UNCG’s Collage concert, a celebration of world music and the prowess of the College of Visual and Performing Arts, kicked off the new school year with its 10th annual performance on Sept. 9. The theme for this year was “Atlantic Crossings,” an exploration into the melding of musical cultures as differing civilizations crossed the Atlantic Ocean.
The production includes performances by over 300 UNCG students in both the music and theatre departments, as well as world renowned faculty members and ensembles such as the Gate City Camerata. It featured both instrumental and vocal music.
Collage traverses multiple countries and continents to seek musical inspiration, fusing Western classics like Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” with non-western tunes, such as the traditional Haitian folk song “Peze Kafé.” This year’s performance coincides with the National Folk Festival, Greensboro’s largest celebration of multiculturalism, in order to provide a more comprehensive musical understanding.
It is also an extension of the “Atlantic World Arts International Conference: Collision, Fusion, Revision,” which is coordinated through UNCG’s own Atlantic World Research Network (AWRN). The aim of this organization is to foster interdisciplinary research and educational development as it pertains to the history and culture of the Atlantic Rim.
“Atlantic Crossings” delves into the influence between the collision of style, language, religion, beliefs and ideas that not only pertains to music, but upon culture itself. Each piece featured within this year’s Collage has a unique history, many that recall the resounding struggles of immigration, religious and racial persecution and the tragedy of war. Some pieces are traditional, while others are modern. All serve to build a sense of community and belonging that is exclusive to the presence and development of music.
The repertoire is not only diversified in culture, but in age as well – Bach’s baroque nature blends with the English rock-pop of the Beatles, old school Ravel mingles with film composer John Williams, Respighi dances alongside modern day Eric Whitacre. The breadth of experience provided is enough to make even the most seasoned concert-goer sit in shock and awe.
The main goal of the production is to merge music with theatrics, employing colorful light shows and differing stage locations to enhance the audience’s perception of the works. One of the most interesting concepts included within the show is that of performing each piece in rapid succession, with little to no rests in between. This creates a non-stop musical medley, leaving viewers with little time for their mind to wander.
Though major ensembles like the Wind Ensemble and Symphony Orchestra stuck to the stage, it was not uncommon to see musicians utilizing the balconies within the auditorium, choosing to claim as much space as physically possible outside of the main performance area. One featured piece, “Hold Fast,” by Ivan Trevino, showcased the lively qualities of the vibraphone and the dynamic properties of the drums, all from the upper left balcony. Another work, “Dance in Congo Square,” by David Baker, highlighted the skill of a small faculty chamber group from the middle of the audience.
The crowd was a mix of UNCG students, parents and community members. Some were classical music aficionados, some were not. One young woman I spoke to, a Freshman Exploratory major at UNCG, declared that this was not only the first School of Music concert she had attended, it was also the first classical performance she had ever seen live. “I think this is a great opportunity to introduce students to the school and to multiple kinds of music,” she stated. The diverse nature of programming allows Collage to do just that.
To extend the musical magic, faculty have developed the “Collage: Chamber Series,” a lineup of four concerts throughout the academic year that features smaller ensembles and more intimate settings, while maintaining the theatrics and amazement of the flagship show. Similar to the main Collage performance, all tickets benefit the UNCG School of Music Scholarship Fund.
On Sept. 16, Collage will put on an additional Raleigh concert at Meymandi Concert Hall to commemorate UNCG’s 125th Anniversary. Due to the popularity and triumph of past Greensboro performances, the show is sold out, with potential attendees currently delegated to an extensive waiting list.
The success of Collage is no anomaly – with its emphasis on diversity, globalism and cultural appreciation, it promises a welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone. The show is a journey, a joyous celebration of the commonalities of civilizations and the underlying music that makes us all what we truly are: human.