Sopranos! Oberlin Musical Union needs you!
We are preparing for our May 4 performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Mass in C Major with the Oberlin Arts and Sciences Orchestra and conductor Philip Highfill, and we need sopranos to fill Finney Chapel with just the right combination of voices.
Interested? Contact Director of Choral Ensembles Jason Harris.
Another Punch Brothers Jam Session!?
Yes! And everyone’s invited!
Warner. 10pm. Tuesday. Ready whatever you have to make music and prepare to become a part of a supergroup.
In January, seniors Steve Becker, Duncan Standish, Nate Mendelsohn, and Cory Todd traveled to Beijing to participate in our ‘Jazz Meets East’ program. We’re bringing you the full story, in three parts.
Part I: A Portrait of the Experience
This winter term, our band (The Men With Short Beards) flew to Beijing, China for two weeks to perform at jazz venues and host a residency at I.S.B. (the International School of Beijing). We went on the tour as a part of the “Jazz Meets East” program, a program that has helped send jazz ensembles to China every winter term for five years and counting. Funding came from tour revenue as well as school grants and an online donation campaign via Indiegogo.
The string of about nine gigs marked not only our band’s first substantial tour, but also our first time playing outside of Oberlin, Ohio. To simultaneously see a new part of the world and showcase our band’s repertoire of original music (to unbiased ears) was an exciting thing for us. Terry Hsieh ’12 (Beijing resident and originator of the “Jazz Meets East” program) booked our gigs and clinics, bringing us to all kinds of Chinese jazz clubs and performance spaces. East Shore was a crowded, smoky jazz bar that overlooked the north edge of the Qianhai Sea and got packed on weekends. We played there twice, getting inspiration from the posters of American Jazz Legends that hung on the walls around us. Modernista was a friendly international music bar and restaurant that hosted us on two of our wildest gigs: a rowdy swing dance and an even rowdier New Years party. CD Blues was a stylish blue-lit and table-filled jazz venue bordered by a stage on the far end, a full bar along one wall, and a sit-down Italian restaurant upstairs. That night we ate spaghetti and played our set for one couple that sat near the stage; to our surprise, they stayed the whole time and asked for an encore.
When we weren’t on stage, we made time to get to know the city by walking around shopping areas, eating at the tastiest spots, and catching a glimpse of some prime tourist attractions. After all, a goal of the project was cross-cultural interaction, and we were set on immersing ourselves. We ate an unforgettable array of food: dumplings galore (steamed buns and pot stockers), scrambled eggs with hot peppers, fried mushrooms, rice porridge, Chinese-style hot pot, Japanese food, Taiwanese food…the list goes on and on. We also saw a number of astounding sights in the forms of palaces, temples, and one massive wall. The Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and the Temple of Heaven are just a few of the places we visited.
We spent the last few days of the tour working closely with young musicians at the international school. Once there, we were told what the kids had been focusing on musically and what we were to work on with them. Thankfully, that topic was ‘free improvisation.’ Yes, we are a jazz band, but our influences span much wider than the word might suggest, and the music we grew up listening to consisted largely of radio pop, catchy alternative rock and mainstream hip hop. As we grew to love jazz, we also grew to love avant-garde music and free jazz, then classical and contemporary composition. We believe in the power of a song, but we’re equally passionate about the freedom that comes with free improvisation, the freedom to express a mishmash of different influences, feelings, and ideas — maybe all at once.
With the ISB students, we had a chance to focus on this kind of musical approach that stretches beyond the confines of standard jazz practice, an experience that we would have loved for ourselves at that age. We ended the residency by playing a concert in the auditorium where we improvised freely with two student groups and performed one of our songs with their school’s 70-piece string orchestra. In the words of ISB’s jazz band director and improvisation teacher, David Beckstead, “It was epic.”
Generally speaking, the tour was a great success! None of us fell off of the Great Wall and we only got into a few unresolved arguments with cabdrivers.
Stay tuned for parts II and III of ‘Who Are The Men With Short Beards?’ – an in-depth interview about the experience with the band.
All photos courtesy of Nate Mendelsohn.
Great track, right? What if we told you that you could hear it performed live by the OJE (Oberlin Jazz Ensemble) on Saturday night?
Congratulations to Alcée Chriss (BMus/MM-HP ‘15) who just won First Prize and Prize of the Audience at the 7th Miami International Organ Competition, Miami, Florida!
Alcée performed the final movement of Anton Heiller’s In Festo Corpus Christi as the required work based on a Gregorian chant (“Lauda Sion”), "Vivace" (first movement) from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Trio Sonata in C Minor, BWV 526, Ethel Smyth’s Chorale Prelude and Fugue on “O Traurigkeit, o herzeleid” and the "Toccata" from Suite pour orgue, Op. 5 of Maurice Duruflé.
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