Haydn Seek: Children, youth get involved in annual Chamber Music Festival
By Kathryn Schiliro; Managing Editor
Photos by Angelina Bellebuono
A mood of anticipation fills the air, the tension is mounting, and small voices crescendo in the hot, almost noontime air.
Suddenly, out of the crowd, a high, rather shrill voice rises above the ongoing noise of the collective.
“Mama, MAMA! When is the parade going to START?”
No, this isn’t a Chamber Music Festival concert. At least, not yet. This is the start of the Second Annual Mulberry Toys/Madison Chamber Music Festival Bike Parade, the precursor to “Drums, Drama, Dance,” the festival’s concert, held last Wednesday, designed to entertain the young, and young at heart.
“Today is a very special day,” Mulberry Toys co-owner Michelle Robinette said, addressing the throng of children gathered around her, eager to begin the day’s festivities. “Today, we’re going to have a parade!”
Directing the attention to City of Madison Police Chief Travis Stapp, Stapp explained the parameters to parade-goers, who were kind enough to listen, but perhaps too excited to consider his requirements. After all, that’s what Mom is for.
“I will be the lead vehicle, so stay real close together; we’re going on the sidewalk down to the church, stay on the sidewalk down to the church,” Stapp said, to a chorus of half nods, half if-I-get-to-my-bike-first-maybe-I-can-win expressions.
Then, the procession of patiently decorated bicycles and exquisitely costumed boys and girls (and parents) began their ride (or, in the case of most parents, began pushing the ride, along with the child) around the block.
In total, 31 bicycles (one built for two), one wagon and one scooter participated in the parade.
In honor of the day’s theme, Andrew Rogers, 4, elected to decorate his bike with musical instruments, including a drum, bells and chimes. Why?
“Because they make music,” Rogers said.
Adam Benn, 13, was earth-friendly in his decorating.
“I used tree bark, some paper and a balloon,” Benn said.
Asked about her pink and green tribute to Madison, Addison Briggs, 4, explained who deserved credit for the bike’s decoration.
“Nonie and Mrs. Hazel did it,” Briggs said. “I like it ‘cause they decorated it nice.”
It took Kitty Ligon, 9, three hours to transform her bike into a piano. Why?
“Because one of the things is ‘Most Musical,’” Ligon said. Judges from Mulberry Toys gave three awards for bike décor: Most Musical, Most Madison and Most Mulberry.
In lieu of decorating her bike, Daisy Jane Buck, 5, chose to decorate herself and sported silvery, shiny hair to the parade.
“My mom thought it would be good to wear because it’s supposed to be like the prettiest one gets to win,” Buck said.
Needless to say, the midday heat made the parade route seem never-ending, so the cool floor of The Hall at the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center provided ever-so-slightly sluggish parade participants a welcome respite from the sun, and a prime spot to watch the “Drums, Drama, Dance” performance.
The first song, “A Soldier’s Tale,” was brand new, explained festival Artistic Director Christopher Rex, written specifically for performances at the Amelia Island Chamber Music Festival and the festival in Madison and specifically for the present instrumentation – percussion, violin, cello, bassoon, clarinet, trumpet and trombone.
A combination of classical, ragtime, jazz and a march (it is, of course, “A Soldier’s Tale”), the performance was narrated by Craig Baker of STAR Station and interpreted by Lee Harper and Dancers.
“A Soldier’s Tale” tells the story of a soldier’s trek home, his love, his meeting the devil who just so happens to take his violin.
Those on the floor seemed quite impressed with how the story played out through music and dance, and didn’t hesitate to provide commentary.
“Mom! Mom! I want to take a picture of that!”
Inquiring about where the dancers went, one child asked, “Now he’s going away. Will he come back?”
“What’s the princess doing now?”
The second piece, “Djembach,” featured Amy Schwartz Moretti on violin and Stephen Moretti playing an African drum, an instrument that prompted those formerly on the floor to jump to their feet and dance in (and out of) their places.
Finally, the ensemble completed the afternoon’s performance with a final piece “The Comedians,” made up of nine small movements, all of which included Lee Harper and Dancers and some pretty wild props.
• • •
Monday, Morgan Countian Mary Wallace found herself on the stage in the Cultural Center’s Auditorium, her voice being pulled out of her body by a multiple award-winning, world-renowned soprano through the use of imaginary puppet strings.
“Keep the same intensity, keep it moving louder…Milk it! Milk it, girl! Milk it! You’ve got to be a ham!”
Madison Chamber Music Festival returning favorite Alison Buchanan taught a Vocal Master Class to a group of seven area up-and-coming vocalists, all high school or college-aged.
The selections of the 15 to 19-year-olds ranged from English to Italian, classic opera to showtunes. Buchanan worked with each student individually, but on stage, developing their vocal talents before the eyes of their peers.
“It was terrifying,” Wallace said. “But as soon as she got me to laugh, I was good.”
Following the instruction, Buchanan paused to take some questions, and ended up explaining how she first came to music. She was 11 years old, and living in Great Britain.
“I was a naughty child; I was a naughty child because I wanted to disrupt a lesson,” Buchanan said. “I wanted to make everyone laugh by pretending I was an opera singer.”
Following a whim, Buchanan spent roughly two months dabbling in different instruments before her teacher asked her if she wanted vocal lessons. She agreed, and before long found herself singing in a church choir, and in pubs on Friday nights.
From there, her career blossomed. Buchanan ended up a graduate of the Guildhall School of Music and the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.
Buchanan shared some of her experiences: her journey to attend school in the U.S., making her American opera debut as Mimi in “La Boheme” and sharing the stage with Spandeau Ballet’s Tony Hadley.
“I was getting ready, and I heard all of this operatic sound,” Buchanan said. When she found Hadley, who was known for his more popular music, she questioned what he was doing, to which Hadley replied, according to Buchanan, “That’s from my teacher. She taught me how to warm up, so I always warm up properly.”
Asked about her approach to the Vocal Master Class, Buchanan expressed that she wanted to bring her skills and experience to these local vocalists in hopes that it would change their outlook.
“It makes you think in a different way,” Buchanan said. “A different perspective, a different outlook on what you’re doing helps you to gauge where you are, where you can go.”
Buchanan considers her approach to vocal instruction to be very hands-on.
“At first, they were very nervous,” Buchanan said. “I want them to relax. You always have to be encouraging. My job is not to deflate them, it’s to inflate them.”
The student’s level of vocal mastery determines what Buchanan works on when it’s their turn on stage. Above all, she aims to encourage their stage presence.
“When you’re performing, you have to satisfy the audience,” Buchanan said. “I want them to give more of themselves…If they have fun, the audience has fun.”
Overall, Buchanan was pleased with the progress made in the few hours of the class.
“This was fun!” Buchanan said. “It was my first-ever master class.”
Overcoming her fear of singing in front of her peers, Wallace, who has vocal experience in choir, show choir and a Capella ensemble performance but not soloist experience, said the gained from Buchanan’s instruction.
“She told me I had a big voice,” Wallace said. “I’ve never thought of that. She helped me in learning to grow my lower register. And the analogies helped a lot.”
And Buchanan’s experience rubbed off a bit on Wallace, who was taken aback by Buchanan’s range of genres.
“I think that’s wonderful that she’s so versatile,” Wallace said. “It really impressed me.”
Wallace will be in concert herself this weekend, at Swords United Methodist Church.
“It’s so wonderful that she humbled herself to come and work with us college and high school students,” Wallace said. “She wants to help us because she knows everyone starts somewhere.”