A Moonlit Evening: CU’s annual soiree

By Kimb Frey

A&E Editor

At 7:30 p.m., Feb. 27, in the McCutcheon Recital Hall, the Department of Art, Music and Theatre Arts presented Soirée XI: Moonstruck, an evening of piano and vocal performances.

For the past eleven years, Cameron music professors and students have put together an evening of music in order to give the piano students performance opportunities and experience.

Professor of Music and Piano, and the Louise D. McMahon Endowed Chair in Music Dr. Hyunsoon Whang said piano students needed performing experience not just to play solo but also to play accompaniment.

“If you’re voice major, for example, then you have choir concerts to prepare for,” Whang said. “If you’re a clarinetist, then you’re in a band, and a band plays concerts. For pianos, we don’t have a big group of pianos that we can all play together.”

Whang said that each Soirée — called so because of the intimate setting — has had a different theme, in the past doing all French music or all duets.

“So, this year, it had to do with all the music that is inspired by and about the moon,” she said. “There is plenty of great music for that, ‘Moonlight’ Sonata, ‘Clair de Lune,’ and also so many songs and arias.”

Whang said she collaborated with the department’s vocal professors to choose the performance pieces and pair them with their students.

The evening started with Mozart, with vocalist Junior Music Education Major Mikayla Stephenson singing “Abendempfindug” and concurrent Cache High School Junior and Cameron student Chelsea Mitchell on piano accompaniment.

“Abendempfindug” translates from German to “Evening Thoughts” in English. Poet Joachim Heinrich Campe wrote the lyrics to the Mozart music, which is a meditation on the passing of time and life:

“It is evening, the sun has vanished, / And the moon sheds its silver light; / So life’s sweetest hours speed by, / Flit by as in a dance!”

The evening continued with Schumann’s “Mondnacht” (“Moonlit Night”) and Brahms’ “Die Mainacht” (“May Night”), with Junior Vocal Performance Major Khalil Cabrera-Tosado performing both, and Freshman Piano Performance Major Gabe Willbourn and Junior Mathematics Major Malcolm Gehlbach on accompaniment respectively.

Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” came next with Willbourn, Sophomore Piano Performance Major Brittany Dabbs and Junior Social Studies Education and Music Major Jacob Austin each performing one movement of the popular Sonata.

After the intermission, Sophomore Biology Major Thadyn Du Pont performed Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” (“Moonlight”).

Du Pont said that Debussy based his piano piece off Paul Verlaine’s poem of the same name and that Debussy was an impressionist composer.

“Whenever he wrote his music, he wanted the listeners to have some sort of idea for the piece,’ Du Pont said. “So, whenever you listen to ‘Claire de Lune,’ you should be able to hear the moon shimmering, the moonlight shimmering.”

Verlaine’s moonlight poem also inspired Debussy’s contemporary, composer Gabriel Fauré, to write his version of “Clair de Lune” for piano and then orchestra with vocals.

Sophomore Vocal Performance Major Heather Martin lent her ethereal soprano vocals to the piece with Austin on accompaniment.

She sang in French the melancholic lyrics:

“While singing in a minor key/ Of victorious love, and the pleasant life/ They seem not to believe in their own happiness/ And their song blends with the moonlight,”  

Sophomore Music Education Major David Gracia then made his vocalist performance debut singing Bellini’s “Vega Luna” (“Beautiful Moon”).

“It was great,” Gracia said. “It felt like this is what I’m meant to do, and I will forever thank Dr. Whang for giving me the opportunity.”

Gracia had Dabbs for his accompanist.

The penultimate song of the evening was “Song to the Moon” from Dvořák’s opera “Rusalka.” Originally written in the Czech language, Senior Vocal Performance Major Corbyn Nauman performed the soprano Aria in English with Du Pont accompanying.

Du Pont said that he felt that Nauman’s performance in English made the piece more relatable to the audience and that she did an amazing job on her performance.

“I think she’s probably one of my favorite vocalists,” Du Pont said. “She’s just got such a deep, robust voice.”

Closing the evening’s homage to the hoary orb on the horizon, Senior Music Education Major Destiny Abila sang Margaret Wise Brown’s beloved poem “Good Night Moon” set to the music Eric Whitacre composed specifically for it, which Austin played.

Abila sang good night to the moon and good night to the room — a projection of the great, green room with the telephone and the red balloon described in the song above her — and thereby released the audience from the evening’s spell.

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