Response in Music
by Douglass Dowty
an hour Thursday night Finney Chapel rang with emotion as Conservatory
students and ensembles performed a musical response to the tragedies
of Sept. 11th. From the first mournful trombone choir entrance to
the final stroke of the pianists sad fingertips, one could
sense an intensity and passion that is rare even during the most
brilliant concerts. Talent and skill are not worthy enough to receive
all the credit for this magic. It was possible only through the
musicians themselves, harnessing their abilities in a way which
showered their feelings upon the sparse audience.
Conservatory senior Hudie Broughton led the effort to organize the
event with help from fellow students Wendy Richman and Steven Brewer.
Sponsorship for the program came from the Con itself. Works on the
program included Brahms German Requiem and piano Intermezzos,
Debussys String Quartet in G minor, Eliot Carters Elegy,
and Bachs Partita II for Solo Violin and Prelude and Fugue
in C-sharp minor.
Broughton said that he originally began organizing for this event
as a way to get his mind off of the US bombing in Afghanistan which
followed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11th.
I thought there was enough talking about the disaster, and
I was looking for another way to express my thoughts and emotions
of the event, Broughton said. I found that there were
many musicians in the conservatory that agreed.
The program started with a trombone choir adaptation of How
Lovely is thy Dwelling Place from Brahms German Requiem.
This first number, full of hollow chords, was perfect for the mellow
brass and set the mournful overtone that remained throughout the
concert. Before the piece was played, Mr. Desano, the trombone choir
conductor, requested that the audience refrain from applause for
the entire program, as a moment of silence after each piece seemed
The next work was an absolutely spellbinding rendition of a slow
movement from Claude Debussys string quartet. Starting with
a hauntingly sorrowful melody, this work built to a triumphant climax
before slowly dying away to the end.
Emily Fowler, first violinist in the quartet, said that playing
in this response concert was important because music is a
universal language [and] it unites us all.
There are no words in music, senior Fowler said. She
said that music is almost like a refuge from the constant
stream of information delivered to us by the
media. The Debussy
is beautiful, peaceful. Its like a reminder in the wake
of tragedy that there still is great beauty in our world.
Following the Debussy was the sad and highly emotional Sarsbande
from Bachs Partita II for Solo Violin. Cibran Sierra-Vazquez
poured plenty of feeling into the movement, and his double-stops
and passage work were mournful, yet passionate.
The intense Elegy by Eliot Carter for viola and piano was smoothly
melodic, and Bachs transcribed Prelude and Fugue for brass
quintet was triumphant, as though a reminder that all is not lost
in the world. The final two works, both Intermezzos by Brahms for
solo piano, were both sorrowful and joyous; showing both respect
for the past and hope for the future.
The process of organizing for the response concert began when Broughton
set up meetings with Ellen Sayles, an associate dean in the Conservatory.
After [she] learned of my desire to produce a memorial [concert],
she held meetings with students to poll their interest, said
Broughton. We tried to include their ensembles in the program
well as the best musicians we knew of in the Con.
My goal for the show [was] to present a first rate program
with the best performers on campus, and Im extremely pleased
with the line up we got
I believe concerts, speeches, poetry
readings [and other] dramatic events in society help build community.
A strong sense of community is something that has always been important
Broughton has been an organizer for many other events, including
as assistant producer of the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center.
On campus he is a co-founder of Classical Action/Oberlin, a student
branch of Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS, based
in New York. This group is presenting the Oberlin Ensembles
8th Blackbird in a benefit concert on Dec. 1 in Finney.