Exploring Peripheries: Twentieth-Century Art Song for Piano and Voice at 121 Studios this Friday night

Christina Willatt. Photo taken from Andrew Doty's website, Lyricism
Christina Willatt. Photo taken from Andrew Doty’s website, Lyricism

Friday night, 121 Studios on Dundas St. will be taken over by art songs, which are music pieces composed for piano and voice alone.
Performing them is Christina Willatt, singer, and Susanne Murphy, pianist.

Willatt is a singer, pianist, composer, music director and teacher who holds a master in vocal performance and literature.
Murphy is a pianist who accompanies music students at Western University.

The duo has been collaborating for about five years, starting to work together while they were both undertaking their master degree at Western.

Tonight’s event is a lecture-recital, which means that Willatt will introduce the concept of art songs and give a bit of context about each of the 10 pieces performed. She will explain what kind of music the public is expected to hear because “it is difficult when you are addressing an audience that is not familiar with the music,” says Willatt. Hence, part of the presentation will be explaining what people are going to hear and what they should expect.

For each tune, the musical score will be showcased on a screen to give a better context. A few of those tracks are in German, one is in French, one in Hungarian and the rest is in English. There are a few exceptions because some will be vocalised.

As much as art songs stem from a classical tradition, the ones performed tonight will be more recent as they are from the 20th century repertoire, so they will be “more contemporary, a little less traditional,” says Susanne Murphy.

The duo will also be performing a piece that Murphy’s husband, Paul Frehner, wrote.
The technique for this number will be radically different. Murphy will wear headphones and follow the metronome beat while Willatt sings. On top of that, there will be noises from a skating rink and a Montreal Canadiens-Boston Bruins match, both recordings from the seventies.

“I’m really excited because this is something outside my normal work,” says Murphy. “I don’t know who’s gonna show up, it’ll be interesting to see. I hope to get a nice little crowd I think it’ll be fun, the interaction with the audience,” she says.

The lecture-recital won’t happen in a traditional concert hall setting, but rather at 121 Studios, a venue owned by local digital association UnLondon.

The space will be intimate, with about 35 seats, which is based on previous attendance and feedback from the Facebook group.

Chuck Blazevic is the coordinator of 121 Studios and curator of the lecture series. He says that since November, the lectures happen about once or twice a month based on the speakers’ availability.

All of the lectures are on a volunteer-basis and are free because they give a better access to the public, who might not have the chance to hear this kind of talk outside of an academic or a concert hall setting, says Blazevic.

The lecture series is designed also to grow the space and make it into “a multi-faceted space, a thriving cultural hub,” Blazevic says.

Blazevic is looking forward to the presentation tonight because “Christina Willatt is an extremely accomplished musician,” he says. “I have a lot of respect for her work and she’s a very prominent local talent,” he says.

The lecture-recital is happening tonight at 7:30 p.m. and is expected to last about an hour.

Leave a Reply