Local artists present classical French music
By Adam Tatelman, Arts Editor
Although France’s contributions to the evolution of modern film and music are many and varied, I must admit that I am fairly illiterate when it comes to French culture. I rarely have a chance to see music performed live, so this week’s Arts at One offering, Café Terrace at Night, was a new and affecting experience for me.
The performance was organized by local soloist and music teacher Melanie Adams, piano instructor and church pianist Rita Attrot, piano teacher Alyssa Stoffberg, and tenor Clinton Bradley Stoffberg. Though he was not in attendance, local illustrator Isaiah Karesa provided additional visual artwork, recently presented in his debut exhibit at the RAW artists showcase in downtown Vancouver.
The musical selection was largely taken from the mid-to-late 1800’s, including works from iconic French composers like Maurice Ravel, Gabriel Faure, and Henri Duparc. Most of these were popular love songs and the upbeat party music of the time, though many of Claude Debussy’s pieces were more solemn, such as his mythological dedication “The Tomb of the Naiads.” This created an effective thematic contrast with the more bombastic like “The Tresses,” and kept each next piece interesting.
Most were solo vocals accompanied by piano. Considering the size of the Muir theatre, the vocalists’ skills should be commended. Although I did not understand the French lyrics, their vocal clarity carried the meaning quite effortlessly despite the large space they had to fill. “Claire de Lune,” my personal favorite, was a purely instrumental piano piece, played to hypnotic effect.
The performers also told a little of the history surrounding the songs and their composers, making Arts at One an educational experience as well. Some of the most interesting anecdotes involved Debussy’s “Three Songs of Bilitis,” which were based on characters in ancient Greek myth, as well as the tragedy of Henri Duparc, who destroyed most of his work in a fit of depression, leaving little to survive in posterity.
Having somewhat expanded my knowledge of France’s musical history, I can confidently say that I enjoyed my afternoon with Arts at One. The artists were all professional-level, and their performances clearly impressed the music students in attendance as much as they impressed me. Their eclectic selection and effective use of the space created a compelling presentation, and I would most certainly attend again in the future, if only to see what musical style the department will explore next.
Although Arts at One is presented mainly for the benefit of Douglas College’s music program students, the performances are open to the public for free. If you are interested in musical performance of any kind, catch next week’s Arts at One: Inavolatura in the Laura C. Muir Theatre on Thursday, February 25 at 1:00p.m.