On Monday evening, March 27th, 2023, Ohio Northern University’s Music Department held the Faculty Showcase Recital. The concert was held in the beautiful Snyder Recital Hall and offered free admission. The repertoire was diverse and offered something for everyone in attendance, while also showcasing the amazing talent of the ONU faculty. The ushers were provided by Tau Beta Sigma, the honorary band sorority, and the stagehands provided by Ohio Collegiate Music Education Association. 

Starting the concert was Dale Laukhuf on trombone, Dr. Erin Helgeson-Torres on flute, and Dr. Sarah Waters playing xylophone. The trio performed “Scenes of Mackinac,” a three-movement piece composed by Scott R. Harding. Laukhuf’s deep and rich trombone sound combined with Helgeson-Torres’ flute created a serene and contemplative atmosphere, transporting the audience to the lighthouse-studded landscape of Mackinac Island. Dr. Waters on percussion provided a rhythmic and energetic backbone to the piece that sometimes turned and haunted the audience with humming tones. The trio’s performance of “Scenes of Mackinac” was both technically impressive and emotionally moving, leaving the audience with a sense of wonder.

The great talents of Kirsten Osbun-Manley, the vocal soprano, and Dr. Rebecca Casey, the pianist, performed “Klops-Lied,” a piece composed by Kurt Weill, a German composer. The concert program offered a translation for the piece, cheekily meaning, the “Meatball Song.” The song is set to a jazzy and upbeat tune that reflects the playful and humorous nature of the lyrics, but it requires a high level of technical skill and emotional range from Osbun-Manley. The showcase of dissonant harmonies from Osbun-Manley and unexpected chord progressions from Dr. Casey added a layer of complexity to the piece. The composition blended the elements of classical music, jazz, and popular music to create a sound that is innovative. With its playful lyrics and catchy melody, “Klops-Lied” continues to capture the hearts of audiences and performers alike, and Dr. Casey and Osbun-Manley left the audience smiling. 

Next in the program was Dr. James Green on tuba playing, “The Robots are Taking Over” by Brooke Pierson. “The Robots are Taking Over” is a musical piece composed by Brooke Pierson, a contemporary composer known for her eclectic and imaginative works. The piece is a playful and energetic composition that is inspired by the rise of technology and the increasing role that robots play in our lives. It began with a backing recording that drove the rhythm and a series of dissonant chords that created a sense of tension and unease. As the piece progresses, Dr. Green’ tuba layers in more frenzied and chaotic melodies, with rapid-fire melodies and staccato rhythms then haunting long notes. The futuristic and otherworldly feel provided by Dr. Green also had moments of humor and levity with playful melodies and unexpected twists and turns. Dr. Green’s take on the innovative composition left the audience with a fresh take on a modern piece. 

Following was an exciting trio performance by Dr. Andrew Liebermann on saxophone, Dr. Erin Helges-Torres once again on flute, and Dr. Stephanie Titus on piano playing “Dash,” by Jennifer Higdon. The piece begins with a series of rapid-fire melodies that create a sense of urgency and excitement. It was hard to believe the lung capacity of both Dr. Liebermann and Dr. Helges-Torres as they both moved with the piece and never-ending runs. As the piece progresses, the performance evokes the feeling of movement and motion, ending with an abrupt climax.  

Staying on stage, pianist Dr. Stephanie Titus gave insight to her solo piece, “Anamorfosi” by Salvatore Sciarrino. As prefaced by Dr. Titus, the title of the piece, “Anamorfosi,” is Italian for “anamorphosis,” which refers to a distorted or skewed image that can only be viewed from a certain perspective – almost like a reflection in water. The idea of anamorphosis is reflected in the structure of the piece, which is made up of fragmented and distorted sounds that are gradually pieced together to form a cohesive whole. Dr. Titus gave a flowing, emotional performance that left the audience silent. 

“Sonata for Horn and Piano” by Paul Hindemith was a duo played by Brandon Guillen on horn and Kristen Hoffman on piano. Hindemith’s “Sonata for Horn and Piano” is known for its intricate and challenging technical demands on the horn player, as well as its unconventional approach to composition. The performance blended elements of classical and modernist styles, with hints of jazz and folk music interspersed throughout. Hindemith’s dissonant harmonies and complex rhythmic structures created a unique and engaging listening experience that was both challenging and rewarding for performers and audiences alike. 

The absolute show-stopping soprano, Summer Aebker, was accompanied by Dr. Titus for the Russian tale, “How Fair This Spot”, Op. 20, No. 7 by Sergei Rachmaninoff. Rachmaninoff’s use of chromaticism and harmonic tension creates a sense of longing and melancholy throughout the piece. Aebker shared her soaring and expressive vocals that evoked the beauty and fragility of life. The sense of emotional depth and intensity allowed the music to eb and flow like the natural rhythms of life. Dr. Titus’ accompaniment is also notable for its intricate and delicate arpeggios, which provided a subtle and supportive foundation for Aebker’s vocals. The interplay between the piano and voice blended together so seamlessly to create a haunting and unforgettable musical experience. 

Bringing the carousel into Snyder Hall, pianist Dr. Casey, performed “Faschingsschwank Aus Wien,’ Op. 26 by Robert Schumann. The intricate and dissonant harmonies created a sense of tension and drama throughout the piece, while Dr. Casey’s gift for melody and expression ensured that the music never became overly dense or difficult to follow. Dr. Casey also added to the impressiveness of the piece by playing the movement by memory. The vibrant and complex performance solidified this timeless classic of piano repertoire. 

“Duo for Saxophone and Percussion” brought a modern and funky taste to the concert, performed by Dr. Liebermann on saxophone and Dr. Waters on cajón composed by Russell Peterson. The movement was a virtuosic tour de force that brought the audience along for a dramatic and exhilarating ride. The movement was characterized by Dr. Liebermann and Dr. Water’s complex and syncopated rhythms, which required exceptional technical skill and precision from both. The saxophone and percussion blended together expertly, with the percussive sounds providing a dynamic and contrasting backdrop to the saxophone’s melodic lines. The interplay between the two instruments made a dynamic and captivating musical experience.

Finishing the concert was the Polaris Brass group, with Dr. David Kosmyna and Gus Shoemaker on trumpet, Brandon Guillen and Dale Laukhuf on trombone, and Dr. James Green on tuba playing first and fourth movements of “A Bass Menagerie” composed by John Cheetham. The movement began with a stately minuet, which is followed by a more playful and lighthearted trio section. The fourth movement, “Tarantella,” was a lively and energetic piece that showcases the technical virtuosity of both Dr. Kosmyna and Shoemaker. The contrast between the two sections was dynamic, with the minuet providing a sense of formal structure while the trio offers a more whimsical and playful counterpoint. Dr. Kosmyna’s strong, breathtaking final note was the perfect conclusion to an outstanding performance and concert as a whole.

Overall, the concert was a beautiful showcase of the talent and skill of Ohio Northern University’s Music Department faculty. 

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