On March 31, Temple University’s Boyer College of Music and Dance continued its tradition of performing both traditional and modern masterpieces at its 20th Annual Concert at the Kimmel Cultural Campus.
The Temple University Choirs, Symphony Orchestra and Studio Orchestra performed Done Made My Vow by Adolphus Hailstork, the world premiere of Labyrinth by Billy Childs and Suite From The Firebird by Igor Stravinsky.
“All three pieces received standing ovations and there was real electricity in the house. You could feel it. The space is beautiful and the acoustics are wonderful,” said Paul Rardin, chair of the Department of Vocal Arts and the Elaine Brown Chair of Choral Music at Temple, who conducts the concert choir. “And to see the majority of the seats taken by friends, family and alumni of Temple, it was like one big reunion.”
Robert Stroker, dean of the Center for the Performing and Cinematic Arts and vice provost for the arts, agreed.
“Our 20th annual concert at the Kimmel follows the decades-long tradition of Boyer College concerts at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music. It’s a highlight on our calendar every year,” Stroker said. “Providing our students with the opportunity to perform works by living composers in professional venues like the Kimmel Center, Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall has always been a crucial aspect of our students’ education.”
The Symphony Orchestra and Choirs performed Done Made My Vow, a contemporary classical piece, mixed in with “This Little Light of Mine” and “We Shall Overcome,” gospel songs that had special significance during the Civil Rights era. The concert also featured Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, associate professor of theater studies and playwriting, as a speaker, as well as performances from professional soloists Karen Slack and Joshua Blue and youth soloist Penelope Spencer.
The Studio Orchestra, featuring Temple professors Terell Stafford and Dick Oatts, also performed Labyrinth by Grammy Award-winning jazz composer Billy Childs.
“Billy just nailed it in terms of making the jazz band and the orchestra sounds all work together,” Rardin said.
Stafford, a Laura H. Carnell professor at Boyer who has performed at Kimmel since its inception, played a trumpet solo for Labyrinth and lauded its difficulty.
“When we played Labyrinth for the first time, we quickly found out how difficult it is to perform. I wrote to Childs that it is really hard to play and he told me he doesn’t know how to write anything but hard music,” laughed Stafford, who serves as director of jazz studies and chair of instrumental studies and directs Boyer’s jazz and classical programs.
The final work of the night, Suite From The Firebird, performed by the Symphony Orchestra, is a staple of the classical repertoire that has remained popular with orchestras and audiences for more than 100 years. The piece was conducted by José Luis Domínguez, a faculty member in the Department of Instrumental Studies.
“The finale of Firebird just lifted everybody’s spirits,” Stafford said. “It was also great to see all of the faculty and students from the choir, orchestra and the big band working together.”
Along with the faculty members, the concert featured standout performances from Temple students, including doctoral student Alexandr Kislitsyn, BYR ’16. He performed in the first chair as the lead violinist.
“All of the pieces had a different energy and idea behind them. I love the new piece by Billy Childs because I love the nature of improvisation and the change of the meter and the rhythm,” said Kislitsyn, an Omsk, Russia, native who attended a conservatory for music education and received a bachelor’s degree in Novosibirsk, Russia, before moving to Philadelphia to attend Temple.
Another student that performed in the concert was Maria Marmarou, BYR ’22, a first-year master’s student in jazz performance. Marmarou is one of the few women in Temple’s jazz band and has been the band’s drummer for a couple of years.
“It was a lot of fun. I’ve never played in an ensemble like this before. The faculty at Temple are incredible and many of them have had great music careers and still play professionally, so they have a lot of wisdom and knowledge to share,” she said. “You can feel they love teaching, being around each other and the students.”