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The best of the music program are preparing to perform in this year’s Concerto Night on Sunday. Students from all areas of the music department are fine-tuning their solo pieces to perform with the symphony. While the expectations are high, students rise to the challenge of performing difficult repertoire year after year.
“I am singing Micaela’s aria from ‘Carmen,’” said Catherine Omer, this year’s vocal performer. “It’s by Georges Bizet. The accompaniment is so beautiful, and the emotion is very strong. This is one of my favorite arias because of its emotional intensity and desperation.”
The opera “Carmen” has been noted for its demanding vocals, as well as its difficulty to act out, but Omer said she feels she has put in the work to perform well.
“I’ve been working on this piece for a year and a half now, and when I first started, it was really difficult,” Omer said. “The high notes that I have are going to be hard, but what was really challenging were all the dynamic variations that happen throughout the song. There is a point where I have to sing a high G starting at a forte and decrescendo all the way to a (pianissimo) in about four counts. It’s really hard, but at the same time, really fun.”
Another student performing this year is Marianne Asmus, a violinist and the concertmaster for the Weber State University Symphony. She will play “Tzigane” by French composer Ravel.
“I love the unique qualities it has,” Asmus said. “It is definitely a different piece and takes many people by surprise. There are many techniques that I have never used before, which make the song fun and exciting. It is very intense and brings out a variety of emotions to be expressed through the piece. I am most excited to be able to perform my solo. It will be a great opportunity to perform and chance to improve my performance skills.”
Asmus said improvement is constantly on her mind. This venue gives the musicians an opportunity to perform at a different level.
“This piece has challenged me in many ways,” Asmus said. “Growing up, I was never very diligent with my practicing, and as I got to college, I got a little better. When I first heard this piece one year ago, my desire to learn it was intense. I immediately loved it . . . I feel some strengths are my ability to portray emotions, and the ease I have at simply playing my instrument. My own violin is like an old friend. I know how it works, what sounds it will make, how to bring out desired tones and musicality. We work together to make music.”
Omer said she feels vocal music is particularly elusive to master.
“I don’t think vocalists get enough credit for how difficult it is for what they do,” Omer said. “It’s easy to look at an instrumentalist and recognize all the hard work they’ve put in, but for a singer, it’s not quite as clear. It takes a lot of practice and years of training to gain control of one’s voice and to be able to manipulate it in a way that creates the sound they want. I think my strengths with my voice are the effort and time I’ve put in to have that vocal control, and I still have a long way to go.”
While this performance opportunity can seem daunting, students can take comfort from other students who have already performed, like Ciera Mackelprang.
“It was exciting to have to opportunity to solo in front of an audience of that size,” Mackelprang said. “What I loved most about performing was the captivating cadenza at the end that I had the opportunity to really show off with. Take a deep breath, stay calm and just have fun.”
Concerto Night will be Sunday at 7:30 p.m. in the Browning Center’s Austad Auditorium. Tickets are $7 for regular admission and $6 for students.