Tonight at Hill Auditorium, the School of Music will present the annual Collage Concert. Since 1977, faculty and students have come together each year to create a sparkling, fast-paced display of some of the school’s most impressive and unique talents.
A typical Collage Concert — if there is such a thing — looks and sounds just as the name would imply. In an ordinary classical concert, a group or soloist would perform four or five full-length pieces with applause in between and an intermission halfway through.
The Collage format highlights short excerpts, ranging in length from two to four minutes, from a variety of different pieces played by different performers. This year, in addition to the University’s band, orchestra and choir, the program features an electric violinist, a bassoon ensemble and a dance scene from “A Chorus Line.”
But the trait that makes the Collage Concert so unique has as much to do with the visual aspect of the performance as the musical. Each performer is centered around the chorus and band or orchestra, but the imposing grandeur of Hill Auditorium’s stage is blacked out. A spotlight illuminates only the group or soloist playing at that moment; immediately after that flashy snippet of a piece is finished, the light jumps to the next act. Aside from one intermission in the middle of the concert (after which applause for the first half’s performers is allowed), no breaks or applause are built into the Collage format.
“The concept is so exciting because it’s not the usual stop-and-start kind of program that we usually have,” School of Music Dean Karen Wolff said. “The notion that you can go from this totally sensational thing that’s (happening) on the left side of the stage to something that’s equally astonishing and completely different on the other side is great. (Collage) is a wonderful vehicle to show off the depth and quality of the talent in this place and also the diversity of that talent.”
Faculty and students alike look forward to the yearly performance. “As the conducting faculty is preparing, we’re seeing students we don’t know and students we do know. We’re seeing the overall body of talent that makes the School of Music so great,” said Prof. Michael Haithcock, the school’s director of bands. Each of the large ensemble conductors will lead the band, chorus or orchestra in an excerpt at the concert. Haithcock will conduct “Overboard (Prologue)” from Asst. Prof. Susan Botti’s composition Cosmosis.
“It’s a great showcase for the entire School of Music — back to back to back, the best performers we have,” said Assistant Director of Athletic Bands Damon Talley, who, along with Assistant Professor Jamie Nix, organized Collage XXVIII. Each year, members of the School of Music’s conducting faculty hear dozens of audition recordings sent in by ambitious students.
The conductors face a difficult task: They must cull from the submissions a program of excerpts that are diverse, yet complimentary to each other. “A big obstacle is deciding who’s going to be in (the concert), because we get a lot of great submissions — I’d say between two and three times the number that we actually take,” said Talley, who will conduct Symphony Band’s performance of a movement from Percy Grainger’s Lincolnshire Posy. “And they’re all really good. Nobody who submits a CD is anything less than great.”
“We try to feature (groups) so that it’s not a static concert,” Nix said. “A lot of that happens in the actual placement of pieces. When we’re listening, we’ll say, ‘We’ve got too much of this classical style, so we need, you know, “Fnugg.” ’ So it’s more like this” — he outlined ups and downs with his finger — “rather than like this,” he said, motioning a flat line.
Length is an important issue to consider when assembling a Collage program. Although the concert’s quick pace and varied repertoire easily hold audiences’ attention, the lack of breaks between pieces is unusual. “We try to time the halves out, forty minutes and forty minutes,” explained Nix, who will conduct part of Carter Pann’s Slalom. “Actually having to cut parts of pieces — that’s hard as well. You’re taking the Bart