Simpson’s own Vivo Chamber Players are set to host two performances on Friday, Feb. 8. at Lekberg Hall. The first is at 7 p.m. and the second is at 8:30 p.m. with a reception held following the 7 p.m. performance. The event is free and open to the public.
Friday’s performance features photoplay music written to accompany the silent film, “The Mothering Heart” starring Lillian Gish.
“This performance will allow audience members to have a similar experience to patrons who attended movies in theaters one hundred years ago,” said Linda Benoit, music teaching artist at Simpson and violist in the ensemble. “The music tells the story and depicts the emotions of the actors, heightening the drama. This will be a unique experience for a modern audience. It is a unique experience for the performers as well, as we are collaborating with the actors in the film.”
The Vivo Chamber Players are a group of 17 Simpson faculty members and local musicians. Assembled in the fall of 2017 as a way of saying ‘thank you’ to Simpson and giving back to the community, the group began with only stringed instruments before expanding to include wind and percussion.
Vivo has held a free concert each of the last three semesters.
Faculty members included in the ensemble are: Kim Helton, flute; Sue Odem, oboe; Kariann Voigts, clarinet; Mike Eckerty, bassoon; George Dougherty, trumpet; Steve McCombs, percussion; Christy Eckerty, piano; Linda Benoit, viola; Sandy Tatge, cello; Phil Peters, bass; John Benoit, conductor and orchestrator.
The non-faculty members performing are: Madina Akhatova, violin; Linda Swanson, violin; Tom Juneau, violin; John Hoffmann, violin; Wanda Lydon, viola; Michele Senger, cello and Cristina Deeds, horn.
About the Performance
Vivo will begin the concert with a performance of “Wind Trio,” by Kevin Batchelder. The piece was commissioned by Batchelder’s sister and Simpson College’s own flute instructor, Dr. Kim Helton.
“Kevin’s “Wind Trio" for the Vivo Chamber Players' performance is a two-part commission,” Helton said. “‘B.F.F.’ as a jazz piece for string Bass, and two flutes. It was then adapted by our trio for flute, clarinet, and oboe. We then commissioned two additional movements for wind trio for this performance. The slower middle movement is called, ‘The Move’ for alto flute, english horn, and bass clarinet, and the faster third movement is called ‘F.O.C.’ for flute, oboe, and clarinet.”
The next piece in the recital is “Mother and Child,” which is a slow jazz piece, performed by the strings portion of the Vivo Chamber Players. This piece was composed by William Grant Still, who is known for his many accomplishments including being the first African American to have his symphony performed in the United States. Still is also known for a multitude of groundbreaking achievements in the African American community.
The main portion of the recital is accompanied by a showing of the 1913 silent film, “The Mothering Heart” by D.W. Griffith, starring Lillian Gish. This accompanying performance was orchestrated by Simpson’s own Dr. John Benoit, professor of music and chair of Simpson’s music department. Benoit combined the small orchestra compositions of Gaston Borch, Chas. L. Johnson, and John S. Zamecnik into a piece that would fit “The Mothering Heart.”
This type of silent film accompanying music is known as photoplay music. Photoplay is generic music written to accompany the showing of a silent film. The songs pick up on theater cues from the play or movie and enhance the emotions presented in the film, emotions which “The Mothering Heart” is full of.
As the movie ends in a somber tone, Vivo chose an upbeat and joyous song for the encore, an instrumental rendition of “Take Your Girlie to The Movies” by Peter Wendling.