SMCM Fall 2021 Orchestra Concert

By Jordan Williams

Vol. 82 Issue 6 December 14th 2021

On Nov. 18, the SMCM community gathered in Montgomery Recital Hall to listen to a live performance of the St. Mary’s Orchestra. Friends and family members of the musicians cheered in support as the musicians showed off what they had been working on over the past few months. The concert featured several soloists, including MK Meyers on trumpet, Dylan Parham on violin 1, William Capon on oboe, Zayon Morgan and Jonathan Zutt on percussion and Robert Hayes –an SMCM music faculty member on piano.

This concert was really special to the orchestra. It was the first time in two years that the group was able to put on a performance together. Normally, the orchestra does one concert every semester but due to COVID, they have not been able to perform since fall 2019. For three whole semesters since COVID hit, the orchestra met twice a week, mostly over Zoom, and only came together a few times in-person outside when the weather was nice. They did not get enough rehearsal time to put on a concert. Everyone was excited to finally show off their skills and everything they have learned since the last concert.

Angelie Roche is a sophomore violin and viola player in the orchestra. They described the concert as a success, “I think that overall the concert went well. We had a lot of difficult material, so we did experience some trip-ups, but overall I feel really proud to have finished my first concert at SMCM!” The weeks leading up to the concert were stressful for the group. There were delays receiving some of the music scores, so the orchestra had limited time to work on certain songs. “The pieces that we got last turned out to be some of the hardest ones, so everyone was busy practicing and preparing for the concert,” said Angelie.

The lack of instrument variety in the orchestra this year posed a challenge, “Being a small group, we had some unevenness and had to fill in several parts. I actually switched from viola to violin 2 halfway through the semester because there were 5 violas (at that time) and only one 2nd violin,” said Angelie. Some wind instruments were missing entirely from the group. Despite the challenges, the group was able to put on a performance they were proud of.

The orchestra is excited to move into the new music building being built. It is set to open with a full-fledged auditorium. The Montgomery Recital Hall has many acoustic issues that make it difficult to play in. The new building will hopefully fix those issues once it opens next year.

22-Year-Old Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason Makes New York Philharmonic Debut

By Charlotte Mayer

Vol. 82 Issue 6 December 14th 2021

On Nov. 11, 22-year old British cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason made his debut with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. It was an evening of “bold, charismatic musical storytelling,” said the New York Times.

In the introduction, Kanneh-Mason sat patiently with his instrument — the soloist in Dvorak’s Cello Concerto does not enter until after three and a half minutes of orchestral music, says the New York Times — but when he finally begins, he is “suddenly animated, matching the ensemble’s grandeur with his own: fiery vibrato, dramatic phrasing,” and “richly voiced yet crisp forzando chords.”

The third of seven children, Kanneh-Mason grew up in Nottingham, England and began learning the cello at the age of six after briefly playing the violin. His household was always full of music. When practicing, he goes “in [his] bedroom, [his] brother goes in his bedroom, and then the girls fight over the pianos,” he said in an interview with Caroline Crampton from U.K. magazine The New Statesman. In fact, in 2015 his brother and four of his sisters performed with him on Britain’s Got Talent where they made it to the semi-final.

When Crampton first met him in 2016, “it was hard to tell where the cello ended and he began,” she said. His cello playing was “astonishingly emotive” and public reactions to it were “almost universally positive.” According to Crampton, commentators have remarked on “the startling maturity that shines through his interpretations of music” — the “raw emotion” in his Shostakovich concerto, the “grimly frenetic passages” and “Russian melancholy.”

His love for the cello started when he saw his sister perform in ‘Stringwise,’ an annual weekend course for young string players in Nottingham. He then switched from violin to cello and began to take part in the Stringwise courses, “impressing conductors with his astonishing ability to play everything from memory,” said Music for Everyone, the local charity running Stringwise courses. At the age of nine, he passed the Grade 8 cello examination with the highest marks in the U.K. and won the Marguerite Swan Memorial Prize, says the Nottingham Post. Also at the age of nine he won a scholarship to join the Junior Academy of the Royal Academy of Music. 

At age 17, he won the 2016 BBC Young Musician competition — the first Black musician to win the award since its launch in 1978. 

At age 19, Kanneh-Mason was a royal wedding cellist at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on May 19, 2018. He played three songs for guests as Harry and Meghan signed the register, reported CBC News.

On Jan. 26, 2018, Kenneh-Mason released his first full-length album, “Inspiration.” This album includes the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 1 as well as shorter works by Shostakovich, Saint-Saens and Offenbach, among others. On Feb. 2, 2018, the Official U.K. Charts Company announced that “Inspiration’s” success had made Kenneh-Mason “the U.K.’s youngest cellist to break into the Official Albums Chart Top 20 with his debut album.”

In early Feb. 2018, the BBC reported that Kanneh-Mason’s album “Inspiration” was “the biggest-selling British debut of the year to date,” becoming number one on the U.K. classical albums chart and achieving 2.5 million streams on Spotify, according to BBC News Online. 

As of today, he has over 1.5 million monthly listeners on streaming service Spotify and is currently a student of Hannah Roberts at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

“Red: Taylor’s Version” Review

By Catherine Wasilko

Vol. 82 Issue 6 December 14th 2022

After months of Swiftie fandom speculation, Taylor Swift announced that the next album to be re-recorded would be “Red.” The original date for the release was Nov. 19, however, she announced on Twitter that the release would be moved up a week earlier, on Nov. 12. The album has a total of 30 songs, 24 of which were on previous “Red” albums, and “Babe” is included on the new “Red” album. “Babe” was originally sung by Sugarland with Swift as a featured artist. The song appeared on Sugarland’s album “Bigger.” The next five songs are ones Taylor is releasing “from the vault,” and “All Too Well” is extended into a 10 minute version, being more explicit than the original.

The 10 minute version of “All Too Well” was released as a short film on Nov. 12, starring Sadie Sink from “Stranger Things” and Dylan O’Brien from “Teen Wolf.” Fans speculated that the two resembled Swift and her then boyfriend, Jake Gyllenhaal, with O’Brien and Sink portraying the same ages as Swift and Gyllenhaal when they were dating in 2012. In an interview with Jimmy Fallon on  Nov. 11, Swift said “It was the most unbelievable experience working with people who are that prepared, committed. Just the chemistry between them is really on another planet.”

Swift also released another music video on Monday Nov. 15. “I Bet You Think About Me” was directed by Blake Lively, a friend of Swift. It starred Miles Teller, with his actual wife, Keleigh Teller. The music video follows Swift’s ex, speculated to be Gyllenhaal, as he sees her at his wedding as a figment of his imagination. Swift gives the toast for the wedding, while also handing Teller’s wife a familiar object. Inside the red box handed to the bride, is a scarf that appears to be similar to the one shown in “All Too Well.” As Swift stated in her announcement, “The reddest video EVER is out now.”

The songs that were re-recorded have clearer diction and tone. It is easier to understand the lyrics and how they are sounded out. Swift’s voice is smooth, clear, and has deepened over the years. Parts of the song have changed from when they were originally recorded, but have resulted in a truer appreciation of her work. As her voice has aged from the original recordings of the songs, the fan’s appreciation remained consistent.

The songs “from the vault” are ones that Swift wrote during the time of Red, but remained unreleased until now. “Babe,” which was originally by Sugarland, was rerecorded by Swift using only her voice. The others are songs she wrote during the time of the original “Red” album, but never released to the public. This includes the 10 minute version of “All Too Well.” The “vault” songs are equal parts sad and happy, some with slow rhythms and others with faster tempos. These songs represent the heart of the “Red” album, being the unspoken feelings Swift was unable to express.

Swift’s re-recorded album came at the right moment as the fall season began. As the leaves change their colors, “Red: Taylor’s Version” sets the mood for the season. Overall, Swift’s album collects the same amount of nostalgia as when listeners first heard the songs back in 2012. Newer fans will appreciate how Swift owns her songs, as well as releasing even newer songs to the public. But the entire fanbase will love how Swift will have officially owned her “Red” album.

Broadway Legend Stephen Sondheim Dies

By Lily Riesett

Vol. 82 Issue 6 December 14th 2021

Composer Stephen Sondheim passed away at 91 on Friday, Nov. 26 at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut. Sondheim’s friends and family knew he was ill, but the death was rather unexpected and sudden. After completing an autopsy, the cause of death had been marked as a cardiovascular disease. He had been celebrating Thanksgiving with some friends in Roxbury just the day before. 

Sondheim was born on March 22, 1930, in Manhattan and lived on the Upper East Side of New York City. He attended military and private school up until his parents separated during his teenage years. He stayed living with his mother to support her, but had a very difficult relationship with her. He recalls her either flirting with him or belittling him. She was good friends with lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II who took Sondheim under his wing and taught him how to write music. 

Sondheim attended Williams College in Massachusetts, where he studied music composition. He got the opportunity to study under famous composers Milton Babbitt and Robert Barrow and worked for the agency representing Hammerstein after college. Sondheim then began writing for what he was destined to do: Broadway musicals. 

Sondheim led a very successful life and career, writing music for some of Broadway’s most beloved shows. His first Broadway show which he wrote the music and lyrics for premiered in 1962, a comedy musical “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.” He went on to win a Tony for Best Musical. Sondheim began his career on Broadway writing lyrics for well known musicals such as “West Side Story” and “Gypsy” in the late 50’s. After his success in ‘62, he decided to only write lyrics for his own compositions. 

Some of his most prized works which he wrote both the music and lyrics for include “Company” (1970), “Follies” (1971), “A Little Night Music” (1973), “Pacific Overtures” (1976), “Sweeney Todd” (1979), “Merrily We Roll Along” (1981), “Sunday in the Park With George” (1984) and “Into the Woods” (1987).  Five  of his shows won Tonys for Best Musical, six  won for Best Original Score and “Sunday in the Park With George” went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. 

In honor of his passing, many Broadway stars joined together in Times Square to sing in remembrance of Sondheim. They performed pieces from his shows as the theater community grieved his death. Sondheim’s legacy will live on in the theater as being one of the most successful lyricists and composers in Broadway history.