MSFO students to perform alongside vocalists in chamber recital

The instrumental and voice students are coming together for a chamber recital unlike any other this summer.

“It’s lovely for (the audience),” said Donald St. Pierre, head vocal coach. “It’s something fresh and different from what they usually hear.”

As opposed to the typical voice recital where singers perform with one pianist, at 2 p.m. Saturday in Fletcher Music Hall, instrumental students have the chance to perform with their vocalist peers.

In addition to the unusual arrangement, St. Pierre also picked material that will likely be unfamiliar to the audience.

“Where Don finds this amazing repertoire, I have no idea,” said Amanda Austin, a voice student. “But he will not let you get away with making music below your capacity.”

During Saturday’s recital, Austin will perform Arthur Shepherd’s “Triptych” along with two violinists, a violist and a cellist. She said she’s enjoying the rare opportunity to collaborate with the Music School Festival Orchestra students as a small ensemble.

Austin said the first day the group worked together, two of the instrumentalists said “we’ve never worked with a singer before.” The reverse is true for the vocalists, she said.

“As young singers, most of our collaborative efforts are with piano and, if we’re lucky, orchestra,” Austin said. “Having such intimate communication with the players empowers us as an ensemble to make choices together.”

St. Pierre said the recital is a chance for the instrumentalists to get a “sense of what the world of vocal music is like.” He said having words in songs makes a difference in regards to exploring what a piece expresses.

He said the instrumental students are excited for this chance they seldom get — especially the percussionists.

In two of St. Pierre’s unique selections — John Cage’s “A Flower” and “The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs” — Joshua Jones, a percussionist, will play on the lid of a closed piano.

“It’s a little exotic,” St. Pierre said, “but as far as John Cage goes, easy listening.”

The recital isn’t all unfamiliar pieces. The first half of the recital will end with a well-known Franz Schubert piece, “Der Hirt auf dem Felsen” (“Shepherd on the Rock”). The selection is St. Pierre’s “succession to something people would expect to hear at such a recital,” and will be performed by a vocalist accompanied by a clarinet.

St. Pierre chose to open the second half of the show with another Schubert piece. In keeping with the program’s focus on under-recognized pieces, the second Schubert is the lesser known “Totus in corde langueo.”

“In certain regards, it’s harder than ‘Shepherd on the Rock,’ ” St. Pierre said. “But the tenor and clarinet are doing a beautiful job. People will enjoy hearing something fresh and new.”

Tags : Donald St. PierreFletcher Music HallMSFOMusic School Festival Orchestra

The author Rebecca Klar

Rebecca Klar is a recent graduate of Binghamton University with a bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in rhetoric. She is excited to be spending her first summer at Chautauqua as a School of Music reporter for The Chautauquan Daily. You can contact her at