Rowan Director of Bands Joseph Higgins initially had an idea to put a show together centered on William Shakespeare’s works, with this year being the 400th anniversary of his death.
During Tuesday night’s concert at a packed Pfleeger Concert Hall, the result was better than he pictured, thanks to the addition of an acting component.
In a program called “If Music Be The Food of Love, Play On,” the Rowan Wind Ensemble and actors from Rowan’s theater department came together through stage and musical selections in the spirit of the famed English playwright.
Higgins said everything came together when, after first picking music from Shakespeare, he thought some scenes should go along with it.
“We have this great theater and dance department but we don’t do enough collaborations, I don’t think, with the music department and their department,” said Higgins. “I found another professor [scene director Genevieve Perrier] who was really excited about it and that’s how it started.”
The central show featured eight actors — in full costume — showcasing five segments from Shakespeare plays, accompanied by five linked compositions from the Wind Ensemble.
After a scene was carried out in the bright foreground of the stage, the actors would head off and the lights would pan back to the band as they started a song. It created a sort of call-and-response, as well as a feeling of being treated to two distinct yet connected shows.
Band contra-bassoonist Kaylyn Gordon enjoyed this setup and collaboration, noting its uniqueness among other concerts.
“I never experienced that before so it was really cool getting another department involved,” said Gordon, a freshman music education major. “It makes me feel a lot more comfortable being here just knowing that that kind of thing will happen. I’m excited for what’s going to come.”
Selections performed included an exchange between the title characters of “Romeo and Juliet” paired with Michael Torke’s “The Kiss,” building to a big finish; the death of Caesar from “Julius Caesar” with an uplifting Nigel Hess composition of the same name; and the opening monologue of “Twelfth Night,” from which the concert got its name and start, with the roaring “William Byrd Suite, Movement I” by Gordon Jacob.
The ensemble and acting group had been rehearsing on their own time since the start of the semester, meeting together occasionally.
“I loved the scenes because right away it brings you back to school. I remember reading about [Julius] Caesar getting stabbed by his friends, I was like ‘No way,’” said Sylvie, a resident of Whitesboro, New Jersey. “Everything came back to me; that made me feel good as a person.”
After a short intermission and departure of the actors, flute professor Adeline Tomasone and members of the Wind Ensemble took to the stage.
A few players positioned themselves in the aisles to help circulate the moody, haunting atmosphere of Joel Puckett’s concerto “The Shadow of Sirius.” Where earlier in the show focus shifted from front of the stage to back, attention was now drawn throughout the hall.
Closing out the evening, the full band, without Tomasone, had one last hoorah with “Kingfishers Catch Fire, Movement II,” a lively piece by John Mackey.
“I always want to try to feature a faculty member every now and then, and we have a great flute professor, so I chose [“The Shadow of Sirius”] to feature her,” Higgins said. “The last piece is just super exciting. I wanted something really fun to play with a lot of percussion parts.
“It was a lot more than a normal concert. It was like a lot of pyrotechnics. But it was cool.”
The Wind Ensemble will return to Pfleeger on Dec. 8 for a concert in the theme of nature titled “Composing the Natural World.”
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