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  • Collegian staff

Wind instruments to go outdoors, strings stay indoors, singers to create virtual performances

Updated: Apr 29, 2022

Noah Dantes


The Collegian reached out to the music department chair, Marva Duerksen, this past week for information on the changes made this semester by the department. Duerksen provided the following statements over email from professors Agüero, Engbretson and Skovira.

Statement from Associate Professor of Music Héctor Agüero:

Instrumental ensembles that involve wind and brass players cannot safely play indoors. Hence, the majority of our playing will be done in smaller groups outside.

Band performances will be virtual. We will essentially be compiling pieces from individual video contributions to be released online.

Unlike wind instruments, strings can safely play indoors while masked and socially distanced. Therefore we will be meeting with minimal interruption to prepare live performances that will be filmed and uploaded online.

We are hopeful that the string orchestra in collaboration with Willamette Pro Musica will be able to contribute a performance to the theatre department's season pass as we have in past years. This performance would be prerecorded and will be accessed through the theatre box office in the spring term.

Statement from Instructor of Vocal Studies Chris Engbretson:

In a continuing effort to maximize student and faculty safety, and in light of mounting evidence regarding the dangers of aerosols, Vox and the Chamber Choir will be moving away from in-person singing during the pandemic. We will continue to explore the literature but will do so in a safe, online medium. Large-ensemble works will be compiled from individual student recordings and combined together into a virtual choir presentation. This will provide our students with a chance to explore new recording technologies, which are often a part of daily life for professional musicians. We will also be exploring an early-music unit this fall, where students get the chance to study and record small-ensemble works from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. It will be an exciting opportunity for our singers to perform beautiful music - often one on a part - that they likely wouldn't have the chance to thoroughly explore during an undergraduate experience.

Statement from the Zeller Chair in Opera Studies Katherine Skovira:

In 1960, the NYTimes wrote: “Were the Thirties turbulent and adventurous in the creative arts or do they only seem so in retrospect to those of us who experienced them when we were younger and more eupeptic? The [1937] production by the New York City Open of Marc Blitzstein's "The Cradle Will Rock" reminds us that in return for our prosperity and security these days we have settled for sedateness and conformity.”

In 2020, facing the spread and patterning of ongoing systemic racism and a global pandemic, The Cradle Will Rock could not be timelier. In the 2020-2021 season, theatre and opera companies, orchestras and musical presenters all face the same brutal reality: we cannot perform for our audiences in our traditional medium, on campus in person. The National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) and CDC [Center for Disease Control] have given 2020 guidelines stating that singing is too dangerous to occur in person. Faced with this scenario, with no hall that can house us or our audience in community together, with a political climate as caustic as the one facing Blitzstein’s cast and production team, we innovate, we persevere.

In this class, we will stage a complete production of Blitzstein’s The Cradle Will Rock virtually. We will rehearse, plan, storyboard and work through every particular of the production online together, protecting our performers and team and creatively bringing this product to our audience. The Zeller Family, Kurt Weill Foundation and EAM Publishers support this production and are eager for the results.

The DVA [Dramatic Vocal Arts] event will livestream on March 11-14, 2021 and include pre-recorded content and participation of remote and in person students, singers, actors and dancers.

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