- Next Virtuoso Concert Series:
- When: Aug. 28 at 7:30 p.m.
- Featuring: Peter Sommer on the saxophone
- Where: Organ Recital Hall
John Seesholtz yielded a standing ovation from his performance in the Virtuoso Concert Series at the University Center for the Arts on Tuesday night. Seesholtz sang a variety of pieces from the Romantic era, 20th and 21st centuries in German, English and Italian. Chris Reed, a pianist, with whom Seesholtz has been performing for over 10 years, accompanied him.
“He is a truly talented pianist,” Seezholtz said about Reed. “I wanted to take advantage of his virtuosic skill, so, I selected music that would truly show off his talents while highlighting my love of the Romantic period and American song.”
Reed’s skill was demonstrated through the extreme complexity of his playing. Hugo Wolf’s three movements, Harfenspeiler III, Ganymed and Der Feuerreiter, exhibited the relationship the two performers have built.
Nina Forsyth, a fifth-year arts and music major and student of Seesholtz, also noticed the complexity and conversation that occurred within this piece. Rather than having a simple piano accompaniment, both performers were somewhat featured.
“Wolf writes more as a voice soloist and a piano soloist,” Forsyth said. “Each part is equally important.”
While this set brought intensity and urgency with powerful sustained notes and telling rhythms, it was resolved by the final set of the first half, which carried with it a feeling of solemnness through smoother notes and breaks.
“The first half of the recital is rather heavy in text and has a dark and intense theme,” Seesholtz said. “I tried to counter balance this with a much lighter second half that modern American audiences could enjoy and relate to.”
The second half did indeed begin with a lighter movement. The piece by Stefano Donaudy, an Italian composer, provided the performance with humor and even an air of flirtation.
The concert concluded with several African-American spirituals. A guest speaker, Anthony P. McGlaun, walked the audience through the history of this genre and described each song. McGlaun explained that as African slaves were brought to America and Christianity was incorporated into their culture, many slaves identified with the Israelites of the Old Testament.
“With the oppression, misunderstanding and the mistreatment of Jesus, it was these stories that resonated with the slaves that gave them hope, peace, joy, and also a sense of community and belonging,” McGlaun said. “These songs also served as a way to communicate amongst each other in code.”
Some songs gave instruction for slaves attempting to escape and find freedom.
The spirituals that were presented by Seesholtz and Reed were hauntingly powerful. The history and purposes were easily identifiable within each piece, and the final piece, “Ride on King Jesus,” brought the audience to its feet.
The variety of work performed reflected the immense talent on the stage.
“I love to hear from the professors that are teaching me,” Forsyth said. “It is really cool to hear professional singers, kind of as a model to myself.”
Forsyth also recognized her own growth in music appreciation because of performances like Seeshotz’s.
“It’s really cool to see my personal progress as well and how I listen to music,” Forsyth said. “This is why it is so important to have arts education in schools. It’s important to educate humans on how to understand the arts. If we don’t, it makes it impossible for those people to really appreciate it.”
Several other vocal music students showed their appreciation with a standing ovation at the conclusion of the performance.
Seesholtz appeared to have enjoyed the evening though performing is not his only passion.
“For me, performing is something I enjoy, but my heart truly belongs to the music,” Seesholtz said. “I can have a beautiful experience with or without an audience. I think one of the biggest challenges to performing is to not put on a show but to remain authentic and raw. I think as humans we respond to that authenticity regardless of genre. It’s difficult to stand up in front of hundreds of people and bare your soul, but if you don’t do it, your audience might miss out on the very thing that drew you to the music and poetry in the first place. This is something I try to instill in my students and truly sets them apart as performers.”
Collegian reporter Emma Turner can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @EmmaTurner1228