Spring is in the air

Voices of Spring at UD features artists-in-residence

By Sara Mastbaum
Photo: Guitarist and UD artist-in-residence Jim McCutcheon performs at the Voices of Spring concert on Feb. 15; photo: curtesy of  jim.mccutcheon.biz


With polar vortices, record snowfall and a max on calamity days, thoughts of spring are more tantalizing than ever. Even though spring 2014 seems to epitomize the phrase “so close, yet so far away,” the artists-in-residence at the University of Dayton’s department of music aren’t letting the arctic air get them down.On Saturday, Feb. 15, the Sears Recital Hall, located on the University of Dayton campus, will play host to the first ever performance by all of the artists-in-residence in the department of music. Entitled Voices of Spring: Songs of Revolution, Remembrances and Renewal, the recital’s thematic elements are inspired by a university-wide initiative called Rites, Rights, Writes.

The initiative “examines the intersection of human rights, religious rites and the written word,” according to Andrea Chenoweth Wells, soprano and artist-in-residence. “We are so happy to collaborate together on a program that fits UD’s yearlong initiative.” The Rites, Rights, Writes initiative also includes programming not only from across the university, but also from a number of community partners like the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and public radio station 91.3 WYSO.

In addition to contributing to this yearlong study, the recital is also a first for the department of music. “Voices of Spring is a very exciting project for us. All of the artists-in-residence have never performed together, so we thought the RRW […] would be an interesting opportunity to explore the intersection of different pairings of instruments, voices and repertoire,” Wells said. Wells, a UD alum, taught and performed for several years before returning to the university as a resident artist.

Featured performers include Wells, soprano; Dr. David Sievers, tenor; Jim McCutcheon, guitar; James Leslie, percussion; John Benjamin, piano; and Phillip Farris, piano and narrator.

The program includes a diverse repertoire, including many pieces concertgoers may not be familiar with. One of the first pieces on the program is the aria from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, said McCutcheon, who is also known for hosting “The Intimate Guitar” on Discover Classical 88.1. “It is one of the world’s loveliest melodies, inspired by both Brazilian music and J.S. Bach, hence the title. I am accompanying Andrea Chenoweth, whose voice is perfect for this piece.”

McCutcheon also plans to perform one of his original pieces, “Spring Rondo,” which, he said, “was written in the spring about 30 years ago and has the energy we all feel when the winter is finally lifting off our shoulders.”

With our subzero climes, McCutcheon’s piece may prove especially relatable in 2014. The idea of spring itself ties into the theme of rites – especially given that Rites, Rights, Writes was inspired by the hundredth anniversary of Igor Stravinsky’s groundbreaking musical work, Rite of Spring.

In addition to these pieces, the artists will perform works by Benjamin Britten, Stravinsky, Arvo Part, Ralph Vaughan-Williams, Roger Quilter, Thomas Arne and Dominick Argento. Also, Wells said, “Jim Leslie and I will perform an improvisation inspired by the famous avant garde drummer Max Roach and singer Abby Lincoln.” Leslie has taught at the university since 1999.

Roach, who passed away in 2007, was known as a pioneer in the bebop jazz movement. “The piece ‘Triptych: Prayer, Protest, Peace’ is a completely improvised piece by [Roach and Lincoln] they performed together in jazz clubs all around during the civil rights movement,” Wells explained. “The singer has no text; it is all vocalize[d]. So, it is as much an exercise in communication between the percussionist and the singer as it is an exercise in communication with the audience. We thought it would be interesting to do something similar. Of course, it cannot be the same. Roach and Lincoln’s versions vary widely from performance to performance as well.”


Roach’s music often focused on the African American civil rights movement of the 1960s. Of course, both “rights” and “rites” are prevalent in the piece – the “Triptych” in the title gives it immediate religious overtones. Roach is one of several 20th century composers featured in the program – Vaughn Williams, Britten, Villa-Lobos, Argento, Part, Quilter and Stravinsky all composed music during the last century.

Overall, the program aims to inform listeners about the about symbolic perspectives on the social and cultural implications of religious rites, human rights and written text, as well as display the talents of the UD artists-in-residence side by side for the first time.


University of Dayton’s Department of Music artists-in-residence presents Voices of Spring: Songs of Revolution, Remembrance and Renewal on Saturday, Feb. 15 at 4 p.m. The performance will be held in the Sears Recital Hall, located on the first floor of the Jesse Philips Humanities Center on the University of Dayton campus, 300 College Park Drive. The concert is free and open to the public. For directions and other information, please visit udayton.edu.


Reach DCP freelance writer Sara Mastbaum at SaraMastbaum@DaytonCityPaper.com.


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