Voice concert showcases 5 students’ talents

Leah Rankin | Staff Writer

For Voice Program faculty member Donald St. Pierre, teaching music is not just about the notes on a page. It is about reminding students why they got involved with music in the first place.

At 7:30 p.m. tonight in McKnight Hall, singers will bestow another warm greeting to the Chautauqua community through song with a voice concert. It is the first concert in a series of Wednesday night performances that will offer a glimpse into the hard work these students have done throughout their stay at the Institution.

The sing-in that took place on June 28 indicated that reminding students why they love to sing is not going to take much coaxing.

“That was the best sing-in we’ve ever had,” St. Pierre said.

The students in the Voice Program have traveled from across the country and the world to participate in the world-class education and performance opportunities provided in the School of Music. Tonight’s concert will feature five singers, two of whom are returning to Chautauqua.

Three singers are new to the Institution and are eager to perform, including Montreal native Florie Gauthier-Valiquette.

“It was a great opportunity to come here because the environment is so intense,” Gauthier-Valiquette said. “It’s extremely stimulating here, and it’s so well structured. People are so encouraging and just want to help.”

Florie will perform Arnold Schoenberg’s 4 Lieder, Op. 2 at tonight’s concert, a piece that she has only performed once before.

“As (Voice Chair) Marlena Malas would say, ‘The stage is our best teacher,’” Gauthier-Valiquette said.

Gauthier-Valiquette recently graduated from the University of Montreal, where she earned both her undergraduate and master’s degrees. In June 2010, she starred as the lead role, Maria, in a successful Montreal production of “The Sound of Music.”

She followed Malas to Chautauqua to continue her education as she looks forward to her musical career.

“I want to learn as much as I can from all these people so that I can be more comfortable and confident in my own body,” Gauthier-Valiquette said. “If we can move people with our singing, that’s a bonus.”

Baritone Jarrett Ott also followed Malas to Chautauqua and is here for his second summer. Ott, who will perform the title role in the School of Music’s production of Giacomo Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, also believes the stage is a teacher.

Tonight he will perform Robert Schumann’s “Dichterliebe” song cycle.

“When learning a song cycle, it’s best to repeat performances just to learn how to perform it,” Ott said, “because you’re conveying a whole story in a short amount of time.”

Ott said that in many ways, singing a song for a recital requires more acting than operatic singing. Each song has a different emotion, and the singer must have the reflexes to rapidly personify those emotions.

Ott has only performed “Dichterliebe” once before during a recital at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he is pursuing his master’s degree. He said that the School of Music can be stressful at times, but that everyone is “100 percent supportive.”

St. Pierre said he loves to watch the voice students develop from one concert to another as they take on more musical challenges.

“Often people find they can do more than they thought they could,” St. Pierre said.

Donations for tonight’s concert benefit the Chautauqua Women’s Club Scholarship Fund.