Somehow, in my whole first year writing for the Niner Times, I had managed not to see a single show in the Rowe Recital Hall. I finally made the trip on Mar. 27 for the Department of Music’s Faculty Spotlight Concert. This concert was a part of the Faculty & Friends Concert Series. It featured various UNC Charlotte professors and a total of six pieces. When I first walked into the space, I was surprised to find that it felt small and intimate despite its large size. A black piano sat on stage, illuminated by soft blue light. As audience members trickled into the auditorium, a quiet tension filled the room.
It wasn’t broken until the first soloist stepped onto the stage. This was Dr. Mira Frisch, Associate Professor of Cello, who began the concert with “Suite No. 2 in D minor for solo cello” by composer J.S. Bach. The room became so quiet I could hear Dr. Frisch’s breathing. The audience seemed spellbound. After the piece was over, she slowly took her bow off the instrument and held it out before the audience could applaud.
Following Dr. Frisch was the husband and wife duo of David Russell and Zaiba Sheikh. Russell is currently the Anne R. Belk Distinguished Professor of Violin, while Sheikh is an accomplished piano player. They seemed at home together on the stage, exuding a calm confidence as they played “Fratres for Violin and Piano” by Arvo Pärt. The violin often jumped between tempos and sounds while the piano remained slow and beautiful. The contrast was stark, but the two parts managed to complement each other well.
The next two pieces in the concert were trios. The first of these was “Der Hirt auf dem Felsen, D. 965,” written by Franz Schubert and performed by Dr. Alissa Deeter as a soprano, Dr. Jessica Lindsey on clarinet and Zaiba Sheikh on piano. An English translation of the words was read before the piece was performed in German. Dr. Deeter slowly stole the stage as she allowed herself to express the emotions in the music as she sang. When the piece changed from slow and sad to more upbeat, the audience went willingly with her. The other trio performed was “Trio for Piano, Oboe, and Horn, op. 188” by Carl Reinecke. This featured Dr. Elizabeth Sullivan on oboe, Dr. Christopher Griffin on Horn, and Zaiba Sheikh again on the piano. However, as the piano music sunk into the background, the song began to feel more like a lovely duet of oboe and horn than an equal trio. It evoked the mood of a love song and was calm and peaceful. In my opinion, this was the best song of the night.
Zaiba Sheikh continued to show her piano expertise during the next piece as she played in the background to Dr. Will Campbell’s saxophone in “Concerto for Saxophone” by Pierre Max Dubois. Still, this piece was clearly designed to allow the saxophonist to shine. Notes changed rapidly in long streams, to the point where I wondered how Dr. Campbell had the oxygen to keep playing. With such a small audience, one could hear his fingers pressing rapidly on the saxophone keys throughout the piece. When it was over, both Sheikh and Dr. Campbell lit up with large smiles, clearly proud of a job well done.
The final soloist of the night was Dr. Dylan Savage on the piano. From the second he walked on stage, one could tell he was confident and well liked. He sat and began his rendition of “Grand Valse Brilliante in E-flat major, op 18” by Frederick Chopin. The piece seemed to flow effortlessly from his fingertips, upbeat and beautiful. Dr. Savage also expertly commanded the audience, holding out pauses and building anticipation. The audience applauded for so long after his performance that he had to return to the stage and bow a second time.
All of the performances were strong and demonstrated the skills of UNC Charlotte’s accomplished music faculty. While I’ve been to a number of on-campus concerts now, this one had a unique dynamic. It was much smaller and more personal than a large ensemble concert. From what I could gather, most of the audience members both knew each other and the performers through their involvement in the Department of Music. This small group changed the dynamic from a typical solo concert to one in which everyone was family and rooting for each other. This supportive atmosphere is what I believe the department was going for, making the name “Faculty and Friends Concert Series” appropriate.