The 9:00 Sunday Lagniappe recital in the School of Music Recital Hall featured a variety of chamber ensembles, in combinations both familiar and unfamiliar. It opened with a spirited performance of four Estampas Criollas composed by Beatriz Lockhart, performed by the Quartet Atrivedo. The clarinet quartet played the lilting rhythms of these charming dances with admirable energy, syncopations and cross-rhythms shimmying away under sweet lyrical melodies. This was an altogether enjoyable performance, carried off with panache and style by the four artists: Allison Allum, Emily Kerski, and Mando Ramirez on clarinets and Asa Graf on bass clarinet.
The second group to perform was a wind trio from The University of Tennessee-Martin, an unusual trio of flute, played by Charles Lewis; clarinet, played by Elizabeth Aleksander; and saxophone, played by Doug Owens. The group performed seven short movements by Paul Harvey with charm and grace. The group balanced the three voices beautifully, so that each of the instruments could be clearly heard, and some lovely timbral blends emerged. The Incantation movement, which featured Lewis on alto flute, was especially notable. While each of the players had a chance to step into the spotlight with lovely melodies, the most notable feature of this performance was the wonderfully balanced chamber aesthetic demonstrated by this accomplished ensemble.
The final selection on the program was I Never Saw Another Butterfly, a duo for soprano voice and clarinet by Lori Laitman, performed by Laura Storm and Steven Becraft of Henderson State University. Storm explained that the texts are from a collection of poems written by children interred in German concentration camps during World War II, but she noted that in spite of their tragic circumstances, many of the poems are full of life and joy. Storm declaimed the texts clearly, with a rich, velvety vocal tone, matched by Becraft with a sound that was focused and warm in all its registers. The songs evoked a variety of moods, from the dance-like Yes, That’s The Way Things Are to the ominous quality of The Old House. Lighter moments, as in Birdsong, where the two voices were braided together in their high register, contrasted with darker ones, like the low bell-like tones and static vocal line that opened the final song. Becraft and Storm brought riveting drama to this powerful set of songs, bringing the concert to a contemplative close.
–Notes by Michael Rowlett
Michael Rowlett is the assistant Professor of Clarinet at The University of Mississippi. You can find his CD Close to Home: Music of American Composers on Amazon and Albany Records.