Live From the Cat

September 2, 2020
Yvonne Gay
A student sings on a stage while a pianist plays nearby.
Authur Welsh ’21 (on piano) and Georgia Heers ’21 (vocals) give a live-streamed jazz performance in Oberlin's Cat in the Cream Coffeehouse. Photo credit: Mike Crupi

The campus community was treated to a live-streamed jazz performance on August 28 from the Cat in the Cream Coffeehouse. The virtual concert was a first for the student-run performance space.

With safety protocols necessary, it’s evident that the atmosphere on campus is much different than in years past, especially with students under quarantine after returning to campus, which made a virtual Orientation necessary. To make time in their rooms easier, students were invited to take part in a host of virtual events that included readings from Oberlin’s slam poetry group, a variety show, and an opportunity to tune into Oberlin’s first live-streamed jazz concert from the Cat in the Cream Coffeehouse.

A woman sings into a microphone.
Georgia Heers ’21. Photo credit: Mike Crupi

The concert was a welcome opportunity for jazz vocal performance major Georgia Heers ’21 and mathematics and jazz piano major Arthur Welsh ’21 as well. Days earlier, the pair had agreed to pull together a show after answering an ask that went out to all jazz students via Bobby Ferrazza, professor of jazz guitar and director of the Division of Jazz Studies. Welsh and Heers had also been cleared in the college’s coronavirus testing.

‘‘This was my second performance since COVID-19,’’ says Welsh. ‘‘I had only performed at the Union Town Provisions in July for a live-streamed performance with a few audience members present. The lack of performances I have had this year definitely made this virtual concert at the Cat very special.’’

A student plays piano
Arthur Welsh ’21. Photo credit: Mike Crupi

‘‘For the past five months I‘ve been singing alone or accompanying myself poorly on piano or guitar,’’ says Heers. ‘‘Surprisingly, I wasn‘t too nervous (at the Cat performance). Usually, before any type of performance, I get really bad nerves, but this was different! I think the idea of there not being an audience put me at ease. However, having a live audience is a fundamental aspect of this tradition, so it did feel like something was missing.

‘‘But, this was the first type of performance of its kind (at Oberlin), so I felt like there were fewer expectations and more excitement—which was refreshing. Expectations make me anxious. Overall, it was a really cathartic experience getting to make music with another human again. I‘m very thankful to have had that opportunity.’’

The 45-minute performance included a wide range of songs, such as Moonlight in Vermont by Karl Suessdorf, S’wonderful by George Gershwin, East of the Sun by Brooks Bowman, Redbone by Childish Gambino, and Crazy by Gnarles Barkley. 

A man wearing a face mask works with videos on a computer
Behind the scenes at the live-streamed performance.
Photo credit: Mike Crupi

Although the pair had performed together before, an outdoor rehearsal was needed in order to hear each other play again and determine a setlist. It was difficult to find a good way to rehearse, admits Welsh, but they made it work.

Welsh says, ‘‘The Cat is usually a secluded and special space, but now we can share it with the rest of the world!’’

Both look forward to more live-streamed concerts this year. 

View behind-the-scenes and concert images from the Cat performance on Oberlin Flickr .

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