Concerto Aria to feature student soloists

By Kendra Johnson, Arts Editor   (Courtesy Photo/Jeremy Scott)

Oklahoma Baptist University’s Division of Music will host its annual Concerto-Aria Concert Feb. 18, 7:30 p.m. in Raley Chapel’s Potter Auditorium.

The concert provides an opportunity for OBU students to audition for the chance to perform as a soloist alongside the OBU/Shawnee Community Orchestra.

“The Concerto-Aria concert is a showcase of OBU students who are selected by audition to perform as soloists in a concerto movement (in the case of instrumentalists) or an aria (in the case of vocalists), accompanied by an orchestra consisting not only of OBU faculty and students but also some of the finest freelance professional musicians in the region,” said assistant professor of music and director of preparatory epartment, Dr. Benjamin Shute.

Shute handles a large portion of the orchestration and organization of the concert and is highly involved in many of the necessary preparations for the performance.

“Like many things in the arts, there is a fantastic amount of coordination and preparation that culminates in a fairly brief experience,” he said.

“In this case, my responsibilities included participating in the adjudication of preliminary auditions, coordinating final-round auditions, recruiting students and faculty for the orchestra, obtaining or creating parts for the orchestra by various means, marking up those parts with bowings and articulations, soliciting publicity materials, some advertising activities, overseeing stage setup and audio-visual contracts, preparing the material for the concert program (including freshly translating foreign-language texts to avoid copyright infringement), and trying to keep all of these activities within budget. Oh yes, and learning and conducting the music!”

Several aspects of the performance will give the audience the opportunity to hear some arrangements and instruments that they may have had the opportunity to hear before.

“We’ll be arranging the orchestra on the stage in a way that is today unconventional today but which has roots in pre-twentieth-century practice and should bring out some interesting details of the music.” Shute wrote.

“And for the literature written before 1800, I’ll be directing from the violin (as would have been done back then), and the orchestra will include harpsichord basso continuo. That’s actually not something that’s done much these days in post-Baroque music (at least not in the USA).”

Putting on the performance and doing all of the necessary preparation work to make this opportunity available for OBU’s students, like putting on any other major production, takes a whole team of people.

“Thresa Swadley took on the heavy task of contracting all of our outside players and is providing food for the orchestra,” Shute wrote.

“Isaac Reel typeset a number of orchestral parts; Kenny Day and Chele Marker-Cash were responsible for publicity and print materials; Facilities Management and our audio-visual team, led by Steve Law, provide indispensable services, which Cynthia Gates oversees; Deanna Spruiell is a force of nature dealing with countless tasks behind the scenes; and my colleagues in the Music Division have advised and assisted me in more ways than I can list here. I’m sure there are others who deserve mention; but that is all to say, this is definitely a community effort!”

Students go through an audition process to be chosen for the performance.

The audition process includes evaluation by an auditor from outside the OBU community, to provide an impartial opinion.

“So keeping in time with the orchestra and not rushing but being with them and being on time, cause the director kind of stands behind you a little bit, like to the side and behind you,” Shute said. “And so, making sure that I’m in time with them and that I hear them and, yeah, it’ll just be a challenge. Like the whole performance I think will be, especially cause I’m going at the end. And so, all the nerves are building up and so I’m the last one, so that’s very intimidating but super exciting and a really big honor.”

The rehearsal process for students like Reece begins months ahead of the big night.

“I started rehearsing with my voice teacher at the time, which was Rebecca Ballinger, Prof. Ballinger and she chose the aria for me actually last year, my sophomore year, but I was giving a recital at the time so we didn’t work on it a whole lot so we saved it for the fall semester,” Reece said.

“So, we started working on it more and perfecting it and of course I had to learn how to say the French words, ‘cause French is really hard, that was a challenge in itself.”

Reece has been practicing with an accompanist and will have two rehearsals with the orchestra prior to the performance.

Her and the other students will perform Feb. 18, at 7:30 p.m. in Raley Chapel’s Potter Auditorium and the performance is free and open to the public.

“All coordination and logistics and historical performance practices aside, I hope that the performance changes people,” Shute said.

“I hope something about it provides even just a piercing glimpse of a beauty so deep and stirring and pure that we hardly dare to hope it could be “true” in any sense; a beauty that, it would seem, must have come from another world. And what is more, I hope our listeners will sense that this otherworldly beauty does not sidestep the brokenness of our world but takes it on fully, not sweeping its pain under the carpet but redemptively transforming it into something greater and deeper and stronger than if the brokenness had never been. And I hope this stirs in our listeners a longing, in the words of C. S. Lewis, ‘to break into a world where such things [are] true.’”


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