Voice Students present the songs of Ben Moore

Leah Rankin | Staff Writer

At the Chautauqua School of Music, students often view recitals as valuable learning experiences.

They are the perfect opportunity for these young musicians to perform a piece they have been working on in front of a supportive and knowledgeable audience. Because the students play what they have been working on in lessons, these recitals rarely have themes, but tonight’s recital will be an exception.

At 7:30 p.m. tonight in McKnight Hall, voice students will perform in a recital featuring the music of Ben Moore. Moore will also be in attendance at the event.

Moore is an American composer and artist whose works for voice have grown in popularity since they were performed by such notable singers as Deborah Voigt, Susan Graham and Nathan Gunn. He has touched every base of vocal composition, from opera to musical theater to art song, earning him a reputable standing next to Charles Ives and Leonard Bernstein as one of America’s great contemporary composers.

Zachary Altman, 26, had never before performed any of Moore’s works and rehearsed one of Moore’s operas, Enemies, A Love Story, for the first time last Thursday while the composer listened in.

“(The composer) just knows the piece better than you,” Altman said. “Like if you sing a wrong note in Wagner, Wagner doesn’t care. So to have (Moore) sitting in the room was intimidating.”

Altman said that one of the main reasons he returned to Chautauqua for what is now his fourth year is so that he can learn and perform new music. He said the difference between Chautauqua and other summer music camps is that the emphasis is on the process more than the product.

Altman, like so many students in the Voice Program, followed Voice Chair Marlena Malas to the Institution from the Manhattan School of Music in order to take part in what Altman called “Marlena’s fiefdom” — singers can follow Malas’ training without distractions or contradictions.

“In New York, when you’re between jobs, it’s too easy to watch TV,” Altman said. “Here, being locked in this space together, is a really humbling experience, and it forces you to do your best work.”

Soprano Marta Wryk also followed Malas to the Institution from the Manhattan School of Music but hails from Poland. Wryk, who also will perform in tonight’s recital, is heading to the Spectrum Resident Artist Program in Virginia to perform in operas including Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel and Philip Glass’ Orphée. Since she must arrive in Norfolk with her part memorized in October, Wryk hopes to use her summer at the Institution to gain performance experience and learn all she can from Malas.

“Everyone is so good here,” Wryk said. “Everyone has a chance for a good future. It’s not me or them.”

Wryk said that in just the first two weeks of the music festival, she has made new discoveries about arias she thought she had already mastered. She has learned new ways of viewing and interpreting music that will help her keep her voice and musicianship in shape before she departs for Virginia.

Donations at tonight’s recital benefit the Chautauqua Women’s Club Scholarship Fund.