Memorial Response in Music
by Douglass Dowty

For an hour Thursday night Finney Chapel rang with emotion as Conservatory students and ensembles performed a musical response to the tragedies of Sept. 11th. From the first mournful trombone choir entrance to the final stroke of the pianist’s sad fingertips, one could sense an intensity and passion that is rare even during the most brilliant concerts. Talent and skill are not worthy enough to receive all the credit for this magic. It was possible only through the musicians themselves, harnessing their abilities in a way which showered their feelings upon the sparse audience.
Conservatory senior Hudie Broughton led the effort to organize the event with help from fellow students Wendy Richman and Steven Brewer. Sponsorship for the program came from the Con itself. Works on the program included Brahms’ German Requiem and piano Intermezzos, Debussy’s String Quartet in G minor, Eliot Carter’s Elegy, and Bach’s Partita II for Solo Violin and Prelude and Fugue in C-sharp minor.
Broughton said that he originally began organizing for this event as a way to get his mind off of the US bombing in Afghanistan which followed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11th.
“I thought there was enough talking about the disaster, and I was looking for another way to express my thoughts and emotions of the event,” Broughton said. “I found that there were many musicians in the conservatory that agreed.”
The program started with a trombone choir adaptation of “How Lovely is thy Dwelling Place” from Brahms’ German Requiem. This first number, full of hollow chords, was perfect for the mellow brass and set the mournful overtone that remained throughout the concert. Before the piece was played, Mr. Desano, the trombone choir conductor, requested that the audience refrain from applause for the entire program, as a moment of silence after each piece seemed most appropriate.
The next work was an absolutely spellbinding rendition of a slow movement from Claude Debussy’s string quartet. Starting with a hauntingly sorrowful melody, this work built to a triumphant climax before slowly dying away to the end.
Emily Fowler, first violinist in the quartet, said that playing in this response concert was important because “music is a universal language [and] it unites us all.”
“There are no words in music,” senior Fowler said. She said that music “is almost like a refuge from the constant stream of information delivered to us by the…media. The Debussy …is beautiful, peaceful. It’s like a reminder in the wake of tragedy that there still is great beauty in our world.”
Following the Debussy was the sad and highly emotional Sarsbande from Bach’s Partita II for Solo Violin. Cibran Sierra-Vazquez poured plenty of feeling into the movement, and his double-stops and passage work were mournful, yet passionate.
The intense Elegy by Eliot Carter for viola and piano was smoothly melodic, and Bach’s transcribed Prelude and Fugue for brass quintet was triumphant, as though a reminder that all is not lost in the world. The final two works, both Intermezzos by Brahms for solo piano, were both sorrowful and joyous; showing both respect for the past and hope for the future.
The process of organizing for the response concert began when Broughton set up meetings with Ellen Sayles, an associate dean in the Conservatory.
“After [she] learned of my desire to produce a memorial [concert], she held meetings with students to poll their interest,” said Broughton. “We tried to include their ensembles in the program…as well as the best musicians we knew of in the Con.”
“My goal for the show [was] to present a first rate program with the best performers on campus, and I’m extremely pleased with the line up we got…I believe concerts, speeches, poetry readings [and other] dramatic events in society help build community. A strong sense of community is something that has always been important to me.”
Broughton has been an organizer for many other events, including as assistant producer of the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center. On campus he is a co-founder of Classical Action/Oberlin, a student branch of Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS, based in New York. This group is presenting the Oberlin Ensemble’s 8th Blackbird in a benefit concert on Dec. 1 in Finney.

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