The University of Rhode Island’s seventh music convocation of the semester, in spite of having to take place on a Wednesday instead of a Friday due to Veterans Day, still went off without a hitch, drawing the usual large crowd which included students, faculty and staff, and featured six student performers.
Each convocation is held weekly by the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Music. Students, faculty and “special guests,” according to the URI website, offer live music as well as a discussion after their performances.
The convocation began with a quintet of performers; Armando Mirabel on piano, Nick Pepe and Aidan Rogler on guitar, Wyatt Crosby on bass and Andrew Dyson on drums. The group first played the 1961 song “Moon River”, by American composer Harry Mancini and followed that up with “Affirmation”, the 1975 song from Puerto Rican musician José Feliciano. Crosby also transitioned from playing on the upright bass to a standard bass guitar for “Affirmation”.
Both pieces were equally upbeat and stuck to a similar toe-tapping fast tempo that helped put the audience in the right mood for the rest of the convocation. Though the audience that attends convocation rarely needs to be excited through an external source.
Following the quintet was a solo from William Hoban and his trombone, playing No.1 and 5 from “Complete Vocalises for Trombone”, from 1940 by Italian operatic tenor Giulio Marco Bordogni. It was evident that there was a great effort on display to hit the notes and this effort paid off in the massive applause from the audience after his performance.
Hoban shared the challenges and benefits of performing alone, without accompaniment.
“I feel like when playing solo you don’t have that, like, backbone, that support, behind you to keep you on track,” he said. “But also I feel it’s kind of easier because you can have your own tempo and it’s not as noticeable if you make a mistake.”
The solos continued with the next performer, Frank Ferrara and his guitar as he plucked out No. 3 and 4 of “Etudes Simples (Estudios Sencillos)” from Cuban composer, conductor and classical guitarist Leo Brouwer.
In spite of Ferrara’s possible anxiety, a noticeable breath of reassurance was taken in and let out in between his two pieces, the pounding applause from the audience hopefully set him at ease by the time his fast fingers had finished entracing the viewers. Ferrara shared a brief description of his routine to warm up his hands.
“I do play a few scales before I go on and some finger independence drills where you’re moving up and down the neck and moving your fingers to each string to try and make sure they’re curved the right way, so your hands loosen up before you go on stage,” Ferrara said.
Soprano vocalist Abby Giansiracusa took the stage next with Armando Mirabal on piano for her first song and David Gilliland accompanying for her second. Her first piece, the 1789 song “Orpheus with his Lute” from English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, showcased her strong vocal control and her impressive vibrato and her second piece, 1925’s “Chi Vuol La Zingarella” from Italian composer Giovanni Paisiello, showcased her ability to sing in Italian for one, but also her comfortable stage presence.
Giansiracusa shared her method for preparing for an extensive performance.
“It’s all about breath support and lung capacity,” she said. “My biggest thing is just making sure you do a lot of breathing exercises and just a little bit of exercise too, get that heart rate up.”
Louis Kogut, another solo, followed with his double bass and played No. 2, 3 and 5 from “Twelve Waltzes for Double Bass”, from 1840 by Italian composer Domenico Dragonetti. It seemed like he barely looked at his sheet music as he played and while that might be because of his familiarity with the pieces, it may also have to do with the intensity of each piece and the necessity to keep his eyes on his hands.
His left hand raced up and down the neck of the double bass and his right hand moved the bow across the strings as if he was strategically cutting down a tree with a saw. This fast finger work also impressed the crowd who launched into frenetic applause the second he had finished and was able to rest his hands.
In response to being asked how he approached articulating fast notes on the double bass without the notes blending together, Kogut shared his process.
“It really all comes down to bow technique,” Kogut said. “I noticed in my second movement that it was getting a little slippy, but the main thing I think about is practicing slow, practicing each note, making sure each note is clear and then I can start speeding it up.”
The final performance was a trio consisting of Jude LaRoche on tenor saxophone, Aidan Rogler once again on guitar and Johnny Santini on bass. Together they played the 1954 song “Airegin” by American saxophonist Sonny Rollins.
The bouncy jazz tune was played to such perfection that it almost sounded like it was improvisational, but of course there was still a consistent rhythm and synergy between the performers and each one of them was given their own solo within the piece. LaRoche shared his inspiration for performing as a trio instead of playing with a full rhythm section.
“This summer I got really into ‘Sonny Rollins at the Village Vanguard’ which is a super awesome record and it’s him playing a trio so I thought that kind of sound, that tenor trio thing was really cool and I wanted to try doing it more,” Laroche said.
And with that and one more thunderous round of applause for the performers, the seventh music convocation concert came to an end.
The convocation takes place every Friday at 1 p.m. in the Fine Arts Center Concert Hall and is open to anyone who would like to come.