By: Rachel K. Hindery
James Davis, a trumpeter who has performed with nearly a dozen ensembles including the Grammy nominated One O’Clock Lab Band, opened the third season of Triton College’s Faculty Artist Series on September 19, 2016 at a performance in the Robert M. Collins Center Auditorium. Between 7:30 and 10:00 p.m., listeners heard classical and modern arrangements of trumpet music from Europe and America. Joann Cho, PhD, who founded the Faculty Artist Series, accompanied Davis on piano. Aside from being a talented musician, Davis also directs the Jazz Studies Program at Triton College, and teaches at Moraine Valley Community College and Wheaton College. Due to a scheduling change, Triton music faculty members Ingrid Mikolajczyk (soprano) and Brien O’Callaghan (guitar) did not perform.
The concert opened with an arrangement of Handel’s Aria con Verianzioni. Originally written for harpsichord, Davis’ smooth playing and Cho’s accompaniment highlighted the lyrical nature of the piece.
Davis used dynamic changes throughout the second piece, Mendelssohn’s On Music’s Softest Pinions. This piece was made famous by Jules Levy, a coronet player, at the turn of the twentieth century.
The third piece was based on a traditional Irish melody, The Last Rose of Summer. The original lyrics are a somber reflection on mortality. Frequent tempo changes and trills kept this version, for trumpet and piano, moving to a quiet conclusion.
Rondo for Lifey, by American composer Leonard Bernstein, was an upbeat selection for Davis’ fourth piece. Readers may be more familiar with the works of Leonard Bernstein through musicals such as West Side Story. Quick and playful, with lilting piano in the background, both piano and trumpet featured staccato sections. The playful feel of this piece matched its subject; Lifey is a Skye terrier dog.
Any reader who has ever heard or sung Sleigh Ride (“…just hear those sleigh bells jingling, ring-ting-tingling, too…”) already knows the work of Leroy Anderson, another American composer. Davis chose Anderson’s Trumpeter’s Lullaby for his fifth piece, which The Fifth Avenue Journal has heard performed by other bands, and it was refreshing to hear this familiar piece.
The sixth piece, George Gershwin’s Someone to Watch Over Me, arranged for piano and trumpet, may have had some audience members silently singing the lyrics in their head. Cho played an introduction while Davis brought in the melody on the trumpet. The arrangement became more fluid later on, with elaborations on the melody. This song has been covered for decades, from a little-known musical (Oh, Kay!) to versions by Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra in the 1940s to a 2003 version by Amy Winehouse. This arrangement added to the song’s illustrious history.
The recital concluded with Concert Etude by German composer Alexander Goedicke. This was a faster piece overall, and provided an energizing conclusion to the evening.
As guests made their way to the reception just outside the auditorium, The Fifth Avenue Journal spoke with Davis and Cho.
Davis’ students originally studied each piece. In response to a question about what made the pieces so well-suited for work by trumpet students, Davis explained “all the different techniques like double-tonguing” made them ideal. After doing some basic research on the subject, The Fifth Avenue Journal learned that a trumpeter will say a two-syllable word, such as “ticket”, enunciating each syllable while blowing into their trumpet, to increase their speed during faster or more complex pieces.
Davis also reflected on one of his favorite parts of performing at Triton: “It’s great to be able to do a classical concert, and Jazz pieces.” When asked how teaching at three separate colleges informed his teaching style, Davis said, “It’s kept me being flexible, to cater to different students.” Then, with a smile, he added, “…and keeps me driving everywhere!”
Cho originally began the Faculty Artist Series in 2014 as a way to highlight Triton’s accomplished music professors. The first years went by quickly, and Cho remarked: “It’s been fun! Faculty didn’t have a place to perform, and it was good to feature them.”
Such musical offerings at Triton College provide more than merely a place for faculty, students and community members to interact.
Janette Spenny, the Community Life Manager at Victory Centre Senior Living Community, invited some of her residents to the concert. While this is her first time attending a Faculty Artist concert, she has already attended jazz and concert band performances at Triton. She often checks Triton’s website for the dates of upcoming musical events, and a friend who performs in the jazz band also keeps her well-informed.
“I think it’s really nice that they do these concerts,” Spenny said, before adding: “one of the biggest things for us is that our seniors are low income. Having someplace free we can bring them is huge.” Triton College’s many free activities provide an invaluable resource to the community, making access to cultural activities accessible to all, including those who most benefit from them. Spenny spoke further with the Fifth Avenue Journal about the healing power of music, especially among seniors who may be facing health conditions such as Alzheimer’s.
The healing power of music was clear as the Fifth Avenue Journal heard Victory Center resident Dorothy Hellen Dolly-Bosch describe her experience. Dolly-Bosch became more and more animated as she expressed what the concert meant to her. She’s come to lots of concerts at Triton, and “I’ve loved every one of them…every one!” Dolly-Bosch enjoyed both the piano and the trumpet music, especially the piano, saying, “I loved the lady [Cho] that played the piano.” She gave both performers high praise: “I was speechless. Both of them [the faculty artists] were good, good, good!” She used all the words she could think of, including “spectacular” and “terrific” to try to sum up her thoughts on the evening.
Flexible, fun, huge, spectacular. These are just some of the words used to describe the first Faculty Artist reception series. Readers who would like to decide on their own adjectives are encouraged to view the full schedule of events, or plan to attend the next concert on November 16, 2016 at 7:30 p.m.