Songs of Peace Serenade Fine Arts Into New Era

Kate Koenig, Arts Editor

The highly anticipated dedication concert to the new wing of the Fine Arts Building finally occurred this past Friday, November 11, in the new rehearsal space Room 201. The concert consisted of a performance by GlobeTrotting, and Professor Jeremy Wall’s magnum opus “Songs of Peace,” a 40-minute suite of nine songs influenced by classical, jazz, pop and world music.
The opening act, GlobeTrotting, is a new group which formed just this past year and is made up of Steve Gorn on woodwinds, including bansuri flute, clarinet and soprano sax, John Davey on double-bass, and Brian Melick on world percussion. Hearing their music was like tasting an amazing meal from a foreign country; their exotic grooves pervaded the audience and had our bodies moving to the beat before our minds were consciously aware. One song felt tribal with loud rapping sounds from the drums, another made much use of negative space and was mysterious with an outspoken bass line, and the last featured Wall sitting in on piano, as the band grooved with a syncopated and Arabian feel.
Given the nature of GlobeTrotting’s music, there could not have been a better opening act for the performance of “Songs of Peace.” In its entirety, the suite of songs was a collection of music from numerous cultures, blended with influences of more popular styles of music. The work was performed by over 50 musicians, including the members of the World Percussion Ensemble, the Chamber Orchestra and the Chamber Singers in addition to several faculty members.
Beginning with a hip Moroccan motif, the first song, “The Reed Flute,” set an example for what was to follow, incorporating English text and slightly distorted electric guitar in an eclectic mix of sounds. The brass and strings were prominent at different moments, adding a chamber music feel, while at one point a trumpeter carried a melody with a harmon mute, adding jazz flavor.
The first four songs saw a steady increase in tension, with the music growing more eerie and foreboding as it progressed. Syncopated rhythms rose out of the background as the Chamber Singers chanted “Don’t go back to sleep,” in the escalation of the fourth song, which Conductor and Chair of the Music Department Dr. Orlando Legname concluded with a striking motion that looked as though he was delivering an attack. Suddenly, the tension was shattered with a soaring high note by Prof. Colby Thomas, and the audience breathed in release as we were carried into a peaceful, lulling period of the music.
Rising in energy once again but this time with excitement instead of tension, the piece grew into an upbeat R & B gospel song, with a bouncing bass line, then swelled with the effect of a larger orchestra with a grandiose passage, borrowing text from the beatitudes of Matthew 5:3-10. The electric guitar was featured once more as the heroic song rose to its close, then fell into the slammin’ Brazilian samba with an enthusiastic count-off from Wall. With Gorn on the soprano sax and Wall on piano, they improvised through call and response. All instruments dropped suddenly, leaving only the rhythm section, then gradually reentered until the music unfolded ostentatiously and ended with a final “Alleluia!” from the chorus.
During the intermission, President Kleniewski spoke of the “spectacular” new addition, finding inspiration in a Winston Churchill quote to say that “great spaces inspire great teaching, learning and performance,” and that the new space is helping “to keep SUNY Oneonta in the forefront of great public colleges.” Professor Wall also offered thanks to Dr. Robert Barstow, previous chair of the music department, for giving “thousands of hours towards putting together the funding and plans” for the new wing. A work of beautiful songwriting with diverse and multicultural influences, “Songs of Peace” served as an ideal dedication to the expansion of Fine Arts and the future of SUNY Oneonta’s Music Department.

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