Newly-written works performed by Music Department
By Caroline Ho, Arts Editor
Listeners were entertained and enthralled at the Student Composition Concert on Friday, December 2 in the Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre. Part of Douglas College Music Department’s Fall 2016 Concert Series, the concert featured 11 original pieces composed by students over the past semester, and has been taking place twice a year since 1999.
The performances were prefaced by an introduction by Doug Smith, head of music composition at Douglas College. He promised that the evening would deliver an eclectic, exotic mixture of songs, and the students and performers delivered in every sense.
Some of the songs were solo works written for piano. Other pieces featured intricate harmonization between two or three instruments. A few were played by larger ensembles that included woodwinds, brass, strings, percussion, and more. Some of the pieces were spirited, uplifting works; others were hauntingly evocative and emotional.
One of the most moving pieces of the night was Emil Wu’s three-movement “In Time with Him.” The piece was played by piano, guitar, and violin, with all three instruments picking up and weaving a passionate melody together. The song was accompanied by a slideshow showing the subject of the song, the grandfather of Wu’s friend, throughout his life. Music and visuals came together to create an incredibly effective experience.
Every piece performed in the concert was exquisitely crafted, a clear demonstration of the composers’ passion, and a genuine delight to hear. Some of the performers launched straight into the music, immediately drawing listeners into the songs. Others began by giving a short introduction about their composition. Kylie Fonacier started off by jokingly announcing, “I’m Bach,” and then proceeded to regale the audience with a short speech full of hilarious musical puns.
Even more fun than her introduction was her composition itself, a piece titled “Hard to Get Away.” Sung by Fonacier and accompanied by eight other performers, the song described a woman playing hard to get. Fonacier explained that it was based on a melody she has had in her head for two years, and it was influenced by her listening to a lot of jazz and artists like Michael Bublé and Barbra Streisand.
Fonacier said she would like to write for musical theatre someday, and the performance of “Hard to Get Away” looked and sounded like it could have stepped straight out of Broadway. Having the opportunity to perform her own composition in this concert was “such a blessing, and a humbling experience.”
With such a varied mix of styles, the pieces were ordered such that larger ensembles mostly alternated with solo works. The stage had to be rearranged slightly between performances, as instruments and music stands were moved around, but the transitions were very smooth and gave the audience a chance to hear each unique piece with fresh ears.
The final performance of the night was Jaya Story’s “Quayside Flaneurie,” which also featured an ensemble of woodwinds, brass, strings, percussion, vocals, and Story on piano. Story, who has been composing since she was 12, said this was not the largest piece she has written in terms of numbers of players, but it’s probably the longest so far. She composed most of the first half in just a couple of hours in the very coffee shop where she first got the inspiration for the piece, although the motifs took somewhat longer to write.
According to Story, writing for a larger ensemble can be a little more challenging, because you have to find volunteers willing to play the various instruments. Luckily Douglas College has a fantastic music program, with students full of musical talent.
Finally, Smith came back onto the stage to close out the night. He thanked the audience for attending, and he thanked the performers—but most importantly, he thanked the composers for allowing the audience to share the beautiful musical experience created by these compositions.