Friends, family members, classmates, colleagues and more filled the Valley Performing Arts Center Great Hall last night, Sept. 12, to watch the to-be annual Prism concert put on by the CSUN music department.
“It’s a showcase of all we do here in the music department,” Department Chair Ric Alviso said in his opening announcements for the show. “It’s a performance done at a lot of campuses.”
Alviso explained that the show is called “Prism” because a prism shows how white light is composed of a rainbow of colors and the music department is filled with many different groups which are all connected through the common bond of music.
This concert differed from previous department showcases by having a representative group from every section of the music department and by the groups using the whole theater to perform. Additionally, the groups only had three weeks to put their sets together for the concert.
“It was fantastic. Exemplary musicianship,” said Kevin Svets, graduate guitarist at CSUN. “[The concert showed] quality, hard-working musicians… It was a very, very short amount of time [to put this together].”
The first half of the concert opened with the CSUN Wind Ensemble, conducted by Dr. Lawrence Stoffel, head of wind performance studies. The group started the evening with “Famishius Fantasticus,” by Michael Markowski. On his website, Markowski says that he was asked to write a piece that captured the energy of the students and was inspired by Wile E. Coyote, and he took the techniques found in the era of “Looney Tunes” music to create an “existential cat-and-mouse (or coyote-and-roadrunner) chase.”
The CSUN Vocal Arts performed second with selections from “Neue Liebslieder,” Opus 65 by Johannes Brahms. Dr. Deanna Murray, head of vocal arts, returned from taking 28 singers to the CSU Summer Arts course “Romantic Lied in Germany” in Trossingen, Germany. Eight of those students participated in the Prism concert, according to Alviso.
The CSUN Guitar Quartet followed with songs one (“El Paño Moruno”) and four (“Jota”) of Manuel de Falla’s “Siete Canciones Populares Españolas”. Anna Avetisyan, who played the lead in CSUN’s production of “Carmen” last year, sang with the guitar quartet.
From the back of the parterre level of the theater, the Jishin Taiko Ensemble performed their song “Yamabiko”. The ensemble is open to all students interested in Japanese Taiko drumming and rehearses Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings.
The CSUN Opera followed with a scene from their upcoming opera, “Orfeo ed Euridice,” by Christoph Willibald Gluck.
“[The opera] is a collaboration of the music, theater, and kinesiology departments,” Alviso said. “You will see singers, actors and dancers onstage.” The opera can be seen in its entirety Oct. 23–25.
Lorenz Gamma, professor of violin, followed with a solo performance of Geonyong Lee’s “Heoten Garak,” and CSUN Professor A.J. McCaffrey’s “This Is What Really Happened (No.2)”.
“About 10 years ago, [McCaffrey] was looking to change how he composed,” Alviso said. He worked with a violinist and kept manipulating and rerecording a piece.
“What I noticed from these experiments,” McCaffrey said on his website, “was how quickly originally off-the-cuff music could transform into something archival, even nostalgic.
“I loved the notion that you were not only hearing the scaffolding or original DNA of the piece as it was played to you,” said McCaffrey, “but also perhaps catching an intimate glimpse of the composer’s or performer’s memories — that an offhand gesture in one part of the piece was actually a well-loved keepsake from another era, and returned as such later on.”
The CSUN Women’s Chorale followed from the loge-level overhang with an arrangement of the school fight song and an arrangement of Brendan Graham’s song “The Voice.”
The first half of the performance closed with the Wind Ensemble playing John Philip Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever.” The group received a roaring applause when the piccolo section stood up for a feature and the applause grew louder when the section was repeated again with performers standing across the room on the balcony level as well.
During the intermission, five percussion majors entertained the audience with an Afro-Cuban rhythm piece.
The second half opened with the award-winning Jazz “A” Band performing Sammy Nestico’s “Wind Machine,” a fast-paced piece to draw the crowd in.
The CSUN Flute Trio followed with a selection from “Tableaux Féeriques,” by Dimitri Tchesnokov.
After, Professor Diane Ketchie sang George Gershwin’s “By Strauss”.
“Such a wonderful evening of music, they asked me to throw some Broadway into it,” Ketchie said. “This was one of George and Ira’s favorite songs to sing at parties.” Throughout the song, Gershwin poked fun at other composers.
Ketchie followed this song with a little game of Andrew Lloyd Webber music.
“Andrew Lloyd Webber is the most successful Broadway artist, in fact [someone] once told me that [he] is the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart of our time,” Ketchie said.
“Let’s play a little game, and what better audience to play it with than mostly musicians.” Ketchie followed by playing selections of Webber’s music in the styles of Mozart, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninoff. This game drew more than a little laughter from the crowd as Ketchie went through the various styles.
Ketchie was followed by a vibraphone/piano duet of Jorge Cardoso’s “Milonga,” performed by Jieun Chung on vibes and Joel Afandolo on piano.
The Symphony Orchestra followed with Beethoven’s “Overture to King Stephen,” after which percussion student Anthony Storniolo performed Professor Liviu Marinescu’s song “Sway”.
“The song sways between what you hear performed live and pre-recorded music, the motion between reality and the imaginary world, where music can take many shapes and forms,” Alviso said. The song was made using more than 200 different sound samples of bells, drums, gongs, cymbals, chimes and more.
The percussion performance, which was located in the center of the theater, was followed by the CSUN Northridge Singers who sung Z. Randalf Stroope’s “Lamentations of Jeremiah,” and the hymn “Abide with Me,” arranged by Greg Jasperse.
“We wanted to end our set up, but circumstances influenced us to end our set down,” Conductor Paul Smith said. “‘Abide with Me’ is one of the most well-known hymns and it was written while the composer lay dying of tuberculosis.”
“Last semester, one of our students had to leave,” said Smith, “and they didn’t know what was wrong … She ended up in the intensive care unit.” The student, Sarah Salazar, was able to come back this semester and perform in the ensemble.
The three-hour concert closed with Jazz “A” Band premiering Director Matt Harris’s original composition “Clement Time,” which Harris said was written about his dog’s tail (which his daughter had named Clement).
The crowd dispersed as the band played Harris’s song a second time after requests for an encore performance.