Across his 27 years at Hope, the late Roger E. Davis of the music faculty helped guide the talent of hundreds of organists and vocalists.
Starting this fall, he will do so again through the custom instrument that he built for the studio in his 14th Street home, where he used it for rehearsal and master classes. In storage since Davis’ death in January 1990, the organ is being reconstructed in the Robert Cavanaugh Choral Room in the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts.
New generations of students will soon benefit from the talent of former long-time music professor Roger E. Davis, whose custom-built home-studio organ is being installed in the college’s choral rehearsal room.
“The intent of the organ is to accompany choirs in preparation for performances such as Vespers. It will also be an instrument for student organ practice,” said Mark DeWitt ’87, who, in addition to being senior director of principal gifts at Hope, was one of Davis’s students. “Also, the pedal board is comparable to many European instruments, which offers the students a contrast from the standard American Guild of Organists specification.”
Given to Hope by Davis’ friends and family, the organ is joining five other performance and rehearsal instruments at the college. Its colleagues include the historic E.M. Skinner chancel organ in Dimnent Memorial Chapel; the Casavant concert organ in the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts; the Dutch Pels and van Leeuwen organ in the chapel’s gallery; the J.W. Walker and Sons organ in the studio of Dr. Huw Lewis, professor of music and college organist since 1990; and one practice organ.
Davis, a professor of music who joined the faculty in 1963, enjoyed organ building and wood crafting as an avocation, and earlier in his career had spent two years working in pipe organ building and maintenance. While at Hope, he spent many summers on pipe organ rebuilding and voice projects in several West Michigan churches, and was often called upon to serve as an organ consultant. He based his own organ on the casework and pipes from an instrument by the Kilgen Organ Company, a U.S. firm that built many church and theatre organs during the 20th century.
In addition to teaching organ and music theory, and serving as the college organist, Davis directed the College Chorus for 20 years, and for 10 years chaired and was program director of Christmas Vespers. In 1971, he initiated Hope’s annual Tulip Time organ recital series, which continues to this day. He had played a central role in the college’s acquisition of the Pels and Van Leeuwen organ, which was installed in the chapel in 1971.
Davis was also an active recitalist, and performed in many churches in the Midwest. His scholarly work included the textbook The Organist’s Manual.
Originally from Illinois, Paul spent several years working for Wayne State University before coming to Hope. While at Wayne State, he saw several seasons of productions by the Hillberry Repertory Company; one of the only graduate-level repertories in the country. After his time at Wayne State, and out of a job, a friend invited him to sing in the pit choir for the musical Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.
During scenic strike for the production, Paul thought to himself, “I could do this,” and he enrolled at Hope College, where he was a student from 1986-1988. After graduating, Paul worked as a freelance carpenter around Holland until he received a phone call from Hope professor and then theatre department chair, Richard Smith. Richard told Paul that the theatre department had been granted funding for a technical director position, so Paul applied for the job and was hired.
Perry grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and studied music performance and composition at Colorado State University and Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington. At Whitworth, he caught the theatre bug when he designed and ran sound for Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. After graduation and a brief stint as a performing musician, he returned to Whitworth as the Auditorium Coordinator. He then obtained an MFA in Design Technical Theatre from the University of Montana, where he also composed incidental music for plays. After the MFA was completed, he started a freelance career in Salinas, California. Shortly thereafter, a phone call from Richard Smith brought him on a one-year appointment to Holland starting in the fall semester of 1987.
“One year. I was here for a year, I thought,” Perry says. “We see how that worked out!”
Perry is the Lighting and Sound Designer in Residence, Associate Professor and Facilities Manager. He explains that no two days are alike, which has always kept the work fresh and interesting. There are always plenty of problems to solve, both creative and otherwise. His schedule takes him all over the building and elsewhere, so he admits that he isn’t in his office very often.
Paul says his job as technical director for the theatre department is more regulated than Perry’s job, and he has tried to keep it that way. Despite the depth of the tasks Paul is given, he has managed to keep his work schedule to five days a week:
“Theatre is known to eat some people’s lives, and I have attempted to not let that happen.” Paul’s main task as the TD is to take Richard Smith’s scenic designs, or drawings, and to interpret and build them in the best manner to safely support the productions.
The Hope College theatre department and community will greatly miss these dedicated departmental members after their 63 years of combined service.
Perry indicates that picking a favorite production from his time at Hope would be equivalent to picking a favorite child. He did, however, name The Nutcracker, a Play, which featured puppeteer and alum Brad William’s giant mice and spiders. The Nutcracker, a Play was presented five times between 1990 and 1995. Another piece that came to mind was Buried Child, staged in 1992, featuring Professor Emeritus George Ralph. But there are so many, he says, all wonderful memories. Paul also had a hard time picking a favorite production but was able to identify one of his favorite parts of technical directing. He said that even when the construction of a show seemed to drag on beyond endurance, or if there were real struggles getting the show up, sitting in the auditorium and witnessing everything come together on opening night made all of the challenges worth it:
“If there are functional elements in the set, there is always a moment of anticipation to see if it works, and when it does, I think wow, it worked, it came together. Seeing the results is the most rewarding.”
We also asked Perry about his favorite aspects of working at Hope College. “Working with students” evolved over the years into a primary interest. Hope students can be so bright, articulate, intellectually curious, and engaged. Perry explained that he had never planned on becoming a teacher. He intended a career as a composer and designer, and thought he might teach for a year or two, perhaps, later in his career. Here at Hope, however, his relationships with students became as interesting as his design work, often more so. He admits, however, that he loves those rare, precious moments during a production when the audience members forget to breathe because they have become transfixed:
“That’s what it’s all about. I live for those moments,” Perry says.
Paul’s and Perry’s last working day at Hope College will be June 30th. In retirement, Perry plans on taking some steps away from theatre to follow other creative passions and do more writing, home improvements, and travel. Similar to Perry, Paul hopes to travel, build furniture, and work on a miniature working steam locomotive that runs on real coal. When it’s complete, it should produce enough power to pull a couple of adults on a riding car.
Perry’s advice to new faculty would be to make the most of the ‘honeymoon phase’, just after being hired. Chairs, deans and provosts are at their most amenable! Be sure to make recommendations, ask for things, and take action. It’s a very valuable time. Paul’s advice to anyone who may fill his shoes in the future is to get to know the students and truly pay attention to them: “They come in with such a wide range of talents. It will be a challenge, but don’t judge a student based strictly on their initial abilities, give them a chance.”
The Hope College theatre department and community will greatly miss these dedicated departmental members after their 63 years of combined service. We are beyond grateful for all of the wisdom, guidance, creativity, dedication, and love for the arts they have shared with us.
Lent is a time for prayer and reflection on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. On April 9, the Kruizenga Art Museum opened a focused exhibition of etchings by the 17th-century Dutch master Rembrandt van Rijn that includes eight poignant scenes from the life of Christ. These beautiful images may inspire special contemplation as we prepare to celebrate the Easter Season, but their broader meaning and relevance continues to resonate throughout the year.
The Holy Family. Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669), 1632. Etching and drypoint. The Sarah and Grace Collection, 2018.8.10
Throughout his life, Rembrandt made sketches of ordinary people he encountered in the course of his daily activities. He then used these sketches as models for many of the figures that appear in his prints and paintings. This etching of the Holy Family illustrates Rembrandt’s prodigious ability to observe and record the mundane details of everyday life. It shows Mary nursing the baby Jesus in the foreground while Joseph leans against a wall in the background reading a book. There are no haloes, angels or other signs of the Christ child’s divinity. Instead, Rembrandt has captured the moment when Jesus seems to be nodding off after his feed and the slightly disheveled, tired-looking Mary—who has kicked off her shoes to relieve the pressure on her aching feet—is preparing to return to the sewing basket that stands open beside her.
The Flight into Egypt: a Night Piece. Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669), 1651. Etching, engraving and drypoint. The Sarah and Grace Collection, 2018.8.4
This print from later in Rembrandt’s career adds drama to this image of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt by setting the scene at night. Dense areas of cross-hatching on the plate create an inky darkness that envelops Joseph, Mary and Jesus as they flee King Herod’s murderous wrath. Rembrandt’s technique is so effective that the untouched areas of the paper inside Joseph’s lantern truly appear to glow with light. Rembrandt revised the plate for this print many times until he achieved the visual effects he desired. Christ Healing the Sick (The Hundred Guilder Print). Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669), ca. 1649. Etching, engraving and drypoint. The Sarah and Grace Collection, 2018.8.13
Rembrandt was masterful in his ability to create complex visual narratives. This print, for instance, conflates several stories from the Gospel of Matthew in which Christ ministers to the sick, debates the Pharisees on points of religious law, exhorts a wealthy young man to give up his possessions, and declares that children belong to the kingdom of heaven. It has long been recognized as one of Rembrandt’s masterworks for the variety of facial expressions and bodily gestures evident in the crowd of figures around Christ, and for the dramatic play of light and dark passages throughout the composition. Some scholars think that Rembrandt did not sell this print during his lifetime, and that he only gave impressions to close friends and important patrons. The relative rarity of the print drove up its value to the point where an impression once sold for one hundred guilders, a very high price for a print and the equivalent of about four months wages for an average worker at the time.
The Raising of Lazarus. Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669), 1632; this impression late 17th-early 18th century. Etching and drypoint. The Sarah and Grace Collection, 2018.8.6
Rembrandt created this print when he was only twenty-six years old. He had just moved from Leiden to Amsterdam and he used the large, dramatic image to advertise his artistic abilities to potential patrons. The print depicts a story from the Gospel of John in which Jesus resurrects a man named Lazarus who had died four days earlier. The gospel says that after raising Lazarus from the dead, Christ proclaims, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” The image captures the climactic moment when Jesus commands Lazarus to come forth from his tomb. The blazing light that emanates from Jesus’s body gives the scene a theatrical quality and emphasizes the miraculous, almost magical power of Christ.
Christ Driving Money Changers from the Temple. Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669), 1635; this impression 17th-early 18th century. Etching. The Sarah and Grace Collection, 2018.8.9
All four gospels say that when Jesus and his disciples entered Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, Jesus was outraged to find merchants and money changers operating in the temple courtyard. He accused them of turning the holy site into a “den of thieves” and drove them out with a whip made of cords. Here, Rembrandt conveys the inherent drama of the scene by placing Christ at the center of the composition, his body torqued as he raises the whip to strike the merchants and money changers who cower before him. The expressions on the faces of the people and animals surrounding Jesus clearly show the shock and confusion caused by the sudden explosion of his righteous anger. The frenetic cross-hatching and jagged line-drawing further enhance the feeling of energy and emotion in the image.
Christ Before Pilate. Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669), 1636; this impression 17th-18th century. Etching, engraving and drypoint. The Sarah and Grace Collection, 2018.8.2
This print portrays Pontius Pilate presenting Jesus to the people of Jerusalem for judgement. It is one of Rembrandt’s most ambitious etchings and took more than a year to complete. Scholars now think that Christ and the other figures in the center of the image were drawn by Rembrandt himself, but that the surrounding parts of the composition were completed by Rembrandt’s workshop assistants. One of the figures in the central group who appears wearing a plumed cap and leaning over the balustrade bears a striking resemblance to Rembrandt’s self-portraits, and may have been included by the master as an amusing allusion to the status of artists as observers and interpreters of history.
The Crucifixion. Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669), 1635; this impression 17th century. Etching. The Sarah and Grace Collection, 2018.8.8
As Rembrandt matured artistically, his compositions became increasingly subtle and sophisticated. In this image of Christ’s crucifixion from 1635, Rembrandt leaves almost half of the printing plate empty, allowing the blank space to magnify the feelings of sorrow and desolation evoked by the anguished figures that surround the cross. Rembrandt experimented with different ways of inking the plate for this print to make the image appear lighter or darker. This impression, which may have been taken during Rembrandt’s lifetime, has an even, mid-range tone.
Christ Carried to the Tomb. Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606-1669), ca. 1645; this impression 17th century. Etching and drypoint. The Sarah and Grace Collection, 2018.8.3
Part of Rembrandt’s genius was his ability to imagine and convey the inner feelings of the characters in the stories he depicted. This etching of Christ’s followers carrying his body to the tomb perfectly captures the somber dejection they must have felt after Christ’s execution and before his resurrection. The jumbled, nervous lines of the landscape around the figures further magnify the mood of uncertainty and confusion. This is one of the few etchings that Rembrandt did not re-work and re-print in multiple states. It exists in only one state, and the quality of this impression suggests that it may have been printed during Rembrandt’s lifetime.
All of these prints are included in the focus exhibition Rembrandt Etchings, on view at the Hope College Kruizenga Art Museum from April 9 to June 1, 2019. The museum is located at 271 Columbia Avenue in Holland, MI. Public visiting hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10am-4pm. The museum is closed on all campus holidays, including Easter weekend. Admission is free and all are welcome.
Creativity takes courage, and putting your ideas on stage for the world to see is a baring of the soul like no other. This weekend, students of the Hope College Dance Department present their choreography, some for the first time, in the biannual Student Dance Showcase. They are nervous, excited and hopeful, hopeful that their pieces touch the audience, or challenge the audience, or both.
Some students are choreographing for a grade, finished pieces serving as their culminating efforts for Composition class. Others simply love to create, and the Student Dance Showcase provides the perfect forum.
The creative process can be both exhilarating and exasperating, both terrifying and life-giving. Within the studio, a choreographer researches form and content, the ‘what,’ ‘why’ and ‘how’ of movement invention, employing choreographic tools and devices that turn ideas into art. For the spring Showcase, student choreographers begin their pieces in January, first working alone and then inviting their peers in the Dance Department and across campus into a busy weekly rehearsal process through April. Following spring break the choreographers present their mostly-finished pieces to Showcase advisers Professors Shauna Steele and Angela Yetzke. The advisers give feedback and offer creative solutions to each student’s choreographic roadblocks. Then comes the difficult decision-making.
It is up to Steele and Yetzke to determine which pieces will be presented formally at the Knickerbocker Theatre and which will be presented in the Dow 207 studio that converts to a small white-box theater. Student choreographers placed in the Knickerbocker have the unique opportunity to work with Erik Alberg, Technical Director for the Performing Arts, who creates individual lighting designs for each piece presented. Typically, the Knickerbocker pieces are further developed or warrant a type of technical support only possible in an actual theater, but not always. Some pieces are strategically chosen for the intimate setting of the Dow studio where nuance and detail are highlighted in exquisite ways.
The 21 pieces presented in this year’s spring Showcase were thoughtfully placed and range from ballet to contemporary to jazz to hip hop to dance theater. Three pieces are multidisciplinary in nature. Juniors Anna Smith and Andi Yost bring color to their collaborative movement creation, paint in hand, their bodies as canvas (Dow shows). Senior Chanel Harrison incorporates her original poetry into a duet with fellow senior Alex Pasker (Knick shows). International student Elizabeth Estrada Flores from the Universidad Autónoma de Querétaro in Querétaro, Mexico, layers dance and live music, collaborating with sophomore business and jazz studies major Michael J. Penida who accompanies her bluesy, playful jazz duet on saxophone (Knick shows).
Come support these brave young artists. Allow their courage and creativity to inspire your own. Please join us for the Spring Student Dance Showcase, this Friday, Dow 207, 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; this Saturday, Knickerbocker Theatre, 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. All shows are free.
All theatre majors at Hope College must hold an internship, fulfill a major design or stage management role in a faculty-directed production, or complete an independent project. For his final capstone experience, senior Jose Angulo is writing a play titled “Bleach.” It is based on Jose’s own experience as well as the experience of other Latino students navigating the opportunities and challenges as minority students at Hope College. Jose will direct a reading of “Bleach” in the Studio Theatre of the DeWitt Center on Tuesday-Wednesday, April 16-17. The readings will start at 7:30 pm and are free.
Jose and I spoke about the impetus of his project and his goals for the performance. Here are excerpts from that conversation.
How did you decide to write this play?
Last summer I had the pleasure of attending the Latinx Theatre Commons, which took place in Chicago. It was there where I got my inspiration to tell stories of people who are like me. I did not realize how under-represented we are until it was right in front of my face. The Latinx theatre artists presented their work with such passion and finesse at this festival, and I was in awe. For my final independent project as a senior theatre major, I knew I wanted to do something personal that would represent my college journey. Through my experience in Chicago, I realized that focusing on the Latino culture here at Hope was a perfect point of departure for me.
What story do you hope to tell?
I began writing a play that would tell the story of struggling Latino students – and ultimately, about one in particular, whose attendance is threatened by the reallocation of financial aid funds. The story is based on my own experience along with that of my friends and highlights some of the issues we have dealt with while trying to graduate.
Whom do you want to reach with this play?
I would like the story to speak to the Latino audiences in the area. I know many minority students have had similar experiences, and their voices deserve to be heard.
How did you approach the writing process?
Initially, it was difficult to figure out the path I wanted to take. I was not sure if I wanted the story to be hopeful or if it should serve more critically as a ‘reality check.’ I wanted to portray my generation accurately and appropriately as well. Frankly, I often feel that we are not portrayed with the intelligence we really have or with the responsibilities and pressures that we bear. For minority students, there are additional concerns rushing through our heads as we live and study in an environment that is quite dissimilar from our own cultures and homes. We recognize a college education as a necessary and valuable step in survival but the obstacles towards graduation can be formidable.
What are your hopes for the artistic future?
I want my piece to be a step in changing what we are so used to seeing in entertainment. Minorities make up such a huge portion of the United States, and it is only fair that we see people like us up there. We have so much talent that is yet to be seen and appreciated. My piece is truly for the culture and for the opportunity of other Latinos.
— Jose has acted in numerous productions for the college’s Theatre Department. Already as a freshman, he played two major roles: Associate Pastor Joshua in The Christians and Jean in Miss Julie. He has also performed in Jane Eyre: The Musical, Love and Information, and Shiloh and played the title role in The Miser. This past fall, he appeared as The Narrator in Into The Woods and will finish his acting training at Hope by portraying Trigorin in the department’s upcoming production of Anton Chekhov’s Seagull.
“Then I offer my waiting self to the One who’s never stopped believing in me, and the dance begins.” – Joyce Rupp
When most people think of “dance,” they usually think of A) people (typically young women) presenting athletic, skilled awesomeness to music on a stage, or B) raucous parties packed with bodies jumping joyfully to a DJ driven beat so loud it is felt.
But there’s another option out there, one with its foundation in the mists of time and refined in the ballrooms of the 19th century: English Country Dances and Contra dancing. Picture a dance scene from Jane Austen, or the Fezziwig dance in “A Christmas Carol” – that’s what I’m talking about. Believe it or not, these dances still happen in quiet communities across the United States.
Many years ago, jaded by the inflated, insecure egos of concert dance (see “A” above) and too weary for “B,” I’d essentially given up on dance, until I experienced “Contra dancing.” It was an unexpected evening of joy, invigorated by a sense of community. For a few hours, I danced without fear of judgement or expectation. I went home with a face weary from smiling and feet weary from moving, having re-discovered why I loved to dance. Friends, music, rhythm and pattern – the dances may feel weirdly “old-timey,” but that truth lends to them a nostalgic calm and ease that is surprisingly charming and fun.
Because of their historical significance, and for the last 34 years, English Country Dance/ Contra dance “Balles” have been incorporated in the Historical Social Dance class. This year, with my retirement, the last Balle offered under my purview happens this week.
THIS FRIDAY, YOU HAVE THE CHANCE TO TRY THESE DANCES AT
THE SPRING BALLE
Friday March 29, 2019, Maas Auditorium, 7-10pm
OPEN TO THE HOPE COMMUNITY
Glen Morningstar calling, Mark Schrock and friends providing live music
NO EXPERIENCE IS NECESSARY: All you need to bring is a willing heart and an open mind
DANCES ARE TAUGHT: Experienced dancers will help you, if you wish.
The late Dr. Charles Aschbrenner, long-time professor of music at Hope, has left a lasting impression upon the college beyond his 53 years of teaching piano. Aschbrenner’s personal grand piano — a Steinway over 100 years old — now resides in the college’s presidential home, a gift given to Hope by his spouse Chris Spencer recently. Aschbrenner passed away in in September, 2016.To celebrate its arrival to its new and permanent location, members of the Hope music department performed a dedication concert in the President House in Aschbrenner’s honor last week. The piano, both figuratively and literally, was the centerpiece of the event in the formal living room of the house. At 6-foot-11-inches, it is the second largest piano Steinway builds. Made of tiger, or flame, mahogany, the instrument took a year to construct and was completed in 1914. It first belonged to Aschbrenner’s mother from whom he received his first piano lessons.
Pianist Dr. Andrew Le accompanied both violinist Mihai Craioveanu and flutist Dr. Gabe Southard at the installation concert. Le also performed two solo works written by Claude DeBussy, an Aschbrenner favorite. “Charles loved DeBussy, and anything French actually,” Le said before he performed. “This is for Charles.”
Aschbrenner joined the Hope faculty in 1963 after receiving his master of music degree from Yale University. He further studied with renowned teachers Nadia Boulanger in France and Adele Marcus in New York City. But piano was not his only instrument. Aschbrenner also studied oboe with Ray Stills of the Chicago Symphony.
“An instrument is an extension of the musician. Sometimes we choose them and sometimes they cross our paths. This piano is very much an extension of Charles,” said Le. “It’s very generous. It’s warm and it’s delightful.”
“An instrument is an extension of the musician….This piano is very much an extension of Charles. It’s very generous. It’s warm and it’s delightful.”
While the warm and delightful Aschbrenner piano had a meaningful introduction to the president’s home — President Dennis Voskuil called the event one of the highlights of his time at Hope — it also has special significance for the new presidential residents moving in this summer. Sarah Dieter ’02 Scogin, wife of Hope’s next president Matthew A Scogin ’02, was a music performance major at Hope (as well as a computer science major).
The elements get physical this March in Dance 45, the annual presentation of dance works choreographed and designed by Hope dance faculty and guest artists. This concert is always a highlight for the department as it culminates an intense rehearsal process for more than 50 student performers that participate each year. An additional 20 students make up the backstage crews, assisting with lighting, sound, costuming and stage management.
Choreography is the dance department’s primary means of scholarship, so the works produced are the artistic equivalence of scholarly publication. Whether producing locally, nationally or internationally, each choreographer spends countless hours in research and rehearsal.
With a throughline response to the elements of wind, water, fire and earth, the subject matter of individual works ranges from lighthearted to contemplative, from carefree communal celebration to mourning, oppression and suffering.
In 2013, the dance department began the practice of hiring an esteemed, professional artist-educator to offer peer review for Dance X. Reviewing this year’s concert will be Paul Abrahamson, director of the Chicago Ballet Center. Abrahamson will evaluate choreography based not only on its compositional design and overall statement (use of space, dynamic range, creativity and integrity of the movement), but also on how the work itself compares to other works presented inside and outside of academia.
Right up until opening night of Dance 45 on Friday, March 1, choreographers and performers continue working. With a throughline response to the elements of wind, water, fire and earth, the subject matter of individual works ranges from lighthearted to contemplative, from carefree communal celebration to mourning, oppression and suffering. Each work falls within the styles of ballet, hip hop, jazz and contemporary, and each is as different as the choreographers creating them. This year’s choreographers include faculty members Nicole Flinn, Crystal Frazier, Linda Graham, Julie Powell and Angela Yetzke, along with guest artists Richard Rivera (NY) and Sharon Wong (FL).
And as always, Dance X (45) attenders should expect exciting surprises from concert designers Erik Alberg and Darlene Veenstra. (Hint: Better bring your umbrella if you sit in the front row!)
Finally, this year’s concert will be a special one, the last hurrah of beloved faculty member and former department chair Linda Graham who heads into retirement in May. Graham will present Chair Study, a crowd favorite first seen in 1989. Dancers will contemplate the element of wood through crazy stunts and thought-provoking humanity in signature Linda Graham style.
So, come celebrate with us. Let’s dance.
Tickets to Dance 45 can be purchased online, in person at the Hope College Ticket Office, or at the door on the evening of the performances. Adult tickets are $10, seniors $7, and children $5.
When the Grammy-nominated classical guitarist Paul Galbraith performs at Hope College on March 1, it will be his fourth appearance on our campus. While I’ve presented many artists to Hope over the years, no one has made four visits. Until now.
Galbraith is unique, not only in his skill on guitar, but also because he has been instrumental in moving the classical guitar world through the sometimes hard wall of what constitutes classical music. . . and that does not usually include a guitar. He surprises people with his playing ability, his interpretations of classical standards, and even his one-of-a-kind playing style.
Presenting the performing arts is part of my work at Hope. For 20 years, I have listened to countless recordings, attended performances, watched videos, and read scripts in the search for the right performers to bring to the Hope and Holland communities. So, when the performers finally reach our stage, I’m already very familiar with their work. I have an idea what to expect.
But once and awhile, someone surprises me.
I was not raised on classical music and have little formal training. Fortunately, you do not need that to enjoy and indeed be moved by a performance. I remember one of the first performers I booked here was the pianist Sergio Tiempo who performed Maurice Ravel’s “Gaspard de la nuit.”I was caught off guard by the power of each single note creating a haunting scene. One note, played quietly, sounding like a distant bell tolling to announce a death.
More recently, Trio Con Brio Copenhagen performed Bedrich Smetana’s “Trio in G minor” and it pulled hard at me. Instinctively I recognized it as a piece on grief. It was only later, when I read the trio’s program notes, did I realize that Smetana wrote the piece in response to the death of his five-year-old daughter. As a parent of a child who died far too young, Smetana’s piece reached across 200 years to grieve with me. This is what art can do.
My response has also been strong to anything written by Bach. The clean, structured pieces can be playful or thoughtful, but they are always stunningly beautiful. This “beautiful” probably resonates more strongly with me because for Bach, who has been called “The Fifth Evangelist,” that beauty comes from God. While the pieces by Ravel and Smetana address our sorrows, Bach addresses our hope. Perhaps that is why whenever I see that Bach is on the program, I know I’m going to leave the concert with a renewed faith.
My experience of this has been most strong when hearing Paul Galbraith perform Bach. He clearly loves that 17th century composer as his work appears on five of Galbraith’s eight recordings. Two of his recordings focus on Bach alone and his 1998 recording of Bach’s complete Sonatas and Partitas received a Grammy nomination, ended up in Billboard’s Top Ten classical chart, and was called a “landmark in the history of guitar recordings” by Gramophone Magazine.
While his Grammy nomination got him some attention, his development of the 8-string guitar that he plays like a cello makes him instantly recognizable.
Better than any award, the legend of classical guitar, Andreas Segovia, heard the then 17-year-old Galbraith play and declared, “Paul ismagnificent. He will be a great artist.” Not surprising, Segovia was right. Galbraith enjoys a great solo career but was also a founding member of the highly regard Brazilian Guitar Quartet (even though he is from Scotland!). He is in demand to perform with chamber groups and orchestras and is now working with the greatBrazilian cellist Antonio Meneses.
Galbraith’s program at Hope is more varied this time and I have no doubt all of it will be excellent. Plus, the chance to hear him perform in the acoustically superior concert hall at the Jack H. Miller Center is too good to miss. If you have never heard a classical guitar concert, there will be no better first experience than this concert.
By the way, he opens the performance with Bach.
And, I’ll be happy.
Tickets to the Paul Galbraith concert can be purchased online, in person at the Hope College Ticket Office, or at the door on the evening of the performance. Adult tickets are $10, seniors $7, and children $5.
In January, a large group of Hope College theatre students embarked on a memorable and enlightening trip to Madison, Wisconsin, to participate in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Region III Festival. KCACTF is a national theater program involving 18,000 students from colleges and universities nationwide, a network of more than 600 academic institutions throughout the country, where theater departments and student artists showcase their work and receive outside assessment by KCACTF respondents. KCACTF hosts festivals in eight regions across the nation. Hope College participated in the Region III festival with other colleges from Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Wisconsin. At the festival, students have the opportunity to showcase their skills in dramaturgy, acting, stage management, musical theatre, playwriting and design.
This year, KCACTF recognized Shiloh, a recent Hope production written by the cast and faculty director Richard Perez. The ensemble of Shiloh was awarded a certificate of Merit for Excellence in Collaborative Performance. Theatre faculty lighting and sound designer Perry Landes was awarded a Certificate of Merit for Excellence in Projections Design. Senior Katrina Dykstra designed costumes for this production and received a Theatrical Design Excellence award for her work. As a result of the award, Dykstra has garnered a coveted, fully-funded opportunity to attend the national festival in Washington D.C. this May.
“I had such a great time at ACTF this year presenting my costume design for Shiloh!,” said Dykstra. “I always love getting criticism from other professors and theatre professionals, so getting to present for so many interesting judges was great. I was so surprised to be selected to be in finals, and even more surprised to receive an award. I’m looking forward to going to Washington D.C. with the national festival. I’m going to learn so much from the seminars and workshops, and meet so many people in the theatre world!”
Hope College theatre also received praise for their work on this year’s production of Into The Woods by receiving a remarkable number of Certificate of Merit Awards:
Assistant Stage Managers and Deck Crew for Excellence in Puppeteering.
KCACTF also hosts competitions for students to showcase their work, and several Hope College students received awards for their artistry.
Junior Gracen Barth was the recipient of the Don Childs Award for Excellence in Stagecraft, providing her a fully-funded opportunity to further develop her skills by attending the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas, Nevada, in July of 2020. Barth was also awarded a production manager’s toolkit.
“With production management being a relatively new field, especially on a collegiate level, it was truly an honor to be recognized for my work on this level,” said Barth. “I’m looking forward to being able to further my skills at the Stagecraft Institute of Las Vegas.”
Senior Megan Clark was recognized for her Into The Woods design presentation for properties, as well as her Arcadia costume design presentation.
As an active member of KCACTF, Hope College receives responses from faculty of partner schools who attend a performance of each production. The respondent often takes notes during the show and provides valuable feedback to the acting, design, stage management and directing. The respondent then can provide special recognition by nominating production participants for regional awards like those previously mentioned. They also select one or two cast members that they felt had a superb performance. These students each receive an invitation to participate in the annual Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Competition, which occurs at the festival. Each participant works on a monologue and two scenes with a selected partner.
There is something so electric about spending a few days where hundreds of like-minded passionate artists are gathered to share and celebrate theatre.
Freshmen Emi Herman was nominated for her portrayal of Laney in Crooked. Madison Meeron was her scene partner. Senior Olivia Lehnertz was nominated for her interpretation of Cinderella in Into The Woods. Gracen Barth was her scene partner. Junior Katie Joachim was nominated for her performance as The Baker’s Wife in Into The Woods. Maxwell Lam was her partner.
Joachim and Lam made it to the semifinals of the Irene Ryan auditions. Joachim also auditioned alongside 100 other students to participate in a Musical Theatre Showcase. She was then selected to join 14 others from around the region to perform in a cabaret-style performance where she delivered a heartfelt performance of “Mr. Snow.”
Students and faculty had an enriching and fulfilling time at the festival this year. There is something so electric about spending a few days where hundreds of like-minded passionate artists are gathered to share and celebrate theatre. We are grateful to have had this experience and look forward to attending The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival again in the future.