Student composers took center stage Monday night, filling Grant Recital Hall with sounds ranging from classical to jazz to electronic.
During Fermata Composers Collective’s annual Spring Concert, 22 students presented pieces that had been months in the making. Fermata, a student club dedicated to cultivating student composition and performance by making music more accessible, hosted an open call for submissions at the beginning of the semester. The group’s board then helped match composers with performers, maintaining a focus on including all skill levels and genres.
“The review process is not based on selectivity and weeding out pieces because we really want to encourage people to learn and grow,” said Lucy Duda ’20, a Fermata board member. “Often, especially for people who are just getting started as composers, it’s hard to find opportunities to hear your work played and that’s really the best way to grow as a composer.”
This semester’s show was Fermata’s biggest concert since its inception, according to Karya Sezener ’21, a member of the Fermata board. Thirty-eight students performed the show’s 21 original student compositions, which included solo pieces, ensemble pieces, sound recordings and video. Some pieces utilized only instruments, while others consisted of voice performances.
Highlights of the show included Anna White’s ’19 video presentation, entitled “Oz.” White created the music entirely with computer programs and accompanied the sound with photos of her brother, to whom the piece was dedicated.
Several of the performers also mentioned the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral Monday evening. Xiaoyu Huang ’21 was initially going to play an original composition, but after experiencing technical difficulties, he decided to play an improvisation of the song “Danny Boy” on the piano, saying that it was the first song to come to his mind upon hearing about the fire. “What we are really doing is saying goodbye to the personhood of that space,” Huang said.
The first piece after the intermission was a work by Julian Gau ’19 titled “Marcia Con Brio: A Love Letter to the Fire Safety Announcement.” Before conducting his humorous ensemble piece, which set the words of a fire safety announcement to music, Gau also mentioned the Notre Dame fire. “There are two things that fire does not destroy: the memories you have and the capacity to rebuild,” Gau said.
Fermata’s leaders praised the diversity of this year’s submissions. “I love getting that exposure to musical styles that I might not otherwise,” said Duda, who performed in several of the pieces in Monday’s concert.
Sezener hopes to draw inspiration from the group’s name. In musical notation, a fermata elongates a note for an indefinite amount of time. Sezener theorized that the name functions as a “nebulous metaphor” between musical notation and the goals of the club. “Our goal is to leave space in a way that composers and performers can express themselves. … We don’t tell composers specifically what we are looking for, so that’s the indefinite aspect of it, but we’re an avenue for them to take space.”