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Lamont Colloquium: May 22, 2020

Juliet Levy

Juliet Levy: A Case for the Secular Partsongs of Amy Beach: Comparing Beach and Vaughan Williams’ Settings of “Over Hill, Over Dale”

Abstract: Amy Beach’s op. 39, Three Shakespeare Choruses, for unaccompanied women’s voices, is one of her lesser-known works, and I believe it merits attention. In my paper, I demonstrate the existing fragmented scholarship concerning op. 39, which, along with the circumstances of its composition, likely contributed to the neglect of this work. Throughout the paper, I compare op. 39 to Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Three Shakespeare Songs because they share a setting of “Over Hill, Over Dale” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In the first section, I assemble as much information as I could find about op. 39 and its performance history, and described the history of Vaughan Williams’ work. Next, I conduct a comparative musical/performance analysis of Beach’s and Vaughan Williams’ settings of “Over Hill, Over Dale,” and discuss the merit of each piece. By demonstrating the value of op. 39’s compositional style, I posit that it is not the quality of the composition that led op. 39 to fall into obscurity, but the circumstances for Beach and the performers of op. 39 of that time. In the final section I discuss this notion and make a case for Amy Beach’s secular choral works.

Bio: Juliet Levy is a first year Master’s Student in Musicology and Graduate TA at the Lamont School of Music. She graduated magna cum laude from Kenyon College in 2018 as a music major and philosophy minor, finishing with distinction in her major. Besides her studies, Juliet is also a soprano vocalist and currently sings with the Colorado Symphony Chorus. Juliet hopes to pursue further musicological studies concerning women composers, opera, and Francis Poulenc during her time at DU and beyond.

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Johnathan Rhodes

Jonathan Rhodes: "Because We are Catholic": Music as a Bridge Between Identities within the Catholic Community of South India

Abstract: 

Following the Second Vatican Council (1962–65), the Catholic Church has sought to integrate Catholic and Indian identities by adopting local beliefs and traditions into the Catholic liturgy. In the context of this push for “interculturalization,” local Catholic parishes and dioceses attempted to structure their use of diverse cultural practices and musical styles in a way that attuned to both Church teachings and Indian customs.

In this thesis, I argue that the music of the Catholic Church of South India, which draws from Indian and Western music genres, function as a cultural bridge allowing the worshiper to express a distinctively Catholic identity without distancing themselves from their Hindu roots. This cultural connection reinterprets Karnatak musical styles, practices, and traditions as distinctively Catholic rather than Indian or Hindu. Thus, Indian cultures are recontextualized within a Catholic paradigm, as these practices are regarded as Catholic regardless of their historical, cultural, or religious origin. These identities, Indian and Catholic, are not in tension with one another, but instead, reinforce each other. This concept of identity formed through both international and local perspectives emerges as a primary motivation behind the use of local musics and other traditions within the Indian Catholic Church. Local parishes utilize Hindu practices, themes, and symbolism in ways that reinforce international Catholic identity.

Moreover, the historical or theological origins of these local practices do not overtly supersede or undermine their intended religious message. Rather than using these songs as a compromise between Catholic and Hindu beliefs and practices, the Catholic Church in India recognizes these practices to achieve an international Catholic identity using local traditions.

Bio: Johnathan Rhodes is a Graduate student here at the Lamont School of Music. He currently holds a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance and is two weeks away from a Master of Arts in Musicology degree. After graduation, Johnathan plans to pursue a PhD in Ethnomusicology with a focus on Music and Colonialism. This presentation is derived from the masters' thesis he defended earlier this year.

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Jenny Thompson

Jenny Thompson: Bias in the Canon: An Exploration into Whitewashing in America’s Classical Music and Its Forgotten African-American Past

Abstract: Inspired by a recent article on NPR, this paper seeks to answer the unsettling question--Why is American Classical music so White?—one seldom asked amongst American orchestras, conservatory classrooms, and music historians. Despite low representation in the field of Classical music and a continued lack of mainstream research, a renewed "unearthing" of music by African-American composers from the early twentieth century shows us that society is long overdue to celebrate the history and masterful works of these unsung heroes of American Classical Music. Through the exploration of African-American culture and its musical history, Antonín Dvorak's "New World Prophecy", the lives of African-American composers Florence Price and William Dawson, along with their culturally significant works, the author aims to illuminate a blinding systemic failure on behalf of American Classical music: to foster inclusivity and honor musicians “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” By means of examining the political and musical language surrounding Price’s Symphony in E minor and Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony, the author aspires to emphasize the importance of cultural awareness for musicians and readers, which enables healthy conversations on diversity and tolerance, and envisions greater opportunities for our fellow musicians.

Bio: Jenny, 23, is a first-year Masters student at the University of Denver, where she pursues an MM in Classical Vocal Performance and studies opera as a lyric coloratura soprano. She enjoys academic writing and research, and has written on musical topics such as the Baroque castrati, Surrealism in modern opera, African-American composers, and vocal pedagogy for transgender singers. She is a Los Angeles native who has since moved to other sunny places like Miami and Colorado, and loves to spend time in nature. Jenny is passionate about the survival and well-being of the arts, especially opera, and believes that this can best be achieved through education. 

Click here to watch the video.