Professor Matthew Chellis starts off recital season for CCPA

matt chellis

By Daniel Johanson – Contributor

The spring semester takes on a different meaning for everyone. For classical musicians, it means the beginning of recital season.

Anyone pursuing a degree in music is familiar with this. The recital in the musician’s final semester is the looming goal of his or her degree.

However, one of the luxuries afforded to students during this season are the recitals put on by faculty members following similar guidelines. Tenor Matthew Chellis put on the first faculty recital of the spring semester, accompanied by Dana Brown, a CCPA professor.

The performance took place last Tuesday in Ganz Hall.

Chellis is no stranger to the stage, having appeared in the United States, Canada, Europe and South America in a multitude of works. Due to his expanded expertise, he said programming the recital came down to a matter of enjoyment.

“The music we choose, it’s that we both want to make sure that we really like and are really interested in,” Chellis said.

The nature of performance and pleasing the audience is never left out of the thought process, according to Chellis.

As Brown puts it, “Music that you like is so much easier to sell.”

Although only one generation separated them from the students that they teach, both Chellis and Brown remembered what programming—or choosing the material for a recital—was like before information was as readily available as it is today.

“There are so many tools,” Chellis said. “Literally, you can just have a fantasy for 20 minutes, sitting around and typing in any keyword and seeing what comes up.”

Recital culture may be a concept unfamiliar to the public, but when looking at the vast libraries of music in history, it is easy to believe that things were done differently at some point.

Chellis brought up a great point in this regard: “People used to carry their songbook with them and ask, ‘What do you want to hear?’”

He added that it speaks volumes to what recital culture is today; it is meant to be, in some ways, informal.

Chellis went on to say, “They had lieder abend, [German for ‘evening of song’ ],  and everybody’s parlour had a piano, and that’s what they would do.”

For this reason, there are many composers in these styles. Every town had its resident composer, and the big names that are known today leaned on each other, and lived in the larger cities.

One set from the recital was composed by virtuosic pianist Franz Liszt, but these close relationships are present in the style.

“There is a little bit of a musicological aspect that we as teachers don’t hear this music very often, but it’s easier to understand this music when you’ve done many other different kinds of music,” Brown explained. “There’s a lot of Beethoven in the Liszt, there’s a lot of Schubert in the Liszt, and a lot of Hugo Wolf. You have all three of those composers, but Liszt is in the middle of those guys.”

It speaks a lot to the job assigned to musicians of any style as part of the job is to be versatile and as literate as possible.

As Brown put it, “The more music you know, the more music there is to know.”

One of the other features of the recital was an exploration in a different direction of repertoire. Chellis is known for his work in the field of musical theatre, in addition to the classical spectrum, and the final set of this recital reflected that.

“I hope that everyone feels empowered to maybe do some different things,” he said. “[Perhaps] a piece that is a little risky and different, and maybe use different parts of your voice.”

This touches on another big hurdle in the realm of programming: the use of material written recently in the world of theater.

“There is a difference between technique and style,” Chellis said. “You don’t have to sacrifice technique for style.”

A large amount of material written in the past 100 years is not as frequently performed in this age. In his last set, Chellis included a couple of pieces written in the ’20s and ’30s, which is a body of work that as he says is “beautifully crafted pieces of music that no one does anymore.”

Chellis suggested that musicians — singers in particular — involve more than just the piano in their performances.

“I have students who ask me if they can use a guitar, and I say ‘Absolutely!’” Chellis said. “They can use a gamelan for all I care.”

Brown added that most classical musicians spend great amounts of time explaining their work.

“I think it’s our duty to not only explain the music, but at the same time, understand what kind of dedication and tenacity it takes to be artists, expressing ourselves musically as best we can at all times,” Brown said.

Anyone interested in seeing more of the many recitals this semester can see the entire CCPA calendar at ccpa.roosevelt.edu.

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