On Oct. 6, An Afternoon of Vocal Music took place in The Baker Theater Recital Hall. The show consisted of six performers including Muhlenberg Music Department faculty members and a student guest performer. Featured were music lecturer Ellen Zimmer Lewis, Rachelle Fleming, assistant music professor and choir director Chris Jackson and voice lecturer Brian Ming Chu, while guest performer and Music Theory lecturer Darin Lewis played the piano and Adam Cantor ‘21 served as a guest performer for the event.
Lewis started playing the piano when he was seven years old. He earned his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Southern California and his Master’s degree in Piano Performance at Yale University. Subsequently, he earned another Master’s at City College of New York in composition.
The concert was a showcase of compositions by Lewis including “Five Folksongs” and “Five Lullabies,” the latter of which were based on the classic lullabies from which they derive their names. He said that his inspiration to write the songs came from his personal experiences studying in England thanks to a Rotary Scholarship.
While the concert represented a single genre of his compositions, Lewis says that he “loves lots of types of music.” The way Lewis played the piano was elegant, and the music he performed was graceful and peaceful.
The vocalists alternated performances throughout the concert, with each one singing a few selections before ceding the stage to their colleague.
Starting the concert off was Zimmer Lewis, a talented soprano who has sung all over the United States and Europe. She earned her Bachelor’s in Music from SUNY Fredonia and her Artist Diploma in Opera at the University of Hartford, Hartt School, ultimately receiving her Master’s in Music at Yale University. She opened with “Afternoon on a Hill” and “Set Me As A Seal.” She returned to the stage at later points in the concert, performing another three solos and a duet with Fleming. Zimmer Lewis is a wonderful performer and has a beautiful voice.
The show’s next performer was Jackson with the pieces “Honours, Riches, Marriage, Blessing” and “Moonlight.” Jackson also returned twice more with the solos “Love’s Old Sweet Song,” giving a lively performance complete with a variety of facial expressions, and “To You All Flesh Shall Come” in his lovely bass voice.
Baritone Ming Chu graced the stage after Jackson with “The Morning Breaks,” “Blanket Fair,” “Rest, my child,” “As down in the Meadow” and “Sweet Are the Charms.” These make up Lewis’s suite of “Five Folksongs” and were performed with skill and aplomb.
Fleming performed the concert’s second five-song suite by Lewis, “Five Lullabies.” The sweet and recognisable melodies were “All the Pretty Little Horses,” “How They Sleep,” “The White Seal’s Lullaby,” “Hey Diddle Diddle” and “Little Boy Blue.” An outstanding performer who truly captivated the audience, Fleming also performed a duet with Zimmer Lewis; the enchanting “God Shall Wipe Away All Tears.”
The concert closed with “She Walks in Beauty,” a quartet by Zimmer Lewis, Fleming, Jackson and student Cantor. Cantor stepped in last-minute to perform and yet sounded as beautiful as if he had been rehearsing with the others for weeks.
Overall, the performance was a wonderful show full of soft, graceful and enjoyable music that was greatly appreciated by the audience.