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Hazard: Fun at an unusual senior vocal recital

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The Carl Thompson Recital Hall, in BSU’s Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex, is a multi-purpose auditorium. It seats about 238, and the seats have movable writing arms. So it’s a large classroom. 

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Its rows are stepped, be-ginning at stage level; thus, most seats provide a good view over the heads of people below. But, after the first four rows, there is a high wall, and the rest of the stepped rows begin several feet above the fourth row. The six rows above the wall seat 238, plus about three wheelchairs. 

Why the wall? The 95 seats in those four rows can ac-commodate a good sized class, with good teacher-student interaction, but also can seat a choir, thus provid-ing good choral rehearsal space. Once, Elaine and I were in a small audience seated ON the stage, Dr. Ful-ton Gallagher’s summer adult choir occupied those four rows, and Fulton con-ducted from the stage. I don’t recall the whole program, but will never forget their Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Verdi’s “Nabucco.”

Evan usually sits in the front row (surprise?), in the middle for small chamber groups, but several seats farther left if there’s a piano or harpsichord, so he can see the performer’s hands. There I was last month, twenty minutes before Dr. Mark Christensen’s senior recital. Senior recital? Yes, Mark is an English prof nearing retirement, but is also finishing a Music bachelor’s. In conversation, his bass voice makes me sound like a tenor.

The place was filling up, partly because of Patt Rall’s full-page article in The Be-midji Pioneer. Lisa Weiskopf, her mother, Jan, and a young man came in, and I suggest-ed that they take the three seats to my left, because one could see the pianist, Allison Laughlin, from there. No, they decided on seats in front but well right of center. Lisa, by the way, is gorgeous, looks much younger than she is (she was my Intro Biology student ages ago, some time before I retired in ’94), and was wearing a colorful, most-ly red print outfit, with a shawl.

The program comprised five sections of one to seven songs each. Mark wore a dark grey suit, red shirt and tie. He has, by the way, stud-ied voice, along with appro-priate dramatization, for years, first with Dr. Brad Logan, current music pro-fessor, and now with Fulton. His voice is splendid and his range amazing; he now sings both way lower and way higher than I can.

I won’t list the whole pro-gram. Section I comprised one song from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute,” accompanied by Allison and eight BSU male students. The other sections included songs in German (Brahms, Schubert, Fischer and an Austrian folk song) and Italian (Puccini, Verdi), all translated in our handouts. There were many songs in English: various hymns, spirituals, ballads, and such. Mark sang one Welsh folk song, “All Through the Night,” in English, but we’ll forgive that, as well as the rather free translation of the second stanza of “Brahms’s Lullaby.”

Mark is a most expressive singer, and obviously relished acting in parts of the recital. But the surprise came in Section III. After an aria from Puccini’s “La Boheme” came an aria from Verdi’s “Ernani.” The aria, “Infelice,” is about an older man’s foolish and unrequited love for a young woman. And who was she? Before Allison began to play, Mark trotted over to the front row and offered his hand to Lisa Weiskopf. He escorted her to stage right, moved toward the piano, sang his song of frustration, and she coldly snubbed him, and most ef-fectively. The costume was deliberate, the shawl pulled up most effectively, the red flower moved from her right where he could see it to the left side of her head where he could not. Oh, she was mean! After the applause died down, he graciously escorted her back to her mother’s protection. Lovely.

Section IV comprised two spirituals and was followed by an intermission. Section V was mostly folk songs and mostly in English. One was in German, a neat Austrian folk song that I have on one of four LPs of German folk and university (drinking) songs featuring the baritone Erich Kunz. Mark’s last song, “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” was composed by Harry McClintock early in the last century, and arranged by Fulton.

After the show, I congratu-lated Lisa for her supporting role, which she considered being “a prop.” OK, but a skillful, dramatically disdain-ful prop. I also congratulated Mark, of course, at the scrumptious reception in the lobby afterwards. I’ve been to lots of good musical pro-ductions in Bemidji in the last couple of years, but have not had more fun than I did that Saturday afternoon.

EVAN HAZARD, a retired BSU biology professor, also writes “Northland Stargazing” the fourth Friday of each month.

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