The University of Cincinnati’s transition to remote learning put in-person public performances at the College-Conservatory of Music on pause, including senior recitals that graduating students typically present during the spring semester. However, harpist Anna Dunlap didn’t let that stop her from sharing a piece she planned to perform during her recital online.
Dunlap, who recently graduated with a Master of Music in Harp, planned to perform Marcel Tournier’s La lettre du Jardinier with fellow CCM student Sean McKay, who just graduated with a Master of Music in Trumpet. They were disappointed to lose the opportunity to perform the piece that they had already spent time practicing, so McKay suggested they present it digitally.
“Music, as it always does, provides comfort, joy and an escape from the more difficult times in life,“ says Anna Dunlap (MM Harp, ’20). “The arts are a vitally important part of everyone’s lives, so by sharing our music we are able to stay connected to our audiences, friends and colleagues.”
Dunlap, who studied with CCM Professor Gillian Benet Sella, is thankful that McKay was as excited about the performance video as she was. She was introduced to La lettre du Jardinier by her former teacher Kathleen Bride while she was an undergraduate student at Eastman School of Music.
“I never had the chance to program it there, so I was really happy about finding a friend to perform this piece with me here at CCM,” Dunlap says.
McKay, who studied with CCM Professor Alan Siebert, created the initial click track that the musicians used to record, then recorded the performances and edited the video. He says the recording part only took a couple of hours but that he probably spent around 4 hours editing the audio.
McKay is a self-taught video editor and used his experience as a performer, as well as the advice of experienced friends, for the audio recording and editing. He is using his free time during the pandemic to build a larger digital presence for himself as a freelance musician and educator.
“One of the biggest ‘silver linings’ that has come from this quarantine has been that I am moving in the right direction to expand my digital footprint, and that I have had a few opportunities to make music with friends,” McKay says. “I think that as musicians and students of music, we take for granted the simple and yet highly complex phenomena that is the experience of making music with other people.”
“I think that it is so very important for musicians to stay connected during this time, because each of us has a fire burning inside of us which drives our passion to make music; and when that fire is told to stay inside and stay healthy, that fire needs fuel to stay alive,“ says Sean McKay (MM Trumpet, ’20). “These types of projects and collaborations with friends are what fuels our inner fire.”
Dunlap is using her time in quarantine to explore old hobbies like drawing and painting and she is staying connected with friends through video chats and virtual game nights. She is also working on new repertoire, updating her website and planning a virtual harp camp with a mentor.
She enjoys seeing the variety of creative ways musicians are continuing to perform and share music during this uncertain time. Dunlap is inspired by the orchestra videos, like the New York Philharmonic’s performance excerpt from Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 “Adagietto” and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Ravel’s “Le jardin féerique” (The Fairy Garden) from Ma mère l’Oye (Mother Goose Suite).
From Broadway stars to prestigious professional orchestras to student musicians, performing artists across the world are determined to share their work in new ways. Recently on May 16, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra presented “Live from Music Hall,” which featured a performance of Mahler’s Piano Quartet and the world premiere of the first piece for The Fanfare Project by CSO Creative Partner Matthias Pintscher. The performance featured CCM professors Dwight Parry, oboe; Michael Chertock, piano; Ilya Finkelshteyn, cello; and CSO concertmaster Stefani Matsuo and principal viola Christian Colberg.
“Music is a beautiful thing. Music heals. Music sparks creativity and passion. Music helps people in so many ways. Music can change the outcome of a person’s whole day,” McKay says. “My favorite quote about music is from Aldous Huxley: ‘After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ When words fail, music speaks. When people are hurt, music is there to heal and soothe.“
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