Thursday night we were social butterflies. First, across the river at Summit Winery, Smokefree Jefferson City had a “Let's Clear the Air Reception” for coalition-building purposes. This is Jefferson City’s group that’s trying to get smoking eliminated from public places such as restaurants. As usual, obstruction to progress seems to be coming down to the hemming and hawing of politicians, regardless of the overwhelming evidence of smoking’s bad effect on health.
Then we left the winery and rushed over to Lincoln University’s Richardson Auditorium, where we caught the second half of a concert by Susan Quigley-Duggan and Ruth Robertson, “Un récital à deux voix.” Dr. Quigley-Duggan, a soprano, is currently an assistant professor of voice and opera at the Swinney Conservatory at Central Methodist University. Dr. Robertson, mezzo-soprano, is a professor of vocal music at Lincoln.
They were accompanied by pianists Meg Gray and Barbara Hamel; the former is an associate professor of music at Lincoln, and the latter is a professor of music at CMU.
I think the overall theme for the concert was “let’s have fun singing together.” Honestly. They looked like they were having fun, as if they were not “working” at all. The selections were diverse in terms of style, subject, era, and language. There were works from Purcell, Rameau, Vivaldi, Dvořák, Debussy, Chaminade, Rossini, and Mozart, including solos and duets. Some of it was light, bubbly operatic stuff, while other parts were so emotionally arresting that time stopped for a while.
In the latter category were the “Sacred Songs by Contemporary American Composers,” sung by Robertson, three soulful selections with quite different styles. The first was “The Edge of the Hem,” a meditation upon the miracles of Jesus, written by Robertson herself, which uses harmonic minor scale forms and other stylistic components to evoke a Middle Eastern feeling. The second in this trio was “Angel Done Changed My Name,” arranged by Wallace Cheatham and performed exquisitely by Robertson, whose expressiveness on this piece could have melted hearts of stone. “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho,” arranged by Lincoln emeritus professor Robert L. Mitchell Sr. (who was there in the audience), is a stirring and “technical” piece—a rousing end for the trio, as well as a clear display of Robertson’s flexibility and diction.
The two singers, reunited on stage, then ended the program with a pair of light-hearted operatic duets by Mozart: “Canzonetta sull’ aria” (Song on the breeze) from The Marriage of Figaro, and “Prenderò quel brunettino” (I’ll take the little brown-haired fellow) from Women Are All Like That.
I was sad that we missed the first part of the program, but then I was also pleased that we caught as much of the concert as we did. It was incredibly enjoyable, and sadly, not many people were there—and yes, it was even a free concert. Okay, well it was snowing. At any rate, all the people who weren’t there missed an incredible display of musical skill and what can only be interpreted as an infectious enthusiasm for performing.