The world-renowned Krannert Center for the Performing Arts offers many performances in a year and provides a vigorous and artistic environment for students in the School of Music. It had always been a dream of mine to perform on stage there. At the beginning of October, I finally entered Foellinger Great Hall, and it was such a great pleasure that my first time there was to be on stage as a performer alongside the University of Illinois Wind Orchestra. I was pleased to see lots of people in the audience. Even though the audience wore masks, I was certain that they enjoyed the music with happy faces.
Previously, I wrote about singing a concert in Foellinger Great Hall with the University of Illinois Chamber Singers, which was recorded for Carle Hospital patients. We did not record all of our repertoire, and the following week, we decided to continue our recording streak, but this time, it would be in a strikingly different location! The Women’s Glee Club has used the Krannert Center Green Parking Garage for their rehearsals and recordings, so we followed their lead, and the results were fabulous! Dr. Megill spoke highly of the acoustics in this unique space-- he compared them to those of a cathedral, which would make the space ideal for some of our haunting a capella pieces.
This week, I got to participate in a recording session with my choir, the University of Illinois Chamber Singers! We have done a few recording sessions, and we performed informally outside last semester, but this more formal affair was a much-needed return to the performing on which our group thrives.
I have written in previous blog posts about one of my main projects this semester: an in-person presentation of Samuel Barber’s often-neglected opera, Vanessa, with the University of Illinois Symphony Orchestra. This past week brought the culmination of this tremendously fulfilling project. The event was quite momentous, as it was our school’s first in-person performance featuring vocals to have a limited live audience since the pandemic.
I have always heard about the Krannert Debut Artist competition, one of the most prestigious competitions in the UIUC School of Music. One artist is selected each year to give a debut performance as a young professional musician on the Foellinger Great Hall stage. They are a featured artist in the Krannert Season, and they even get to sign a brick in the production hallway of Krannert! Last Tuesday, I got an email from my professor, Jerold Siena, saying that he had nominated me for this competition.
Last week, I sat in on the first orchestra rehearsal for Lyric Theatre @ Illinois’ and University of Illinois Symphony Orchestra’s concert presentation of excerpts from Samuel Barber’s Vanessa. I could not wait to begin working on the music with the talented chamber orchestra, and today, I had the opportunity to do so! This was quite a big deal for me because it was the first time I had sung solo in the Foellinger Great Hall unamplified (one of my greatest Illinois memories was singing the Sergeant of Police in The Pirates of Penzance in November 2018, but that performance utilized microphones). The acoustics of the Foellinger Great Hall are renowned, and some of the world’s greatest singers, including many of my vocal idols, have enjoyed giving recitals on this stage. It felt amazing singing with an orchestra in this space which is so kind to singers and provides plentiful natural amplification.
Incredibly, the last time I was in the Krannert Center’s cavernous Foellinger Great Hall, one of the great treasures of our university, was March 2020, almost a year ago. The last day before the pandemic fully took hold, I was on that familiar stage performing Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13, “Babi Yar,” with the Men’s Glee Club, non-treble voices of Oratorio Society and Chamber Singers, soloist Ricardo Herrera, and the University of Illinois Symphony Orchestra led by Donald Schleicher. This was also the last time I performed with a large ensemble for a large audience, and even the last time I have been in a room with that many people for any purpose. This performance took on particular weight when we found that we would not perform the piece at Carnegie Hall and that this would be our last chance to communicate Shoshtakovich’s fiercely relevant political message. The performance was life-affirming in every sense, and its memory still thrills when I think about its eternal temporal place on the edge of a pre-pandemic era.