in learning the piece…It’s been a lot of fun — besides learning the difficult music, which has a ton of moving parts and a lot of tricky spots, we spent last weekend actually staging the 15-minute sequence. So I had to learn how to act, too! Channelling your emotions is an integral part of so many musicalperformances and is often overlooked.”

Not all Fetter students are first-time participants: this is Kevin Lai ’18’s fifth semester participating in the program; four previous Fetter concerts have not dampened his enthusiasm or energy. He will be performing the Grieg Sonata on the piano, accompanied by Kyle Yee ‘19 on the cello.

“I think last semester’s Fetter concert was by far my best. I really enjoyed the music, and the crowd was entertained by our playing,” says Lai. “For me, if we please the crowd and play as well as we do in rehearsals, then that makes me extremely happy. I have worked with the same coach for 4 semesters now, so at this point, we have developed an amazing working relationship. Our coach pushes us to not only nail all the notes but also bring out the emotions and feelings from the piece.”

Another Fetter performance to watch out for is the Lab Orchestra, a group launched in Fall 2016 to give student conductors some practical experience. Shira Samuels-Shragg ’20, one of this year’s conductors, explains that “musicians in the ensemble are paid to rehearse on Saturday mornings with two student conductors. Andrew Hauze brilliantly coaches us [the conductors], suggesting changes and pointing out problem areas. In that sense, Lab rehearsals function as conducting lessons. Since fall 2017, Andrew Kim ‘18 and I have been the two conductors of Lab, so each of us rehearses for an hour with the ensemble every week…this semester we’re conducting Bach’s Violin concerto in E Major with soloist David Kim, and that has been such a blessing. He is simultaneously a world-class violinist and an incredibly generous and kind collaborator.”

Each of the Fetter students expresses excitement for their upcoming concerts. Audience members can enjoy a variety of performances, from a Renaissance vocal quintet to jazz improvisations. As Samuels-Shragg sums it up,“the Fetter concerts are a wonderful break from end-of-semester craziness. It’s always exciting to see what other groups in the musicdepartment having been working on over the past several months.”

The Lab Orchestra and David Kim will be playing in the second Fetter concert, on Sunday April 22nd at 7:30 PM. The other Fetter concerts will be on April 20th, 27th, and 28th, at 8:00 PM in Lang Concert Hall.

Emilie Hautemont ’20