Programming music by underrepresented groups: how do we reach our new normal?

By Megan McLaughlin

The year 2020 started with even more performances of Ludwig van Beethoven’s compositions than usual — many symphonies, chamber music societies, and organizations announced their plans to perform all of the legendary Romantic composer’s nine symphonies, complete piano sonatas, string quartets, and more in honor of his 250th birthday. It’s a shame that the dead white guy can’t be here with us to celebrate.

In the 2019 report of “The year in statistics” from Bachtrack, a London-based online classical music magazine, Beethoven was listed as the most performed composer of the year, based on the 34,648 concerts the publication listed on their website. Beethoven was also first in 2018 and 2016, and was second only to Mozart — another dead, white, male composer — in 2017, 2015, and 2014. Considering his undisputed popularity in ordinary years, many were not thrilled to hear of a yearlong celebration of a composer who is already given plenty of attention.

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Tiny Ref Desk Concerts bring good vibes to Conservatory Library

By Megan McLaughlin

Name a venue that regularly presents performances by jazz trios, early music choirs, flute ensembles, acapella groups, and other seemingly random and disparate musical acts. An unexpected venue that might not have made your list for such an assortment of offerings is the Oberlin Conservatory Library. “The more outside of the box, the more fun it becomes,” Reference Librarian Kathy Abromeit said during a Zoom interview about the monthly Tiny Ref Desk concert series.

Inspired by National Public Radio’s popular Tiny Desk Concerts, the Conservatory Library series is outside the norm of what one typically might expect from their everyday library experience. In October of 2018, the Library began hosting twenty-minute noontime concerts performed by a variety of groups — the first was a jazz ensemble — as a way to promote student library workers, give instrumental studios a new venue at which to perform, and change the relationship patrons feel toward the space.

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Beating the Blues with Broadway on “Oberlin Stage Left”

By Megan McLaughlin

One of my favorite things I’ve watched online since the beginning of social distancing has been the playful banter between Opera Theatre Professor Chris Mirto and Musicology Professor Jamie O’Leary in their “Oberlin Stage Left” stream, Beat the Blues with Broadway

Started by Oberlin Conservatory in mid-April, the new series of livestreams hosted by Conservatory faculty ranges in format from documentary viewings to question and answer sessions with guests. Beat the Blues with Broadway is a carefree discussion about some of the hosts’ favorite choreographers and singers, complete with interactive audience participation and clips from different musicals.

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Review: Giselle on

By Megan McLaughlin

The Opéra National de Paris’s 2007 production of Giselle makes it abundantly clear why the French are known for ballet. The new choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot brings a breath of fresh air to the score of Adolphe Adam’s tried and true 1841 “ballet-pantomime.” Giselle recounts the tale of a peasant girl in the Middle Ages who dies after having her heart broken by a Duke. Streaming now on with a duration of just under two hours, Giselle is a great quarantine activity for those looking to nourish their childlike sense of wonder.

The ballet opens with Duke Albrecht (Nicolas Le Riche) disguising himself as a peasant to court the lovely villager Giselle (Laëtitia Pujol). The two fall fast in love, chasing each other around the village square and engaging in playful gimmicks before joining in a capricious pas de deux. Their love dismays Giselle’s mother, who thinks the gamekeeper Hilarion (Wilfried Romoli) is a far better match. 

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Preview: Tav Daly Junior Trombone Recital

By Megan McLaughlin

“I’ve been working on learning how to play the trombone,” Tav Daly said to me, half-sarcastically, in an interview in the Conservatory Library on Tuesday. A charming young man and a third-year trombone performance major at Oberlin Conservatory, will present his Junior trombone recital at 1:30 pm on Saturday, March 14th, in Stull Recital Hall. Daly’s will be the second of eight degree recitals from Oberlin’s trombone studio this year, following the appointment of new trombone professor John Gruber in the fall.

“When programming my recital, I wanted to begin with something that sounded Baroque-ish” Daly said. He’ll begin with 20th-century French composer Eugene Bozza’s Hommage à Bach — not Baroque exactly, but inspired by Bach. Following that, Daly will be joined by Amelia Horton and Conrad Smith (trumpets), Megan McLaughlin (horn), and Sam Weaver (bass trombone) for the first movement from Victor Ewald’s Brass Quintet No. 3

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“Art song, etc.” Breaks Borders between Genres — Concert Review

By Megan McLaughlin

A variety show of unexpected wonders for voice and piano, Art song, etc. is a powerful and uplifting reminder of what this generation of classical musicians has in store for the world. The program was  created and performed by Oberlin Conservatory second-years Kenji Anderson and Julia Alexander as their project for Winter Term 2020, and took place in Stull Recital Hall on Sunday afternoon, February 16. The duo’s program set out to break down borders between genres and redefine what is acceptable performance material for students in the modern-day conservatory. They aimed for inclusivity, and followed through successfully.

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The Sunset Tree — Album Review

Sunset Tree

By Megan McLaughlin

It’s a rare and beautiful thing to find an album that fulfills all expectations, and then a little more. Upbeat and slower songs and provocative lyrics are a must, but when those are combined with a swarm of cellos in “Dilaudid” and references to Russian literature in “Love Love Love,” they create an album that never becomes tiring. This describes The Mountain Goats’ The Sunset Tree.

Released on April 26, 2005, The Sunset Tree is often overlooked among the band’s sixteen more widely-praised albums, , but it is truly a masterful middle child. Based on the lead singer’s childhood, John Darnielle’s lyrics transcend language into memory, each song a vignette of some place, moment, or feeling from his youth. “Broom People” gives a tour of the house in which Darnielle grew up, as well as introduces the album’s major characters: his mother, sister, and abusive stepfather.

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