The music faculty at Eastern Washington University is feeling a bit theatrical tonight.
Under the direction of Kendall Feeney, 13 members of the music faculty will present “An Evening of Theatrical Music,” to benefit music scholarships at the school.
Feeney is well known to Spokane audiences for her Zephyr concert series from 1991 to 2003. She has selected a fascinating program of music that promises to engage and delight the audience.
“Passacaille after Handel,” a duet for violin and cello by Norwegian composer Johan Halvorsen (1864-1935) will begin the performance, followed by Stephen Sondheim’s princely vocal duet “Agony,” from his Tony Award-winning musical “Into the Woods.”
In the “History of the Tango,” Argentine master Astor Piazolla (1921-1992) “recreates four scenes that evoke different moments in the evolution of the tango” Feeney said. For this performance two of these “scenes” will be heard: “Café 1930” and “Nightclub 1960.”
American composer Michael Daugherty is also a name known to our region. In 2009 the Spokane Symphony Orchestra premiered Daugherty’s tribute “Letters to Lincoln” featuring Thomas Hampson, EWU alumnus and internationally known baritone.
Daugherty is famous for his works based on American popular culture, including works that pay tribute to Superman comics, Jackie Onassis and J. Edgar Hoover. “Dead Elvis” features Lynne Feller-Marshall as bassoon soloist with a chamber orchestra.
Daugherty has said of his own music: “I offer a new spin on the Faustian scenario: a rock star sells out to Hollywood, Colonel Parker and Las Vegas for wealth and fame. I use ‘Dies Irae’ – a medieval Latin chant for the Day of Judgment – as the principal musical theme.”
The evening’s featured work is “The Soldier’s Tale” by Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971). He and Swiss author C.F. Ramuz (1878-1947), who wrote the text, began developing the idea as early as 1915. The work, based on the Faust legend, premiered in 1918; it is scored for violin, string bass, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone and percussion, and will use the same ensemble as “Dead Elvis.”
Feeney said the instrumentation “was influenced by the composer’s discovery of American jazz … The biting, sometimes mocking and vulgar score traces the anguish and alarm of the characters in this Faustian drama. This is one of the great scores of the 20th century with its view of tangos and ragtime filtered through European ears, and the spiky, rhythmic vitality and instrumental color of the writing.”
EWU English professor Anthony Flinn (Soldier) will join Randel Wagner, director of choral and vocal activities (Devil) and Feeney (Narrator) for “The Soldier’s Tale” conducted by Julián Gómez-Giraldo, Eastern’s orchestra director.
This masterpiece was last performed in Spokane at the Zephyr Halloween concert in 2001.
Other EWU music faculty performers, some of whom are members of the Spokane Symphony Orchestra, include Holly Amend, trombone; Jane Ellsworth, clarinet; Jody Graves, piano; Erin Foster, bassoon; John Marshall, cello; Steve Mortier, voice; Andy Plamondon, trumpet; Kim Plewniak, string bass; Julia Salerno, violin; and Michael Waldrop, percussion.