Community Dialogue Features Open Discussions

Thursdays will now be Community Dialogue nights at The Pub, where, according to an email sent by Associate Professor of Philosophy Sybol Cook Anderson,  students, faculty, staff, and other community members will now have, “a space for free and easy discussion of campus community issues.”

The inaugural dialogue was held on April 5, when the topic of discussion, facilitated by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), was, “Is a living wage right for St. Mary’s?” Then on April 26, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty Beth Rushing, along with Facilities Planner and Sustainability Coordinator Luke Mowbray, facilitated a discussion titled, “How can the campus live more sustainably?

At the April 5 discussion, SDS hung up poster paper in The Pub; at the top were written “What are your budget priorities?” “What do you think the administration’s priorities are?” and “Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Write them down!” The discussion revolved around the figures about living wage, explanations of block grants, details about raises at the school, and attempts to brainstorm ways to support the staff without achieving a living wage.

The discussion went back and forth between SDS students and other community members, asking questions, answering them, and sharing opinions and thoughts. The April 26 talk revolved more around sustainability on campus, though the arrangement of seating was more closed, allowing for better hearing and easier discussion in the often noisy pub.

According to Anderson, starting the dialogue was “astonishingly easy.” She said she emailed Rushing and a few other administrators and then the process was done. Anderson expressed interest in having people “come together and talk about issues hanging in the air.”  The discussions are to be open-ended, according to Anderson, and will keep going until they naturally end. “Everybody takes over in a really organic way,” Anderson said. The discussions will continue next fall semester Thursdays at 5 p.m., though they will be under a new name decided by a campus-wide contest.

Foster Discusses Women's Rights and Abortion

On April 25, Serrin Foster, President of Feminists for Life (FFL), gave a lecture on abortion in St. Mary’s Hall. Her lecture, called “The Feminist Case Against Abortion,” explained her position as a pro-life feminist on the controversial topic of abortion.

The program was organized by the Nitze Scholars Program and was meant to be part of a growing “spirit of diversity” on campus, as well as to show a “different side of gender politics not normally heard,” according to lecture organizer, sophomore Maria Smaldone, in Foster’s introduction.

Serrin Foster, whose lecture has appeared in the anthology “Women’s Rights,” began her discussion by explaining what it means to be a pro-life feminist.  She explained how being both a feminist and a pro-life supporter can be viewed negatively. “Being pro-life can be seen as being anti-woman” said Foster.  She discussed why this was a false accusation and noted what FFL has done for women’s rights.

Foster defined abortion as “an escape for people’s problems.” She listed one of the main reasons that women seek abortion is due to “lack of resources or support.” Foster claimed that as a supporter of nonviolence, she viewed abortion as “discrimination against the child.”

In the lecture, Foster gave evidence for her case from early feminists such as Susan B. Anthony and Mary Wollstonecraft. She noted that these two well-known activists  were against “destroying embryos and violating nature.” She gave information from their writings and from the work of early activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Like Stanton, Foster discussed that abortion is a “form of infanticide” that can be avoided if the government does more for women’s needs.

Emily Buetow, a sophomore, felt uncomfortable about Foster relying mainly on the testimony of first-wave feminists, saying, “It’s a bad foundation when you create your argument on women living in the 1800s.”

Serrin Foster argued that the best approach to making sure that women’s needs were met was for “pro-choice and pro-life supporters to come together and find solutions.” She expressed that at times both parties share the same goals for women. “People don’t fit into perfect little boxes on either side of this debate,” she explained. Foster stated that women are being so mistreated that they look to abortion as an answer to their problems. “Abortion is a reflection that we have not done enough for women” said Foster.

Foster explained that she was not attempting to vilify pro-choice supporters or people who have already had abortions.  “That’s not why I’m here,” she announced to those in attendance. She said that her main goal was to make sure that people understood how pregnant women were being treated in the workplace and in schools. “There should be no exceptions to equality,” Foster stated while discussing how young women have been forced to choose between getting an education or following through with their pregnancies.

Foster appealed to St. Mary’s students to get the word out about the campus accommodating the needs of pregnant women.“Women have been greatly wronged if they have to get abortions,” said Foster. She expressed her hopes that her lecture would change how the campus approaches pregnancies on campus.

Students had mixed reactions to the presentation. Buetow  said, “I think she made a lot of good points about what we should do for women who want to have children and don’t have resources available to them. But when it came to women who had unwanted pregnancies there was no conversation about why she was pro-life.”

Natalie Neil, a junior, had a similar response, she said, “She made the assumption that everyone who is pregnant would prefer to have their baby.”

However, some students felt reassured by the presentation. Junior Ame Roberts responded by saying, “I’m a pro-life feminist, and I really wanted to see what others thought about this issue… I wanted to learn other people’s reasoning so I could better talk about what I believe and maybe get involved.”

Nitze Fellow Delaunay Talks About Adaptations in Global Health

Sophie Delaunay, the U.S. director of Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), returned to St. Mary’s for the third time in her capacity as the Nitze Senior Fellow 2011-2012 to deliver her final lecture, “Adapting to Recent Developments in Global Health.”

Michael Taber, Assistant Professor of Philosophy and the Director of the Nitze Scholars Program, prefaced Delaunay’s lecture by saying he planned for her to come in April so that she could enjoy the springtime St. Mary’s scenery. “Earlier this afternoon,” he said, “I pushed her kayak out into the river.”

“There’s nothing as satisfying as closing an MSF mission because it is completed,” he said later. “And here is Sophie Delaunay, completing her mission.”

Delaunay opened her lecture by commenting on her time at St. Mary’s, and said “I have really been impressed by the progressive thinking of this institution, and the people here who are genuinely interested in what is going on outside of their world.”

“If we are going to talk about adapting ourselves to developments in global health, then we have to know what we are adapting ourselves to,” said Delaunay of the concerns of MSF and other humanitarian organizations about global health.

Some of these conditions include a diversity of players such as private organizations like the Melinda Gates Foundation who have contributed $1.5 billion per year just for global health. “This has led to a lot of awareness of policies and change in mentality and research even though there’s no cure for AIDS at the moment, yet there has been a lot of efforts in this direction,” said Delaunay. However, she noted that neglected tropical diseases that ravage specific populations will not get the same treatment.

“HIV definitely has been a catalyst for changing this whole dynamic,” Delaunay continued. “Doctors all over the world will tell you they never practiced medicine the same way after [the beginning of the AIDS outbreak].”

“[AIDS] has definitely humanized the relationship between practitioner and patient,” said Delaunay, “and it has forced practitioners to change their approach” to include psychological and legal aspects of the disease.

Delaunay explained that because most of the people infected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic were marginalized populations like sex workers and homosexuals, the disease has done much to improve the human rights conditions of these groups, whose stigmatization led doctors to keep a tight lid on confidentiality.

While the effects of AIDS have been devastating, Delaunay reported the good policy changes that have come out of it. “It has also contributed to our protection of the [MSF] staff,” she said, “as every country has changed their policies for health staff exposure to blood contamination.”

“When working in resource-limited countries, the challenge is about access, availability of drugs, affordability, and adaptability” said Delaunay about MSF’s main goals. HIV and TB (tuberculosis), according to Delaunay, have been two emblematic health issues that illustrate these difficulties. Both HIV and TB do not have any direct treatment, and Delaunay said that drug-resistant TB will be one of the major issues that face doctors in the coming decade.

Delaunay explained how MSF has affordable but outdated first-line drugs used in developed countries that were effective used in poorer countries after the organization was able to decrease the price, but there are now drugs that are more effective but more expensive.  The catch is that these drugs are needed more because those in third-world countries have developed a resistance to these drugs.

The creation of available, easy-to-use, and reliable point of care tests for use in other resource-poor countries has been another struggle for MSF. “Most of the research that goes into developing tests and diagnostic material goes into tests that could be used in modern environments,” said Delaunay.

Expensive vaccines recommended by the World Health Organization and sold by pharmaceutical companies are another issue that MSF struggles with, as they try to provide these vaccines to treat those who live where a specific disease is the most widespread. “The privatization of aid has its disadvantages,” said Delaunay, “because it could mean that global health will become more profit-driven. However, the financial resources of the private sector have made global health a priority.”

“The existing instruments that have been put in place in order to facilitate access are totally underutilized,” continued Delaunay. She used the example of a compulsory license, which gives countries a license to develop, manufacture, and sell drugs in their generic form, which dramatically reduces the price and allows for greater coverage.

However, she said “they are very rarely used, and when it is used by some countries they actually face a lot of tension from other countries for doing so. Tylenol is on a blacklist by the U.S. government for having too many compulsory licenses.”

In order to challenge the status quo, Delaunay said that first and foremost MSF has to carry out its mission of treating patients so they can identify problems in the medical field. “Sometimes, we treat patients in a provocative way,” she continued. When a $25,000 treatment for Hepatitis C was on the market, MSF decided to use a less expensive Egyptian treatment  to “challenge the market,” according to Delaunay.

MSF also publishes regular research to “demonstrate what’s needed in the field, what would be ideal, what we see as the failing mechanisms, and how we should address them, “ said Delaunay.

At the end of her lecture, Delaunay shared her thoughts about working in the humanitarian field with her audience. “If you want to work at a non-profit, choose the one you like,” she said, “One is no better than another, and choose the one that you identify with.”

After attending Delaunay’s three lectures, first-year Mary Margaret Addison said “I found her to be very inspiring in her work, especially because she didn’t start out thinking she would work for an organization like MSF. She opened my eyes to a lot of logistical and ethical issues in medicine that I wasn’t aware of before.”

Rakoff Gives Honest, Candid Twain Lecture

David Rakoff is very anxious. As a defensive pessimist, he’s always expecting and preparing for the worst. For example, as he joked in the writer’s craft talk he gave Friday, April 27 as part of the Twain Lecture Series, he always knows where the fire exits in the room are and how much oxygen per person the area can withstand. “Defensive pessimism [is] a presentiment of doom,” Rakoff explained. If you lower your expectations and believe everything is going to be a disaster, you can effectively manage your anxiety. Despite Rakoff’s lowered expectations, he spoke eloquently and at-length about the writing process, his pessimism and anxiety, and humor at the writer’s craft talk and later in the evening, when he read insightful and witty essays from his books as part of his main lecture.

The Mark Twain Lecture Series on American Humor and Culture was started in 2007 by Ben Click, professor and head of the English Department. Since its beginning, there have been over 40 Twain Lecture Series events, with speakers like comedians Mo Rocca and Larry Wilmore and authors Firoozeh Dumas and Peter Sagal.

This year, the featured speaker was David Rakoff, a critically acclaimed humor writer. He is a winner of the Thurber Prize for Humor for his book of essays Half Empty, a two-time recipient of the Lambda Book Award for Humor, and he has been shortlisted for the Whiting Award as well as the Stephen Leacock Medal. He is a regular contributer to Public Radio International’s “This American Life” and his writing has also appeared in “The New York Times Magazine” and numerous collections including The Best American Travel Writing, The Best American Non-Required Reading, and Outside 25: The Best of Outside Magazine’s 25 Years.

 His work will also appear in the forthcoming The Fifty Funniest American Writers from the Library of America. He is also an actor who has worked in theater with humorists David and Amy Sedaris on their plays “Stitches,” “The Little Freida Mysteries,” “The Book of Liz,” and “One Woman Shoe.” He adapted the screenplay and starred in the 2010 Academy Award-winning “The New Tenants.”

At the writer’s craft talk, Click introduced Rakoff as the “best writer we’ve had so far,” explaining that “you can see the craft in his work.” Beginning first by briefly discussing his thoughts on writing and humor, Rakoff explained that writing “never gets easier–it only gets harder.” Writing, Rakoff said, is a dreadful experience for him in the most literal way. He dreads sitting down and writing anything and explained that his writing always starts out badly and he just hopes for the confidence to improve what he’s written.

Rakoff believes that humor writing especially is contingent upon an ineherent feeling of outsider-hood since, according to Rakoff, “you have to feel somewhat out of the mainstream.” Other than that characteristic of humor-writing, however, Rakoff insisted that being comical is a value-neutral trait. Having a sense of humor is vital, because without it “you’re kind of a bad person,” but even though being funny can be socially helpful, it’s neither a positive or negative characteristic.

But Rakoff is funny–bitingly so–and he derives his humor mostly from his melancholy and his frustrations.  “You don’t make stuff up,” Rakoff explained. “You take things that you have witnessed… and the hope is that [you can write] something that is pretty, vivid, specific, and true.”

Rakoff had no shortage of melancholy material to use, he said, during the Reagan and the elder Bush years, but the younger Bush years were especially “bruising” for him. When asked about his desire to effect change, however, Rakoff has no illusions. “I’d be surprised if I could change a mind; things seem so intractable [that] those Augustine moments of deep conversion seem entirely random – as random as lighting strikes…There are scented candles that contribute more to society than me.”

Similarly, Rakoff described his feelings on offending people: he tries to be extremely careful as to whom he’s offending. For example, he warned against offending or attacking someone because they lack privilege. “If you’re very careful about why you’re saying something–if you tell the truth–you never have to worry about what you said…similarly, be vigilant about your target.” He cited referring to Barbara Bush as an “[expletive] cow” and feeling the insult was warranted because she’d said something that was, according to his standards, equally offensive. However, Rakoff said he mostly takes a “[politically correct] and NPR” approach to humor, and tries not to offend.

After discussing his belief in delayed gratification as an indispensable convention in humor and revealing that he simply pushes through his dread to keep writing, hoping that the revisions will be better than the usually disappointing first drafts, Rakoff attempted to explain how he believes he can be both anxious and happy at the same time. “Anxiety and happiness can coexist–you’re just sort of keyed up,” Rakoff explained.

Anxiety, he said, is often misattributed in a national sense as a lack of patriotism or as unwarranted pessimism (though Rakoff is admittedly a pessimist). But this concept is flawed, Rakoff explained. “People who are anxious really aren’t ruining it for anybody – it’s just the way they are,” as value-neutral as having a sense of humor. Though he briefly discussed this during the talk, he expanded upon this opinion later at the lecture.

The audience seemed to thoroughly enjoy Rakoff, even giving him a standing ovation as he finished. “I thought it was really helpful [and] funny,” said junior Katie Brown. “He gave a lot of really good advice but in a casually funny way.”

Tobias Franzen, a junior, agreed with Brown, saying, “He sure likes to swear. It was good – it was wonderful.”

Then, before his wildly popular talk at 7:00 p.m. later that day in the gym of the Michael P. O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center, the first 150 students with a student I.D. received a free t-shirt starting at 6:30. The t-shirts ran out in less than 15 minutes, with a completely full gym by the time the talk started with another introduction by Click, describing Rakoff’s work as “the best comment on humor I’ve read in a long time.”

Rakoff took the stage by bringing in some of his own local humor, saying, “Sorry I’m late. I was trying to get my sneakers into the shoe tree.” He didn’t have a planned program; instead he flipped through his books at random to choose what he would read. His first essay was from his most recent work, Half Empty. It was written in 1999 in response to a new column in the New York Times called “Writers on Writing” that is a scathing tongue-in-cheek commentary on the pretension associated with writing.

Rakoff’s next essay was his reaction to the “unwarranted optimism” in the post-9/11 world from his most recent book Half Empty that explained his policy of defensive pessimism to manage his anxiety when the Bush administration decided to invade the Middle East. He ended by explaining his pessimism by saying, “I am a kill-joy in many many ways.”

His third piece was from State By State: A Panoramic Portrait of America about Utah and “The Insane Optimism of Westward Expansion.” He said that the goal of the book was to send 50 writers to 50 states and have them write about the state, but they ran out of good states by the time he got to Rakoff so he was matched with Utah, whose beauty he likened to bologna.

As he stood at the “squat commemorative obelisk” at the Golden Spike where the transcontinental railroad was first formed in 1869, he tried to get into the mindset of the early settlers, but he couldn’t do it. “How does one take all of this in and still think,” Rakoff read, “Yes, I will go ever gaily forward…How did they do it?…it seems frankly remarkable that anyone anywhere ever attempted anything.”

At this point in the talk, Rakoff admitted that he brought the wrong folder, but he would try to read a different copy of the text than he had planned, although it was dangerous for the enjoyment of the audience. “Writing in page and in performance is so different; you can be more boring on the page,” he said. “I’m leading you on a string in the dark and if I get too tangential, I am lost to you and you are lost to me and then we’re both in the soup.”

Despite the unforeseen difficulty, his subsequent essay was the most successful of the evening. “Isn’t It Romantic” is a criticism of the musical Rent, making the argument that the characters are not the true artists that they claim to be. He said, “You can [perform an unprintable sexual act], but it won’t turn you into Oscar Wilde.”

The only thing that makes you an artist, he continued to explain, is making art. After apologizing for making a quip about the quality of Rent’s undergraduate work, he rhetorically asked, “Were others left leaving the theater rooting for the landlords?” He told a hilarious story about his living situation in the beginnings of his career, ending with “Lying against a tile floor listening to someone else having sex is basically my early 20s…but I still paid my damn rent!”

His final essay of the night was called “Shrimp,” about his childhood growing up as a 47-52 year-old child in Canada who was “worryingly diminutive, [and] freakishly small.” Rakoff’s childhood self thought he was just like Stuart Little, but scared of everything. “It dawned on me recently,” he read, “that I must have been very unpleasant to be around.”

The essay described his difficulty with his size through adolescence and how a cruel drama teacher once forbade him from auditioning for a play because she was looking for actors that were “more substantial,” but he eventually overcame his insecurity because “after all, I had grown.”

After Rakoff answered a few questions about his favorite works, his writing, and his defensive pessimism philosophy, Dr. Click announced the winners of the “Assault of Laughter” writing contest. First place went to junior Julie Durbin for her essay “The Defecation of the Reputation of the Great Blue Heron,” second place went to junior Thor Peterson for his piece, “The All Student Email,” and third place went to St. Mary’s ’03 alumnus Benjamin Stoehr for his essay, “You Buy?” All three essays are available online at www.smcm.edu/twain/contest.html.

"Stealing Trust" Documentary Warns of Frauds, Scams in Maryland

On Wednesday, April 18, Pi Sigma Alpha, the Political Science Honors Society at St. Mary’s, hosted a documentary called “Stealing Trust” at 6 p.m. in Cole Cinema. The documentary talked about frauds, scams, and financial abuse in Maryland through individual cases of local residents and victims of debt settlement, home foreclosure, and home improvement scams.

The first category, debt settlement, exposed fraudulent debt settlement companies claiming to reduce or eliminate their clients’ credit card debt. However, once the companies began to receive steady monthly checks for thousands of dollars, the companies would do little or nothing to help their customers.

Victims, such as Lee Tarner and Gloria Sownden of Baltimore, and Virginia Slater of North East, all turned to such companies in desperation, each in over $40,000 of debt. However, they found themselves in even more debt and in a worse credit situation after trusting the fraudulent companies.

The next category, foreclosures, includes victims who had been illegally evicted from their house or scammed by debt settlement companies promising to help close gaps on mortgage payments. Kevin Matthews, a Baltimore resident, was laid off in 2009, and used his final settlement from his employer to pay off his mortgage. However, after his bank did not review his paperwork legally, he was evicted from his home. In January of 2011, Matthews won a court appeal and moved back into his house.

Other victims, like Claretta Taylor, saw a commercial on TV for a company advertising to protect her from creditors and help with mortgage payments, however, the companies only robbed Taylor of thousands of dollars. “I put my trust and faith in him with no avail,” said Taylor. “I lost everything, only to find out it was a scam.” Though Taylor filed a law suit against the company, the man responsible for the scam only had to serve three and a half years in jail.

The last category, home improvement, involved cases in which clients approached contractors to complete work on their houses, but the contractors stopped working once homeowners put money down on the various projects. Since Maryland law states that contractors can ask for one third of the project’s cost up front and another one third of the cost once they begin work, contractors were able to find loopholes and scam homeowners like Jami Earnest of Crownsville and Eric Linton of Annapolis out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In the movie, Marceline White, a representative from the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition, stressed that consumer knowledge is important to avoid these scams. However, “consumer education is not the be all and end all because [company] regulation is important, too.”

“My favorite line of the documentary is from Claretta Taylor,” said Franz Schniederman, a representative from the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition, who was present at the screening. “She said, ‘This didn’t happen to me because I didn’t care, it happened because I was vulnerable.’”

In the discussion after the movie, Schniederman also stressed four main principles that he believes will help eliminate the fraud and scams from happening: strong regulation of businesses, transparency or clear options for the consumer, clear contracts, and accountability and consequences for the fraudulent businesses.

According to Schniederman, the good news is that Maryland legislators have begun to take more action against the scams, as they’ve recently passed bills to tighten up laws within the three categories.

Seniors Kimmie Rouston and Emily Gershon both sponsored the screening as members of Pi Sigma Alpha.  According to Gershon, they decided to choose “Stealing Trust” because they “thought it was timely issue, especially to students that are vulnerable.  This movie is a warning to us all.”

Burlesque with WARNING: Nudity*!

At 9:15 p.m. on Thursday, April 26, Friday, April 27, and Saturday, April 28, Burlesque returned to St. Mary’s in a show entitled “WARNING: Nudity*!”

The show took place in Montgomery Hall in the Bruce Davis Theatre. After the shows on Friday and Saturday, there were talk-backs, where audience members were given an opportunity to talk to the cast members, ask questions, and provide feedback.

The burlesque show this semester was full of risqué performances that were clever, fun, enlightening, moving, passionate, and always entertaining.

Each performer in the burlesque show chooses a stage name that appears in the program when students arrive at the show, and that they are introduced as when they are on stage to perform.

The cast list this semester was as follows: The D.C. Chickadee, Divine Dilemma, Juniper Jive, La Dame d’Artois, Lieutenant Lucy, Lil’ Bro Peep, Liquid Jazz, Marigold May, Minette Henri, Miss Tantalizing Tigress, Norse by Norsewest, Pride not Prejudice, The Raging Loner, Ruby Rizque, strawberry_angel, The Sweetest Tea, Sweet-ish Fish, and Wanton Willow. The Master of Ceremonies went by the name Intoxikitten, and the “Stage Kittens” went by the names Little Red and Miss Minou.

Each performer had their own individual, unique style, and most of the performances consisted of one performer; only two performances were collaborative – those done by Liquid Jazz and Marigold May, and Norse by Norsewest and Sweet-ish Fish.

One senior performer, who has requested she be referred to as “Norse by Norsewest,” said, “The show this semester has a different emotional ‘feel’ than last semester.

The cast members identify with burlesque differently than the cast of last semester. This isn’t a bad thing, just different. It’s allowed me to explore burlesque from multiple perspectives and to investigate what there is about burlesque that makes it so enjoyable for me. Being a part of the executive board has also caused me to view burlesque differently. I feel a huge pressure to make sure the club and its agenda do not make people feel uncomfortable or unwelcome.”

Senior performer Marshall Betz (a.k.a. “Liquid Jazz”), said, on being one of the few male performers, “As one of the few men in the show, I gain a different perspective of burlesque performance in general. The women in the show are given the opportunity to deconstruct sexual barriers often placed on the female body as ‘immodest’ or downright sinful, reclaiming the female body as something more immaculate and celebratory. As a man, these implied profanities are not applied as rigidly to our sexual/body expression. The act of removing clothes is no less meaningful, but does not contain the political implications of female sexual expression.”

Burlesque has been taken as an opportunity for the performers to truly appreciate their own bodies, and break down barriers that told them that this appreciation was inappropriate.

On last semester’s burlesque show, both sophomore Mike Reinitz and first-year Olivia Goldman felt that there was humor and cleverness in each performance.

Reinitz said, “I think more people should participate because it really seemed to help students to potentially overcome any self-confidence issues.”

Burlesque is a show that can allow individuals to experience something new and to gain (or regain) confidence in themselves.

Orchestra and Chambers Perform for Community

Performing at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in St. Mary’s County on April 22,  the St. Mary’s Chamber Singers, Choir, and Orchestra sang and played a variety of pieces for the audience of College and county community members.

With 44 Chamber singers, 71 Choir members, and 44 Orchestra performers, the performance at 4 p.m. was far from small. The performance began with the Chamber Singers, who performed Eric Whitacre’s “Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine” alongside percussionists Gino Hannah and Nick Hughes. The music creates a picture of what a glimpse into the mind of artist Leonardo DaVinci might sound like, not only with Chamber singers, but also with vocalized sounds of flight to accompany the work. The music reflects the words of the story, written by Charles Anthony Silvestri.

The SMCM Choir and Orchestra, performing together with baritone Bob McDonald, a non-commissioned officer in charge of The United States Army Chorus, and soprano Colleen Daly, a professional opera singer, performed the six movements of Dona Nobis Pacem, composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams and written by Walt Whitman. As with the SMCM Chamber Singers performance, Dona Nobis Pacem was conducted by Larry Vote, Professor of Music at St. Mary’s. Vote is also a member of The Tidewater Ensemble, resident musical director to Interact (a theater company in Washington, D.C.), and a baritone soloist.

Meaning “grant us peace”, Dona Nobis Pacem was first performed in 1936 to remember recent wars of the past and state fears of one soon to come. The first movement, Agnus Dei (“Lamb of God”), is based on the original Catholic Mass from which the entire work was named, followed by Beat! Beat! Drums!; Reconciliation; Dirge for Two Veterans; The Angel of death has been abroad throughout the land; and O man greatly beloved. The lyrics are poems by Walt Whitman, who wrote them while he served as a medic during the Civil War. Vaughan Williams composed “Dona Nobis Pacem” as a response to the brutality of war he saw as he served as an ambulance driver and medic during World War I. The two works combine to be a sweeping epic of music that vilifies wartime atrocities and praises the peace of humankind.

The concert seemed to be well-received by College and community members.

Following a performance this past Sunday, the Music department will next be hosting the River Concert Series this summer, beginning in June and ending late-July.

Concert Review in Brief: Ganz and Babcock Perform Debussy

On Tuesday evening, April 24, resident accompanist and piano instructor Beverly Babcock and artist-in-residence and piano instructor Brian Ganz performed “Fantaisie for Piano and Orchestra” by Claude Debussy in St. Mary’s Hall.

Ganz played the piano accompaniment while Babcock played a piano version of the orchestra part.

Though this concert was not meant to be in the style of one of Ganz’s piano talks, Ganz spent the first half of the concert time talking about the piece’s formal components and its interesting history.

Ganz explained that the “Fantaisie” was one of Debussy’s earlier works.

In his early years, Debussy was extremely concerned about the impression he was making on the public with his work and did not feel that this piece was good enough to be released to the public.

The piece was composed in about 1890 but was never performed in Debussy’s lifetime. It was first performed in 1918 but since it is so uncharacteristic of Debussy’s work, it never managed to catch the public eye (or ear, so to speak).

Ganz, however, feels differently about the quality of the piece. He described the piece as “hauntingly beautiful” and like “sonic massage oils.” The piece blurs the line between major and minor chords and is full of exotic sounds, something that Debussy was very fond of creating.

Before performing the piece, Ganz and Babcock played parts of it to direct the audience in what to listen for as the pianists performed the piece. They played the various hidden themes that can be heard during the piece, along with various chords and fascinatingly exotic sounds.

Babcock and Ganz performed on two separate pianos together on the stage. They played through the three movements of the piece, each movement with its own theme and individual sound. There is an overarching theme, however, that embraces the entire piece that can be heard throughout each movement.

The exotic piece was very well-received by the audience, who gave Babcock and Ganz a standing ovation at the conclusion of the concert.

VOICES Reading Series Concludes with Author and Editor Hannah Tinti

The VOICES Reading series concluded on Thursday, April 26 with Hannah Tinti, novelist and editor-in-chief of One Story Magazine. The final reading was held in Cole Cinema, rather than the usual location for the VOICES readings, Daugherty-Palmer Commons (DPC).

Assistant Professor of English Jerry Gabriel, who has worked with Tinti on One Story Magazine, introduced the speaker. “It’s important to note that Hannah is a tireless worker for literary fiction,” Gabriel said. “As editor of One Story, Hannah has jumpstarted the careers of many young writers.”

Gabriel also commented on Tinti’s collection of short stories, “Animal Crackers,” which explores the animalistic side of human nature. According to Gabriel, Tinti “uses animals as a lens through which we see ourselves. These stories will shock you . . . this book is as alive as most of its animals are.”

Tinti cites her inspiration to write suspense as coming from her experience of growing up in Salem, Massachusettes.

“When people meet me, they say, ‘you look like such a nice young woman, why do you write such dark and creepy things?’ Then I tell them I grew up in Salem,” Tinti said. “Salem is Halloween 365 days a year, so I feel very comfortable in the suspense genre.”

The reading began with an interesting piece about Tinti’s experience as a child injuring her left arm in a graveyard, a story that she submitted as part of “The Post-it Note Diaries” project. This project involved a series of post-it note illustrations that coincided with the story, which created a comic-like effect as Tinti read her piece. The story was well received by the audience, and resembled a dark fairytale or ghost story.

Another source of inspiration she felt contributed to her work was real-life events, however this does not occur on a conscious level. Tinti claims that she will often write pieces with ties to her past life events subconsciously.

“One thing I learned over the years is to trust my unconscious mind,” Tinti said. “Even when you don’t intend to write about something, you still write about it. Things that happen end up following you.”

Tinti’s best-selling novel, “The Good Thief” has won a variety of awards, including the American Library Association’s Alex Award and the Quality Paperback Book Club’s New Voices Award.

According to Tinti, “The Good Thief” is about the idea of resurrection and rebirth, and is set in New England in the 1800’s. The novel is about an orphan boy named Ren, who gets caught up helping “Resurrection Men”, a name for grave robbers of the time-period. According to the writer, it was only when she nearly finished the novel that she realized that she had written Ren as having lost his left arm – perhaps stemming from her own subconscious memory of cutting her left arm when she was young.

“That’s an example of your subconscious making connections that you aren’t even aware are happening,” Tinti said.

Tinti concluded her reading with a question and answer session, where she gave away a wishing stone and a variety of prizes to students who asked questions. In response to a question about her process as a writer, Tinti admitted that she does not plot her stories before writing them.

“The trick is, if you are bored while you’re writing, whoever is reading it will also be bored. And so I ask myself, ‘What is the craziest thing that could happen?’ And then I do it,” Tinti said. “First draft: go crazy. That’s what I always tell all my students.”

According to Tinti, her greatest challenge as a writer is the actual writing part, and she cites rejection as the second greatest challenge. “You have to learn to become hard,” Tinti added. “Every submission you send out, expect to be rejected, and create a ritual to deal with it. You have to figure out what works for you.”

Artist Spotlight: Colby Caldwell

With two shows open in Washington, D.C. and well-received reviews from The Washington Post, Associate Professor of Art Colby Caldwell continues a series of successes in photography, mixing the digital and film-based worlds into a cohesive presentation of art.

Arriving at St. Mary’s for the first time in 2002 on a one-year contract from Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, D.C., Caldwell entered the art department an already established photographer.

He has been presenting work since 1988, and within seven years of being hired for a tenure-track professorship at the College has shown works at the Hemphill Gallery in D.C., Paragraph Gallery in Kansas City, and Goodyear Gallery at Dickinson College.

Caldwell was not always on a direct path to the world of art. At Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, Caldwell was on his way to earning a bachelor’s degree in history, more specifically 20th century European history (and even more specifically, the history of Germany and Russia leading up to World War II). During his senior work, however, he “caught the art bug” when looking at photographs of the time period.

“I got fascinated by documentary war photographs,” said Caldwell in an interview with The Point News. “Pretty soon I was writing and presenting more of the photographs of the time than the history itself, and my adviser suggested a different field of study.”

After taking pictures of his college’s band and enjoying it immensely, he shifted to the world of photography, leaving behind his bachelor’s degree eight credits short of completion.

Caldwell is currently featuring two shows in Washington, D.C., both encompassing the same body of work. “Gun shy”, at the Hemphill Gallery, shows Caldwell’s images of shotgun shells, abandoned duck blinds, bird remains, and feathers, all found on his own Jesuit property in St. Mary’s County.While recently purchased by the State of Maryland, the property has not been changed much since its establishment in the mid-17th century.

“[Gun shy] is more narrative-oriented, telling a story as a body of work,” said Caldwell. “It’s about the state of photography right now, which is a balance between film and digital-based media.”

“Spent”, showing images from the same body of work with a focus on how the shotgun shells have deteriorated over time, is being presented at Civilian Art Projects in Washington, D.C. Both shows represent 10 years of development of the project “small game,” also presented at Hemphill in 2007. A production based on this work, titled gun shy, is 76 pages and includes color photography images, and writings by Frank Goodyear, Ferdinand Protzman, Joe Lucchesi, Jayme McLellan, and Bernard Welt.

Caldwell lives on the farmhouse property with his two dogs, Smalls and Poe.