Paul Rardin, a member of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance’s conducting faculty and this year’s coordinator of the School’s annual performance blitz, the Collage Concert, has a message many have heard before: “This is the ‘if you’ve got time to go to one concert’ concert.”
With Hill Auditorium filled nearly to capacity last year, for the concert’s 30th anniversary, Rardin expects this year’s performance to live up to the hype. He also feels the performance gives a sense of the University’s greatest investment in the arts – its arts students – the way no other event will.
At a rehearsal of “Gloria,” by the American composer Dominick Argento, Rardin debriefed the Chamber and University Choirs – separate University classes, largely made-up of vocal performance majors – on what to expect at Saturday’s 8 p.m. show.
“There are five rises, and you’ll be sharing them with the saxophone ensemble,” he said to the students, who stood elbow-to-elbow. They chuckled, imagining the musicians huddling with their instruments next to about 100 people singing in Latin. “We’ve never done it this way,” Rardin admitted. “But there’s nowhere else for them to go.”
Such juxtapositions are more than concessions to a smallish stage – they’re what the Collage Concert is about in the first place. The idea came from a professional show the Concert’s founder, Gustav Meier, saw years ago.
“He liked the sudden dramatic contrasts from loud to soft, big to small, classical to pop,” Rardin said. “Sometimes jarring segues can be extremely effective.”
There are almost 30 parts to the concert, which puts most of its performers onstage at once and moves between performers without pauses, directing the audience’s attention with lighting. For Kelly Moran, a sophomore majoring in piano performance and performance arts technology, Saturday will be her first time participating in the concert.
“It’s definitely a rapid-fire method of conducting, but I think it’s conducive to the short attention span of most audiences,” she said.
The importance of conducting is unexpectedly great.
“One way to get most of the Music school involved is to use these big ensembles like University Choir and Jazz Ensemble, and there are always conductors for those,” Rardin said. “Most of the logistical decisions fall to us, and I suppose that’s how the selection process fell to us too.”
The conducting faculty selects performers through auditions. A few years ago, the concert was extended to include performers from the Theatre and Dance departments, people who come via recommendations from their respective department chairs.
The concert also promises to be an eclectic representation of the University. “It’s like a crash musicology course,” said Mary Martin, a junior majoring in vocal performance, of the material presented. “Not everything that’s included is historically monumental, but it highlights some things and offers alternatives.”
It offers alternatives to the participants as well, many of whom have less contact with peers outside of their discipline than one might imagine.
“In a self-concerned way, it’s just as important for us to hear what we sound like as it is for the outside world to hear,” Rardin said. He described the gratifying recognition that comes during dress rehearsal.
“For someone in Jazz Ensemble to hear what an Indian music ensemble sounds like that they didn’t know existed, and then to realize, ‘hey, that person’s in my theory class,’ it’s a wonderful moment,” he said.
The students have a lot to discover on the road to the concert itself. In rehearsal for a piece they will ultimately perform with the Symphony Band, Rardin hushed his students, and dropped a pearl of performance wisdom: “There’s nothing instrumentalists hate more than singers talking behind them when they’re trying to listen to their conductors.”
But everyone will surely be talking after the performance.
31st Annual Collage Concert
Saturday, Jan. 19 at 8 p.m.
At Hill Auditorium