William Blake was an English poet whose work inspired Ralph Vaughn Williams’s compositions. courtesy Wikipedia

Concerts with Commentary educates about music

Tenor Kim Childs, oboist Lisa Wagner and flautist John Rush perform Ralph Vaugh Williams and Carl Philipp Emanual Bach.

On Thursday Nov. 7, the music department presented Concerts with Commentary, which consisted of “Ten Blake Songs” by Ralph Vaughn Williams and Carl Phillipp Emanual Bach’s “Sonata for Flute in A Minor.” This one was rather unique: instead of having a piano accompanist and either a vocalist or instrumentalist, this concert consisted of a vocalist, oboist and flautist, all of whom are faculty members of the TU Music Department.

At the beginning of the concert, the vocalist, Dr. Kim Childs, took the time to explain the significance of the songs. Ralph Vaughn Williams (1872-1958), was inspired by a set of poems by William Blake (1757- 1827) that were based on the little pleasures of life. Later on, he set them to music that was used in the 1958 documentary “The Vision of William Blake.”

Instead of using a pianist, Williams composed the songs as either a cappella or with an oboe. Mrs. Lisa Wagner played the oboe at this concert. Unlike a piano accompanist, the oboist was not there to support the vocalist (feed the melody line to the singer); instead the oboe was its own separate entity and simply harmonizing with the voice line. If told this idea or seen on paper (not sheet music!), this idea would have appeared odd.
Even though there was a strong independence between stellar musicians and their instruments, hearing the oboe and singer intertwine was magic in the air. It wasn’t just music, it became a story. When it was over, the audience was in a trance, wanting more and waiting for the next song. However, when Dr. Childs and Mrs. Wagner took their bow together, the audience knew it was over and the auditorium ruptured in applause.
The next set consisted of two instruments: oboe and flute. Like Dr. Childs, the flautist, Professor John Rush enthusiastically shared a little bit about Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788) and his composition style for the piece of the night.

Rush stated that although the piece, “Sonata for Flute in A Minor,” is intended to be performed in a much smaller, more intimate setting, it was versatile with a few adjustments, such as switching the flute used. Aside from this, he also explained how the piece itself was different from the other pieces of the time period: it uses a slow-fast-fast form to illustrate the intensity. At the end, the audience was impressed and applauded the duo. Unlike the Blake Songs, the oboe and flute fit perfectly together, bringing out the unique identity of the piece even more.

Despite the contrasting styles of music, the concert flowed together and the pieces performed complemented each other. Although Concerts with Commentary vary, I highly recommend going to them. The TU Music professors took the time to understand not just their instrument’s line, but the music as a whole. Their love of music showed through their collaboration and knowledge as well as their attention to details.

It’s fascinating to hear the details of the music that you probably wouldn’t have noticed from just listening alone. Concerts with Commentary is also a great way to discover different combinations of compositions from different genres and eras and how it all forms a musical connection. The possibilities are endless, and that’s what makes it wonderful.

Post Author: Karelia Alexander