Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Light Sounds

August 26th, 2009 · Comments Off on Light Sounds

     Light – unnatural light from the hulking, undoubtedly gilt chandeliers and natural light which poured in through massive, paned windows – set a noonday glow upon the carved stone walls of Saint Martin in the Fields yesterday. The same light spilled onto the crowd that had gathered to watch the performance. For a donation of a few pounds – or nothing, if one desired – appreciators of music of all ages had the opportunity to attend a performance by E.L.F., a trio comprised of a pianist, flautist, and horn player.

     The three are known for their versatility, playing anything and everything from classical and pop music to arrangements from soundtracks and musical scores. At St. Martin in the Fields yesterday, E.L.F. stayed true to their reputation, playing a variety of pieces, but none nearly as powerful and interesting as Phantasia, based on Andrew Lloyd Weber’s famous The Phantom of the Opera. E.L.F.’s interpretations of hit songs such as “Music of the Night,” “Past the Point of No Return,” “Masquerade,” “All I Ask of You” and, of course, “Phantom of the Opera” were unexpected and enjoyable. Tempos were adjusted, notes and rests altered to create surprising syncopation, harmonies and jarringly dissonant chords created where none existed previously. At one point during the piece, “All I Ask of You,” a deeply emotional – and during the reprise, truly painful – love song segwayed beautifully into “Masquerade,” a joyful song with an element of whimsy. The transition was unexpected, but surprisingly appropriate and effective.

     What else I found to be especially inspiring was the obvious love of the art felt by the performers and the flautist in particular. Even when he was not playing, the flautist made eye contact with his fellow members, smiled, rocked and tapped and swooshed to be beat – or off-beat – of the music, as if all the nerves in his body were firing and playing their own fleshy instruments rather than the flute lying in anticipation at his side.

     The light glanced off of the musicians’ instruments as they walked off and bowed to the crowd. The light burned my eyes as I left bliss inside St. Martin in the Fields and walked out into the crush of humanity that is Trafalgar Square. The light left shadows under my feet.

London 8.25-8.26 002

Tags: Anya · Churches and Cathedrals

Phantom and Pictures

August 25th, 2009 · 2 Comments

Upon entering Saint-Martin-in-the-Fields, early this afternoon for the E.L.F. trio, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from the concert and the church.  I’ve been in a good number of European churches, and I admit that I’ve gotten a bit jaded on the church front.  I wasn’t surprised by the decor of the church (Corinthian columns, gilded decoration, chandeliers, etc).  It was quite typical of a church built in the mid-1700s.  I was, however, quite enthralled by the window over the main altar of the church.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t take a picture of it from the church, but it seemed to be purposely distorted into a display of modern art and it certainly made an interesting juxtaposition with the existing 18th century decor and architecture.    (I was unable to find more information to tell if it is an original piece of the church or a more recent addition.) 

The E.L.F. trio also managed to surprise me greatly!  As much as I enjoyed it, I was notexpecting a 35 minute long tribute to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera!  Anyone else have an overwhelming desire to listen to the Phantom soundtrack after that?

The National Gallery was probably the highlight of my day.  Anyone who knows me really well can tell you that I love music and theatre, but I’m not one much for old paintings.  We were told that when we go to the British Museum we should keep in mind how the different artefacts relate to Great Britain.  Along those same lines in the National Gallery I couldn’t help but keep thinking about how the paintings managed to get to London.  The ones that were by British artists or of Britain or by an artist from the Empire made sense, but how did they get such a large number of paintings from Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, etc.?  What really shocked me were the 13th to 15th century paintings that used to be altarpieces in churches.  There was one by Filippino Lippi, called The Virgin and Child with Saints Jerome and Dominic, from about1485 that was painted for San Pencrazio church in Florence.  How did these pieces of art from the walls of churches manage to get to London?  I just had a bit of an issue getting my head around the idea that so many of these fragile pieces of artwork were cut up and shipped to London museums from places that were outside of Britain’s sphere of influence. 

The Virgin and Child with Saints Jerome and Dominic by Fillippino Lippi - picture taken from the website of the National Gallery

The Virgin and Child with Saints Jerome and Dominic by Filippino Lippi - picture taken from the website of the National Gallery

As I said above, I am not one who is a big fan of looking at old paintings for hours on end, but I know the big names and can recognize my fair share of famous paintings.  One of the things I appreciated and was in awe of most about the National Gallery was the sheer volume of paintings they had that I was familiar with.  There was one room with twenty-one paintings on the walls and I counted nine by Raphael and two by Michelangelo.  (I came to realize that you could tell where a really famous painting or artist’s work was when there was a massive group of people surrounding it and traffic stopped flowing.)  The US has some really nice art museums, but the content of the National Gallery blew my mind. 

The main thing I learned today is that art and music transcend all language barriers.  I probably heard people speaking at least a dozen different languages when I was strolling around the National Gallery and sitting in Saint-Martin-in-the-Fields, but it didn’t matter because everyone can enjoy art and it is completely open to interpretation.

Tags: Kelley