Arts & Events

Baroque Performance Captivates Audience

Not every performance can boast being a part of a series that has existed for 30 years. This past Friday’s event, An Evening of Baroque Music, however, is one of those performances.

An Evening of Baroque Music, which was performed on Feb. 6, continued the long-standing Jacobsen Series.

First established in 1984, the series is named for Professor Leonard Jacobsen, Professor of piano and Chair of the Piano Department at the University of Puget Sound from 1935 to 1965. The Jacobsen series consists of concerts on a theme throughout the academic year. It is difficult to articulate the truly wonderful experience that Friday’s performance gave its audience.

Certainly, a Friday evening filled with baroque music isn’t for everyone. However, there is something to be said for a performance that, in every sense of the phrase, exceeded expectations. Sitting in the pews of Kilworth Memorial Chapel before the performance began, it was, however, difficult to peg down what to expect at first.

The Chapel wasn’t full, but the audience that was there was enthusiastic and engaged. And ultimately, that lively attitude was completely justified. Even after all is said and done, there’s really nothing negative to say about the performance. To say the least, each participant, musician and vocalist alike, pulled it off.

Perhaps to say that the show was flawless would be too strong a statement. Those with a rigorously trained ear may have noticed a few glitches. But for everyone else, to say that An Evening of Baroque Music was anything less than great would be unfounded.

Featuring works from composers Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Alessandro Scarlatti, Arcangelo Corelli, and Nicola Porpora, the show offered an impressive array of undoubtedly challenging musical pieces.

But even with the difficult nature of those musical pieces, each performer lived up to the challenge. Not least among those performers was mezzo-soprano, and incomparable highlight of the evening, Dawn Padula.

Accompanied by Duane Hulbert on the harpsichord, Clara Fuhrman on violin, and Bronwyn Hagerty on the cello, Padula, director of vocal studies and opera theater at Puget Sound, sang the first three pieces of the evening.

After providing historical and narrative context on each piece she sang, Padula’s calm and friendly demeanor ultimately did no justice to the immense vocal aptitude she went on to display.  In the second piece, for instance, Padula had the audience’s attention from the onset, belting out outstanding waves of sound that captured the intensely haunting, tortured nature of the piece that was intermittently interrupted by bursts of confidence.

Even though the selected pieces were relatively short, a musical performance of the caliber Padula demonstrated is no doubt exhausting.

Nonetheless, assisted by her equally impressive colleagues, Padula fought through it with a skillful gesture towards cohesion and practice.

The evening did not end when Padula and her counterparts took their bows, however, with numerous skilled musicians making an appearance or reappearance.

In the pieces that followed, Puget Sound students like Senior violinist Zach Hamilton and faculty members such as Maria Sampen and Timothy Christie, would all make their own remarkable contribution. Even to the layman, it’s easy to see that true musical proficiency requires almost excessive dedication and practice, which certainly makes the evening’s selected performers seem all the more appropriate.

It was obvious that each participant had dedicated countless hours of practice to their skill, which, in turn, helped the overall performance avoid any kitschy territory.

The final performance saw a reappearance of most the evening’s performers who were joined by Puget Sound’s Dorian Singers, led by conductor Kathryn Lehmann. They rounded out the evening with Nicola Porpora’s Magnificat, a booming, superb piece which, according to Lehmann, requires specific acoustic properties.

Even if not mentioned by name, each performer lived up to the evening’s high standards. An Evening of Baroque Music brought much more than could be reasonably requested.

Rightfully receiving thunderous applause, the show carried the audience right through to the end and the curtain, so to speak, closed on a strong and imposing evening.