“Art song: most often a musical setting of an independent poem or text, intended as part of a recital or other occasion.” — The Cincinnati Song Initiative
West Texas A&M University will practice this method of storytelling when it presents Art-tastic, a one-time performance scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19, in the Sybil B. Harrington Fine Arts Complex Recital Hall. Admission is free.
According to Sarah Beckham-Turner, WT assistant professor of music and director of WT Opera, all performance pieces are art songs, meaning they have no connected production to the piece.
“Art songs are generally a singer next to a piano, no staging. So what we did is each student chose their own art song, and got to create their own character from the text of the art song. It allowed for a lot of creativity,” Beckham-Turner said. “Everyone was given a scene partner and the pair together would create their own scene with their songs.”
The 13 students were responsible for creating a story with their music pieces. Each was required to have a stage partner and had the option of creating an individual piece using their partner, or having their piece correspond with their partner’s.
“It’s allowed for a lot of creativity and a really cool exercise to give each singer experience in directing a colleague and themselves and diving into the discovery stage of creating a character,” Beckham-Turner said.
All of the students were in charge of their entire scene from directing their stage partner and costumes, to stage props and their own performance.
According to Beckham-Turner, three graduate students will be performing complete song cycles rather than individual songs.
Graduate student Shannon Burr spoke about her piece and how she connected it to herself to portray onstage.
“I’m doing ‘On This Island’ by Benjamin Britten, and the text is from a set of poetry about discovering new land,” Burr said. “Trying to take that and make it into something else, it’s definitely been a challenge. I’ve taken it and made it a journey through the loss of my sister. Through depression to insanity, there’s five movements. Going through grief is what I’ve made it about, which has been really challenging for me to connect to because loss is hard, trying to connect it onstage and to the poetry as well.”
Burr shared how she used her stage mate to portray her sister and therapist in the pieces and used props such as a red scarf to signify the passing of her sister.
Connor Nall, a junior, is preparing his piece, “Allerseelen” by Richard Strauss, which translates to “all souls day.”
Nall said he and his partner portray a story together with both of their pieces. The first half is about a man and a woman who fall in love and get married and have a child. His piece is about having that child and it dying and him coming to terms with that realization.
“The tail end of my piece basically says that this is the day that the dead are allowed to return. So come back to my arms so I can feel you once again, and I think that’s the moment where I lose it in the piece. I come to this realization that even though our child has died and she can never come back, I finally come to that realization and drop to my knees. The words are ‘come back to my here’, that’s the moment I most look forward to performing because it’s the peak of the song both musically and emotionally,” Nall said.
Beckham-Turner said that overall, this performance was a way for the students to step into the role in a different way and show what they are capable of creating.
Performers include Kit Boyington, senior music major; Shannon Burr, graduate music performance student; Saralyn Corey, senior music major; Francesco DiLello, graduate music performance student; Grace Gaertner, junior music major; Codi Hittson, senior music education major; Eleisha Miller, senior music major; Brianna Moen, junior theater major; Alejandra Molina, senior music major; Conner Nall, junior music major; Savannah Poor, senior musical theatre major; Audrey Reidling, senior music major; and Chloe Ridolfo, graduate music student.