Ever so rarely on Gonzaga’s campus do the worlds of fashion and music collide. But on Saturday a group of sophomore singers took to the Student Chapel and transformed it into a miniature concert hall.
Stacia Cammarano, Jackson Steimel, Alex Thompson, Brianne Coulombe and Ruth Manthey performed a myriad of music in different languages accompanied by Mary Trotter on the piano and Paul Grove on the guitar.
What takes one hour to perform, takes the singers months to prepare for.
“One of the most important parts, besides learning notes and rhythms et cetera, is coming up with a coherent story that you will tell with your pieces even though they may not be lyrically connected,” Steimel said. “This helps us express something to the audience. They can tell if you're just singing random words, so you have to tell them a story.”
Steimel wasn’t the only singer who took on the role of a storyteller during the intimate concert.
“I loved singing ‘Lorelei’ by Clara Schumann,” Cammarano said. “That was the piece that I was able to create a story for. Basically, there is this girl remembering this time when she witnessed a fisherman [getting] lured to his death by the Lorelei’s (mermaid's) song on the Rhine River in Germany. I felt like [the song] opened far away, and then zoomed in to what was happening in the scene with every verse. It was challenging to sing but the story was so amazing.”
Every detail of the seemingly simple concert is important to the singers, their vocal teacher Darnelle Preston and the accompanists.
“We each have to memorize our songs [and] decide if we want to do duets,” Thompson said. “If that's the case [it] adds extra time outside of class to organize times [when we can] practice together. Then we also coordinate individual times to practice with Mary: a time for a dress rehearsal, a date for the actual recital to take place and the final touches that make a recital come together perfectly.”
Fashion enters the mix of preparation as the first impression the singers make when they glide onto the stage to perform.
“Of course the music should be the focus of any concert or recital, but I learned that concert attire actually plays a pretty big role in the performance,” Manthey said. “The audience sees you long before you open your mouth, so you have to look nice enough to capture their attention before the music starts.”
“I wanted to find pieces that draw the eye, but don't distract people from my singing,” said Thompson. “Pieces that compliment myself and showcase my personality. Also, you must consider the era the piece that you are performing was written in. Most of the pieces we perform are centuries old, and back then, dressing formally was the standard. So I like to think we are honoring that standard by abiding to that tradition.”
Not only is style important to the audience’s overall experience, but to the singers’ confidence as well.
“Being dressed up definitely boosts my confidence and makes me want to sound as good as I look,” Steimel said. “When I put on the tux, I feel like it’s time to be a professional and perform like one too.”
The singers stunned with song and style. Thompson and Cammarano wore floor-length dresses from Nordstrom. Manthey wore a Speechless brand dress with a silver-set opal necklace from Zales. Steimel donned a dapper tuxedo and Allen Edmonds Clifton oxfords and a Skagen watch. Coulombe bore a burgundy gown with a sparkling necklace. The women all had coordinating dresses from a color palette synonymous with a garden of roses.
As glamorous as an event like this is, hard work and determination are required for a spectacular show.
“My main struggle was not knowing if I could even perform,” Thompson said. “Three days before our recital I was so sick I couldn't even talk. It took two days of silence, lots of water and rest, and a ton of cough drops, but I somehow was able to perform. My reward was [me being] able to perform. There's no better feeling than standing in front of your friends and family and showcasing all the hard work and time you've taken to prepare for a recital and I'm just grateful a little cold didn't stop me from that.”
This feature was originally written & photographed by me for the online version of The Gonzaga Bulletin.
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