Mt. A Music Department presents a delightful escape

On Saturday, September 17 at 7:30 p.m., Brunton Auditorium was filled with a low hum of gentle chatter across the audience. As the lights dimmed, Christie Goodwin, Patrick Bolduc, James Kalyn, and Lynn Johnson entered the stage to present a program that truly highlighted each member of the ensemble and gave the audience a night of musical enjoyment. 

“Much, though not quite all, of tonight’s music is on the light and refreshing side,” read the recital program notes. I entered this recital with little preamble of what was to be expected, and after a jam-packed first few weeks, a gentle escape was exactly what I needed. As described by second year saxophone major Alex Cass, “it was awesome, it was amazing, it defined my experience as a human being.” 

Beautiful simplicity was showcased in Jacques Ibert’s Cinq pieces en trio, written for woodwind trio of oboe, clarinet, and bassoon. Jenni Brandon’s Sea Quartet was a delightful escape to the seaside, with score notes such as “playful waves” and “a watery waltz” that came alive with the ensemble’s performance. 

The simple delight continued with Professor James Kalyn’s “No. 2 Charm” from Four Simple Latin Dances, which he said: “emerged as part of a sabbatical initiative … in response both to the great need for small-scale pieces with flexible instrumentation … and [his] own desire to write interesting music for young players.” While there may have been a practical element to the composition of the piece, it definitely also showed its “charm.” 

The second half of the concert offered a solo feature with piano accompaniment for each performer. It was clear that each piece held special meaning for the performer who presented it. Patrick Bolduc explained that Franz Berwald’s Konzertstück für Fagott und Orchester, Op. 2 was historically significant, developed alongside the invention of the modern bassoon. Christie Goodwin dedicated her piece—William Grant Still’s Incantation and Dance, to her grandmother. Their care and love for the pieces shined through in the deliberate clarity with which they played. 

Finally, James Kalyn on saxophone and Lynn Johnson on piano performed Stacy Garrop’s Tantrum. Like the Jenni Brandon piece, the performers shared some of the score markings, but these directions instead called for the players to scream, whine, and pound the piano with their fists. The shift in the program was clear. “It was nice and calm until it wasn’t…Professor Kalyn could set this building on fire if he wanted to,” said third year percussion major Kiran Steele. Kalyn brought to life the emotion of the piece, not shying away from the movement titles of “Obsessive Behaviour,” “Lost,” and “Fits and Fists,” providing a complete tonal shift and different kind of emotional escape from the rest of the program. 

The recital leaned contemporary, with one 19th century piece, two 20th century pieces, and two 21st century pieces, with the most recent being a 2022 premiere of “No. 2 Charm” from Four Simple Latin Dances (2022). The program also showcased diversity, featuring two women composers and one African American composer. 

Overall, this recital highlighted the simple truth of the music department: a love of music. Each performer’s care and enjoyment for their art was clearly utilized for joy and delight in this recital. 

Christie Goodwin, James Kalyn, and Patrick Bolduc are all members of the chamber ensemble Ventus Machina, who have 2 albums on Spotify that also feature music composed by James Kalyn. You never really know what you will find at a recital hosted by the Music Department. The concert series—as well as weekly Collegium performances—are free for all students, so I would highly recommend catching a concert or two! 

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