Noon Concerts Provide Intimate Musical Experience

By Michael Accinno, Arts Initiative Story Corps

A little after noon on a recent Thursday in the Music Building, pianist Miles Graber and violinist Dan Flanagan completed an engaging performance of Johannes Brahms’s Violin Sonata No. 1 in front of a packed audience. A cursory look at the mosaic of concertgoers revealed listeners from a wide variety of musical and cultural backgrounds: retirees from the local community, graduate students, faculty from departments across campus, and undergraduates who were frenetically taking notes on the concert for the department’s introductory music appreciation course.

The playing of Brahms’s chamber work, which borrows musical ideas from two of the Romantic composer’s earlier songs, represented only one of the layers of tradition and history at work in the room that day. For more than fifty years, a series of free, weekly chamber music concerts have enriched the cultural life of both the campus and local community in a custom that preceded the founding of the Music Department.

For Alex Stalarow, a PhD candidate in Music who was attending a noon concert for the first time, the performance by Graber and Flanagan offered a brief respite from his teaching responsibilities: “I use recorded music as a pedagogical tool on a daily basis, and it was wonderful to see my students come together with other members of the community to experience music in live performance.”

As the late Jerome Rosen recounted in the Music department’s official history, Pastyme With Good Companye, the first chamber music concert took place on October 12, 1954, in Everson Hall, which was then known as the Home Economics Building.  Held intermittently on Tuesdays at 5 p.m. for twelve years, the increasingly popular concerts helped pave the way for the department’s creation in 1958.

The eclectic, egalitarian spirit of the concert series, now held on Thursdays beginning at 12:05 p.m., has included musical styles ranging from medieval plainchant to contemporary atonal music to Avant-garde musical theater performances, and has featured performances by students, local professionals, and even renowned musicians such as French baritone Gerard Souzay, pianist Charles Rosen, and avant-garde composer John Cage. The relaxed confines of room 115 in the Music Building—which will host the noon concert series until the construction of a new concert hall—lend the performances an air of intimacy, in which audience and musician are placed within inches of one another.

Perhaps the greatest success of the noon concerts has not rested in any single performance or musician, but rather in its role in educating students within an inclusive community that has included generations of music lovers.

Laurie San Martin, Associate Professor of Music and a composer herself, fondly remembered attending the noon concerts as an undergraduate music major, noting the relaxed conviviality that pervaded the atmosphere: “It was a lot more informal than the concerts are now. The audiences used to bring brown bag lunches with them and eat right in the middle of performances.”

San Martin will be featured at an upcoming noon concert.  Her piece, entitled Conference of the Birds Unfeathered, will be performed on April 19 along with a work by composer Sam Nichols, A Song for Clarinet, Percussion, Violin, Cello and Electronics.

The Music Department’s Shinkoskey Noon Concerts are held on Thursdays at 12:05 in room 115 of the Music Building.  All performances are free and open to the public.

Thursday, March 15, 2012 • 12:05 pm
UC Davis Hindustani Vocal Ensemble | Rita Sahai, director

Thursday, April 5, 2012 • 12:05 pm
Jonathan Nadel, tenor, Laura Reynolds, oboe, and Megumi Chen, piano

Thursday, April 12, 2012 • 12:05 pm
Shuann Chai, piano

Thursday, April 19, 2012 • 12:05 pm
Room 115, Music Building
Laurie San Martin: Conference of the Birds Unfeathered (instrumental version)
Sam Nichols: A Song for Clarinet, Percussion, Violin, Cello, and Electronics
Mary Artmann, cello
Hrabba Atladottir, violin
Chris Froh, percussion
Matilda Hofman, conductor
Peter Josheff, clarinet

Thursday, May 3, 2012 • 12:05 pm
Joseph Abad, saxophone

Thursday, May 10, 2012 • 12:05 pm
June Oh, piano

Thursday, May 17, 2012 • 12:05 pm
Zuill Bailey, cello, with Lara Downes, piano

Thursday, May 24, 2012 • 12:05 pm
Undergraduate Composers Concert

Thursday, May 31, 2012 • 12:05 pm
Susan Lamb Cook, cello, and Gayle Blankenburg, piano
Rachmaninov: Cello Sonata

For more information on these and other Music events, see the Music Department events calendar.