URI Music Department to showcase student talent throughout April

KINGSTON, R.I. – April 14, 2023 – Come see what’s in store from University of Rhode Island musicians in a full slate of concerts throughout the rest of April.

The concerts will feature numerous ensembles, including the URI Concert Choir, Symphony Orchestra, Jazz Big Band, Concert Band, and more. All of the concerts will be held in the Fine Arts Center Concert Hall, 105 Upper College Road, Kingston. Ticket prices are $15 for general admission; and $10 for students and seniors. Children 12 and under are admitted free.

The URI Concert Choir, under the direction of Mark Conley, opens the two-week stretch Saturday, April 15, at 8 p.m. Mark Conley. 

The Concert Choir is URI’s premiere, auditioned choral ensemble, said Conley, chair of the Music Department. The group explores different facets of music – time period, language, and different styles – that make the group unique.

Saturday’s concert will focus on the theme “Being Fully Human,” said Conley. The choir will perform modern day and classical music, some dating all the way back to the Renaissance. 

On Friday, April 21, at 8 p.m., Atla DeChamplain, assistant teaching professor of amplified voice, will direct the In The Pocket Jazz Choir. DeChamplain will be accompanied by David Gilliland, assistant teaching professor in collaborative piano. The concert is free.

The 17-member choir will play jazz music with a special focus on hard bop. DeChamplain says hard bop jazz is known for being fun and accessible, with roots in gospel and the blues. The choir will perform compositions including “Sugar” by Stanley Turrentine, “Centerpiece” by Harry “Sweets” Edison (with lyrics by DeChamplain’s mentor, jazz great Jon Hendricks), and “Village Blues” by John Coltrane.

In The Pocket is the first URI vocal ensemble solely featuring musicians studying jazz voice. In the past, the ensemble took part in concerts by the Jazz Big Band.

DeChamplain says the ensemble’s performance of the music grows and develops each time they practice it.

“The interpretation develops each time we sing the music,” she said. “Not only are we learning the parts and the style, but we’re learning how to groove and swing together, and also how to listen very empathetically.”

On Saturday, April 22, the Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Samuel Hollister, will perform a wide-ranging show that includes classical pieces, a concerto for guitar and orchestra and a chamber performance. The concert starts at 8 p.m.

Featured performer Autumn Casey, clarinet, will open the concert with a chamber performance, followed by the world premiere of a concerto for guitar and orchestra by Costa Rican composer Jose Mora-Jimenez. The work will feature graduate student Adrian Montero Moya on guitar. 

The orchestra will also perform Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G minor, Copland’s “Four Dance Episodes,” and Emilie Mayer’s Overture No. 3 in C major.

“I couldn’t be prouder of how this concert is coming together,” said Hollister. “The orchestra is super excited to have the chance to play a program of such varied and important repertoire.”

On Wednesday, April 26, at 7 p.m., the University Chorus, under the direction of Elizabeth Woodhouse, will perform music of different styles and languages. 

The chorus will perform a contrast of songs that Woodhouse calls  “the bird set.” They will be singing “The Blue Bird” by Charles Villiers Stanford and “Blue Bird,” a Korean folksong arranged by Jungsun Lee. Additionally, they will perform “Die Nachtigall” by Felix Mendelssohn, “The Wedding Cantata” by Daniel Pinkham, “How Can I Keep From Singing,” a Quaker hymn arranged by Gwyneth Walker, and “We Are” by Ysaye Barnwell.

What makes this concert so special, Woodhouse says, is that the choir members are given the opportunity to learn about the history of these pieces and share these stories with the audience through their performance.

On Thursday, April 27, the Jazz Big Band will perform a plethora of songs by artists like Earth, Wind & Fire, Steely Dan, Quincy Jones and The Doobie Brothers. This event will take place at 8 p.m.

When choosing these songs, band director Emmett Goods said he wanted to give the performers the opportunity to play music they recognize and relate to. 

“The students love it. It gives them an opportunity to play things they have more of a connection to,” Goods said. “The music we chose also gives them some really important lessons about being a musician in the current climate.”

In addition, he said they are performing pop music in hopes the event will feel more like a dance party than a jazz concert. “They’re going to need the audience to interact,” he said. “They’re going to need to feel their energy.”

Goods said the 20-member band is used to only having one singer perform with the band. But for this concert, they will include a wide variety of vocalists. 

The URI Wind Ensemble and Concert Band will perform Friday, April 28, at 7:30 p.m

As director of bands, Brian Cardany directs the Wind Ensemble and Concert Band, along with the Ram Marching Band, Pep Band, Southern New England Honor Band (a group for talented high school students) and the Alumni Wind Ensemble. In addition, he coordinates all of the music for the URI graduation commencement. 

He has been in this role since he joined URI in 2002. However, this is his first year conducting the Wind Ensemble. 

This joint performance will be the final performance of the year for the Wind Ensemble and Concert Band. Cardany believes this will be their most entertaining concert yet.

Consisting of “some of the most talented musicians on campus,” the 29-member Wind Ensemble will join forces with the 53 high-level performers of the Concert Band to put on a captivating production.

Closing out the semester’s music schedule, the Composers Concert will be held Sunday, April 30, at 7 p.m. The concert is free.

Eliane Aberdam, a teacher in composition at URI for more than two decades, is organizing the event, alongside Zaccai Curtis, an artist and teacher in jazz piano and jazz and commercial music composition. The concert will feature the work of eight composition students who will present what they have been working on this semester.

According to Aberdam, this concert helps students achieve two goals. It allows students to show off their creativity and what they have composed, and because the event is recorded, it will allow them to build their portfolio. 

This event differs from the other concerts in the series, as it highlights what these students have created, not necessarily their performance skills. In fact, some of the composers will not even perform their own pieces. Rather, they will recruit friends or fellow musicians to perform the piece they have composed. 

Morgan Maleonskie, an intern in the University of Rhode Island’s Department of Communications and Marketing and senior double majoring in journalism and communication studies, wrote this press release.