The Visual Arts, Music and Theater Programs Produced Lively and Meaningful Events for the Westmont Community This Fall
Art Exhibits Embrace Spiritual Themes
Artists and musicians joined together to create works inspired by T. S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets” for the exhibition “QU4RTETS” in the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art in October and November. The show featured paintings by artists Makoto Fujimura and Bruce Herman and music by composer Christopher Theofanidis. Fujimura, a presidential appointee to the National Council on the Arts from 2003-2009, and Herman, Lothlorien distinguished professor in fine arts at Gordon College, also spoke in chapel. Herman and Westmont trustee Walter Hansen have co-authored a book, “Through Your Eyes: Dialogues on the Paintings of Bruce Herman.”
Thirteen diverse artists from around the world exhibited their work as part of “Invisible Realms: Encountering the Sacred,” which opened the 2013-14 season at the Westmont Ridley-Tree Museum of Art in August. Sue Savage, who has taught at Westmont since 1991 and will retire at the end of the year, contributed to the show. “All our shows this year have a spiritual theme, and Savage’s work was a wonderful way to begin that exploration through what spirituality is,” says Judy L. Larson, Askew professor of art history and director of the museum. “Removed from common use, the domestic objects represented in Susan’s paintings are transformed into symbols of openness, reflection and divine interaction.”
Musical Ensembles Present Impressive Programs
The Westmont Orchestra tuned into American history this fall. In the California premiere of “Two Brothers” by James Stephenson, narration from contemporary letters, diaries and poets accompanied a musical remembrance of families divided by the Civil War. The orchestra also presented William Grant Still’s Symphony No. 1 “Afro-American,” the first symphony by an African-American composer performed by a major orchestra. The program concluded with the finale to the popular Piano Concerto No. 2 by Sergei Rachmaninov. Sophomore Aaron Wilk (above), a Monroe Scholar who recorded his first full-length CD at the age of 11, played the piano.
More than 570 students from 15 California high schools joined the Westmont College Choir at the ninth annual Westmont Fall Choral Festival. Other Westmont ensembles, including the Men’s and Women’s Chorales and the Chamber Singers appeared as well. The evening ended with the glorious sound of more than 600 vocalists singing a mass choral piece, “Cantique de Jean Racine, Op. 11” by Gabriel Fauré. The College Choir presented works by Hugo Distler, F. Melius Christiansen and Moses Hogan and new pieces from Tanzania and the Philippines. Michael Shasberger, Adams professor of music and worship, directs both the Westmont Orchestra and the Westmont College Choir.
Exuberant, Modern Staging Livens “Pirates of Penzance”
Two artistic dynamos collaborated on the comic operetta “Pirates of Penzance” by W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan. John Blondell, professor of theater arts, directed the show, and Michael Shasberger, Adams professor of music and worship, served as musical director. About 30 student-actors/ musicians performed the familiar show for appreciative, sold-out audiences.
Blondell had never done a comic operetta. “The prospect seemed new and fresh and rather scary,” he says. “I enjoy breathing fresh life into plays we think we know. I wanted to make something vibrant that was satisfying on dramatic, theatrical and musical levels. The intimate environment of Porter Theatre inspired a chamber version of the show, with scenery, costumes and choreography that were both appropriate to the material and also very modern.”
Student Andrew Combs conducted the orchestra, Danila Korogodsky designed the set, Miller James created the costumes, and Victoria Finlayson did the choreography.