In front of a large crowd in Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall on a Saturday night in New York City, Ithaca College music students performed a special concert on the same stage where such famed artists as Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and Joshua Bell have played.
Titled “The Exquisite Hour: MusIC of Love and Rapture,” the April 29 performance featured the Ithaca College Choir, Chamber Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Calvin Wiersma, assistant professor of performance studies, and Janet Galvan, professor of performance studies.
“A Saturday night performance in one of our country's major performing halls is a big deal,” said Galvan. “A very large audience is also a big deal. This is a life-changing experience, and our students rose to the occasion. I could not be more proud of each of the ensembles that performed.”
Senior bass player Gillian Dana said that the excitement of performing at Lincoln Center didn’t hit her until she was up on stage and saw the stab holes made by the endpins of past performers’ basses. “I realized what musicians those had come from and how important and talented they are, and now my endpin stab hole was one of them. That gave me the chills,” she said.
The students performed three pieces in total. The concert began with Wiersma directing the chamber orchestra’s performance of Richard Wagner’s “Siegfried Idyll.” In a first for the orchestra, the students memorized the music and played while performing choreographed movements on stage. Tucker Davis, a dance instructor in the Department of Theatre Arts, helped choreograph the movements, which served as a visual representation of the music.
The choir and symphony orchestra followed with the world premiere of “Solaris,” composed by 2006 alumnus Dominick DiOrio. The symphony was specially commissioned by Ithaca College for the concert. Galvan, who directed the choir and symphony orchestra, said that the piece received very positive reviews from those in attendance.
Junior performance and music education major Juliana Child sang a solo in “Solaris.” She was grateful for the opportunity to work with DiOrio in order to perform the piece the way that he and singer/poet Misha Penton, who wrote the lyrics to Child’s solo, “truly wanted it to be.” It made her moment on stage all the more special.
“Releasing that first note and hearing my own solo voice reverberating off of the walls of this enormous hall was absolutely thrilling,” said Child.
The choir and symphony orchestra closed out the concert with Samuel Barber’s “Prayers of Kierkegaard,” which Galvan said is rarely performed because of its difficulty. “From the beautiful a cappella chant by the men of the choir, through the beautifully moving solo prayer, through the rousing orchestral interlude, the piece enthralled the audience,” she said.
Many of the students were equally enthralled by playing in such a large, famous venue.
“You’re in this massive hall and the people who perform there are the best in the world,” said Matt Brockman, a junior trumpet player majoring in performance and music education. “To be able to perform there was just such an honor.”
They were also taken back by the quality of acoustics in the hall. “Alice Tully Hall is built to take sound and throw it,” said Imogen Mills, a junior music education major with a voice concentration. “You just have to open your mouth and the sound permeates without any effort at all. To sing in a space like that is absolutely incredible and so much fun.”
The big sound in the hall also presented a bit of a challenge. “Because the hall takes sound so easily you have to be really articulate,” said Mills. “If you don’t let consonants come out no one will understand a word that you’re singing.”
The students worked hard practicing for over a month for the performance. “There was a certain standard that everyone felt they needed to meet,” said Child. “I think there were a lot of nerves going into it, but as soon as we walked out onto the stage it was just pure exhilaration.”
The concert was supported by gifts from Ithaca College trustee and School of Music graduate Charles Hack ’69 and his wife, Angella Hearn, as well as the family of the late Pamela Gearhart, a longtime music professor and conductor of the orchestra.