The TU Opera Theatre presented “A Tribute to Alec Wilder” on March 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the Meinig Recital Hall. Known for his whimsical and humorous compositions, Wilder created several themes for “Winnie-the-Pooh” and a few delightful plays.
The program started with the Pooh Instrumental Ensemble singing “Cottleston Pie” and “Sing Ho! For the Life of a Bear!” from “Winnie-the-Pooh.” Their formally trained voices made these adorable pieces wonderfully enjoyable. The audience could be heard giggling as the two songs progressed. “Blackberry Winter” was next, with bittersweet tones about short winter days.
Solo clarinetist Kristi Sturgeon performed “Grazioso” with piano accompaniment Brady McElligott. Then it was back to the singers. Daniel Maxwell and Sarah Maud sang the heartfelt “Photographs” about memories a couple had together while in love. Unexpectedly, “How Lovely is Christmas” sung by Jevan Bremby was next. Why there was a Christmas song in a March concert is still unknown, but it sure sounded nice.
Before the intermission, half of the performers sang and acted “The House-Lights Lower” from Wilder’s play “The Opening.” The fourth wall was broken as the front row of an audience chatted during a production of the play “Cinderella.” Zane Cawthon played Prince Charming trying to find a princess in the audience while sporting a plastic crown and toy megaphone.
After a ten minute intermission, the company took on another scene from one of Wilder’s plays. A scene from “Sunday Excursion” depicted four cranky and love-struck Yale students, performed by Darcy Waller, Hannah Parker, Zane Cawthon and Asura Oulds-Jones, who accompany a bumbly magazine and apple salesman, played by Michael Schrag, on a train.
Accompanied by pianist Drew Crane and bassist Billy Mayer, Sarah Maud sang a vivid and sultry “I’ll Be Around.” Once again, the instrumentalists soloed without voices. Entitled “Effie Goes to the Carnival” from Wilder’s “Effie Suite,” Tubist Hunter Hanna, clarinetist Kristi Sturgeon and pianist Brady McElligott played this whimsical song. Rarely is a tuba given so much limelight, and the song showcased the incredible range, dynamism and charm of the big brass instrument.
Darcy Waller and Asura Oulds-Jones sang the romantic and giddy duet “Love is When” that left some audience members happily sighing from its sweetness. Next to sing was Abby Raiford performing the haunting “River Run” that was accompanied by the entire company of singers.
Blake Fusick performed and sang “The Baggage Room Blues” as an aggravated TSA agent wishing the airplane passengers would stop leaving their luggage at the airport. To conclude the evening Melanie Piche sang the short and sweet song “While We’re Young” that ended the night’s performance on a hopeful and energetic note.