Winter Concert

9, December 2008 § Leave a comment

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Student Post: Maggie Bell

19, November 2008 § Leave a comment

maggie-and-emily-music-room

Maggie Bell and Emily Ogelsby

I am from outside of Cleveland, Ohio and I am a junior from Dartmouth College majoring in Classical Studies and European History. After spending the past calendar year with a full academic load, I chose to take the fall quarter off from school and try something completely new. The Aegean Center Italy & Greece program gives me the opportunity to combine my current academic interests with the fine arts, which I have not studied since high school. I am taking courses in digital photography, basic camera usage, photo history, Greek art history, Greek literature, Greek language, and Greek dancing.

Throughout high school and college I have been involved in vocal performance in school choruses, church choirs, and an all female a cappella group. I am particularly lucky here and get to continue singing this fall with the Aegean Center Vocal Ensemble. The Vocal Ensemble is comprised of five students and nine Paros residents. While we were in Italy, Orfeas, the Ensemble’s director, worked with the new students on some of the basic technique we would need once we joined the rest of the ensemble in Greece. These lessons included work on vowel pronunciation, breathing technique, and blending our sound.

The Ensemble practices twice a week, for two and a half hours at a time, preparing our repertoire for the winter concert. During the second week of December, we will perform our concert for the public once in Naoussa and twice in Paroikia. The program includes four Medieval church songs, seven French Renaissance court songs, and three contemporary pieces. We are expected to learn the basics of our music on our own so that we do not waste rehearsal time reviewing basic intervals and parts.

Each rehearsal begins with a 30-minute warm up of physical and vocal exercises. These often focus on more than just our pitch, such as our ability to blend as a group and make one, uniform sound. We then fine tune our songs, focusing on dynamics (when to sing louder vs more softly) and on memorizing. Our Wednesday rehearsals are spent doing run-thrus of the entire concert. It has been great to hear not just the group pieces, but the many solos, duets and trios that are part of the repertoire. Another student, Emily Oglesby, and I are performing a French Renaissance court song as a duet, and singing it in front of the group each week will hopefully help me get all the nervousness out of my system before December.

The Vocal Ensemble is definitely a lot of work, but the atmosphere of rehearsals is also a lot of fun, and not simply intense. It is a great opportunity to meet and interact with more Paros residents then we might otherwise, and there is always some time during rehearsal to laugh at something ridiculous that someone says or does. The Ensemble is a great way to work toward a final product that is very different from what we are producing with our studio work, and I can not wait to see, or rather hear, how all of our hard work pays off at the concerts.

The Vocal Ensemble Concert Review

4, June 2008 § Leave a comment

From the upcoming July issue of Paros Life:

After more than half a decade of twice yearly choral concerts, Maestro Orfeas had stimulated in many of us an almost Pavlovian response: it is the end of the season, the angels are gathering, time for a concert. It may be a miracle that there is a chorus singing the greatest a cappella music on little Paros, but for music lovers here it has become a component of our cultural wellbeing, a June wedding with beauty.

The group has nine singers now, all but one permanent residents. The nine muses comprise sopranos Niki Chasapi and Apollonia Ikonomou; mezzo sopranos Jane Morris Pack, Ute Maria Troussa, Birgitte Karavia, and Stella Skordalellis; altos Konstantina Andreakou and Vicki Preston; and baritone Joshua Warren. I attended
the second of three performances, and got there early enough to secure a place in the front stiffbacked pew.
Dressed in white, the chorus processed into the small church singing “Veni, Creator Spiritus”, a hymn by Gilles Binchois (1400-1460), one of his century’s greatest composers; the maestro gave the beat on a drum. And the evening’s first part consisted entirely of ancient church music. “Gaudens in Domino”, a hymn by favorite composer, Anonymous, followed: it was uplifting, lovely, in tune. The third was a duet between Niki’s pure soprano and Stella’s luxurious mezzo; a Benedictus by Antoine Brumel (1460-1513), it may
have been my favorite of the evening. With its long melisma, it reveled in the polyphonic fluidity which was about to become the stylistic norm of the Josquin generation.
Anonymous again demonstrated his superiority with Crucifigat Omnes. Well, not really anonymous, since it is pretty sure this is the work of Notre Dame de Paris’ Pérotin, who flourished at the start of the 13th century, which is when classical music – accurately notated music with more than one part – also started. Art
has its fluctuations, but does not progress the way science does; as proof, founding father Perotinus Magister wrote surpassingly beautiful music, realized with beauty and exactitude by Apollonia, Ute, and Jane.
The French may have been tops for a century or two, but England also produced fine music. The concert’s first part closed with a beautiful Sanctus by Richard Chirbury (1380-1454), an English master new to me.
For the second half of the evening, the chorus jumped five-and-a-half centuries. But writers of true polyphony – who keep things separate but united, melodic but harmonic, sharp and sweet – are never as far apart as all that, and the pieces now performed were audibly in the same tradition.
Aulis Sallinen (b.1935), sometimes considered Sibelius’ rival for greatest Finnish composer, wrote a lot for the voice. His “Sea Danger” from 1974 frightened us islanders: “Deep in the ocean unfathomable danger is awaiting you.” The chorus then accompanied Stella in Sallinen’s “Ballad”, in which a pretty young lady (Stella
looks the part) leaves her love to cross the sea – a dolorous theme also common in Greek folk music; Stella imbued the solo part with throbbing tenderness.
After a simple and direct selection of the Magnificat by the contemporary Oregonian composer Lana Walter, the spiritual ambience was increased by “Ego, O Proaionios Tragoudistis” (I, the Eternal Singer), by Orfeas himself. This was a strophic setting in a minor key with semi-cadences on the major second, of a mystical text by Panayiotis Papadopoulos. Jane and Apollonia, who performed it to perfection, have clearly been heeding the maestro, who knows things I do not, and not only musical things. It is a haunting piece.
Hugo Distler (1908-1942) is known mostly for his church choral music, and his setting of Psalm 42 is a splendid example. Depressed by the war – the Nazis deemed his music degenerate – he committed suicide in his home town of Berlin at 34. His pieces are free and virtuosic, but that proved no problem for our chorus, who gave a thrilling performance.
Anonymous American hymnals have proved a mine of lovely, heartfelt music, as Apollonia, Ute, and Jane demonstrated with “Wondrous Love”. This served as a prelude to the closing spiritual, “Set Down Servant”: the chorus wailed, Stella and Joshua preached the truth, Orfeas presided and guided, and indeed afterwards I couldn’t sit down – though I would have had they done it all again.
–Jeffrey Carson

A Busy Session at the Center

11, May 2008 § Leave a comment

David Romtvedt playing the button accordian for Phil Able, John, Margot Brown, and John Van Buren

It is always busy at the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts, but the Spring 2008 session at the Center has been particularly animated. There have been visiting artists, guests, alumni, readings, performances and presentations. Here is a short post to recap some of the events of the session so far and some of the activities to come.

Starting in mid-March, 2005-2006 alumni Maria-Elena and Gabriel’s former tutor Brett arrived. Maria-Elena gave a stirring solo performance for an assembled audience of faculty, students and friends of the center.

Also in March, visiting professors Peter Abbs and Lisa Dart made their regular visit to the “Academy” (as Peter likes to call the Aegean Center) and gave a joint poetry reading featuring recent and older works. Peter also read poems to be featured in John and Peter’s upcoming exhibition The Greater Journey in Canterbury this September.

April saw the arrival of artist-in residence Betsy Bonner. Betsy and poet Alicia Stallings would later give an enjoyable reading of their respective works, which could be see in video on this page.

Greek Easter came late (April 27) and with it the arrival of many guests. Close Aegean Center friend John Van Buren was the first to arrive bringing with him some welcome warm, spring weather. John enjoyed works in progress in the studios, sat in on vocal performances from the ensemble, and ate his fair share of delicious tzatziki. John also brought two old friends to the Center, Wyoming Poet Laureate and musician David Romtvedt and ceramist and gallery director Margot Brown, David’s wife. David gave two performances, one a selection of poems and the other a musical performance. Playing his button accordion and accompanied by Margot on percussion, David gave an interesting and rousing performance of various folks music of the Americas. Margot gave a presentation of her artwork, as well as pieces from artists represented at her gallery.

During the same week visiting photographer Marion Patterson, a student and colleague of Ansel Adams, gave an enthralling presentation of her life as a photographer, and displayed the work featured in her book Grains of Sand. After the presentation Marian graciously went out with photo students to and together they shot photographs of the Paros landscape.

Other visitors were 2001-2002 alumni Anne-Meade and spring 2002 alumni Arial. Next week will see a presentation by philosopher Warwick Fox. Later in May the Center will feature  poets Christopher Merrill, director of the Iowa University’s International Writers’ Program, and Adrianne Kalfpoulou. Aegean Center alum and exhibiting photographer Holly Lynton will come to show her work as well.

Meanwhile, the students are all hard at work as the session is beginning to wind down. Next up, the vocal perfomances (ensemble and solo), followed by the Student Reading, to be followed by the Student Exhibition, concluding this wonderfully busy and animated spring session.

-by Jun-Pierre Shiozawa

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