Music department celebrates anniversaries

Last weekend, the music department celebrated the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Young Marjorie Bell Conservatory of Music and the 100th anniversary of Mount Allison’s first bachelor of music degree, completed by pianist Mary Elsinore Tait. A full weekend of performances and discussion by students, faculty, alumni and guests marked this special occasion.

Contralto Vivki St. Pierre and pianist Stephen Runge perform quiet songs. Gary Tucker/submitted
Contralto Vivki St. Pierre and pianist Stephen Runge perform quiet songs. Gary Tucker/submitted

The celebrations began Friday evening with a recital of alumni compositions performed by faculty and artists-in-residence Tesla Quartet. The talented performers offered attendees a taste of the innovative new sounds and staging techniques that present-day composers are exploring.

Third-year voice student Sarah Sharpe said, “the variety of styles and instrumentation performed were inspiring and truly entertaining. I’m glad this opportunity was presented to current Mt. A music students.”

In the most intriguing composition, Dean Burry’s “Tempest in a Teacup,” the performers staged tea and conversation around tables that held a rolling marble and various teacups. The following performance delighted the audience by making use of these props, along with a whistling kettle, to create a variety of unusual percussion effects.

On Saturday afternoon, six Mt. A music graduates described their university experiences in a panel discussion. The graduates shared their current work positions, which included composer, music librarian, arts administrator, sound engineer, schoolteacher and music therapist, demonstrating the large scope of jobs available to a music graduate.

“I’m glad the panel was able to address a large audience and still be able to help people personally,” said first-year trumpet student Joseph Fitzner. “I received advice on how to jumpstart my career.”

Later that evening, students and pianist Stephen Runge, head of the music department, performed the program of Mary Tait’s graduation recital. The challenging piano works informed the audience of Tait’s remarkable piano abilities. Between pieces, Nancy Vogan, professor emeritus, offered intriguing commentary on Tait’s life.

The student musicians beautifully performed the more challenging  compositions of Tait’s program. They effectively portrayed the styles of each composer, which ranged from the warm melodic lines in Schumann’s “Romance in F-sharp Major” to the boldness of Schubert’s “March Militaire in D Major.”

The celebrations officially ended with a second lecture recital, an overview of the history of music at Mt. A, and a revisitation of the opening of the current conservatory 50 years ago. Students and faculty learned about the lives of key figures in Mt. A music history, such as James Noel Brunton and Marjorie Young Bell, whom the auditorium and music building are named after, respectively.

The second lecture recital featured voice professors Vicki St. Pierre and Monette Gould, who performed a selection of works from Annon Lee Silver’s voice recital that marked the opening of the conservatory. Both professors performed the works with character and demonstrated excellent text emphasis and understanding of the musical phrases.

Gary Tucker/submitted
Gary Tucker/submitted

Fourth-year pianist Megan Watt felt pleased to partake in  “such a monumental weekend of celebration.”

“Having a chance to perform works that were performed 100 years ago on this campus by a student much like my peers and I really speaks to the timelessness of music,” Watt said.

The music department will continue to celebrate these landmark anniversaries with more special recitals.

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