On Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Goodrich Chapel held a concert featuring the music of Philip Wharton, a composer and violinist.
Wharton is a well-known musician coast to coast, whose music has been performed by several Grammy-nominated musical acts, like the Borealis Wind Quintet.
“Flights of Fancy” was the title of the first piece of music that Wharton performed. Three songs were in this piece, called “Mother’s Day 2020,” “11 June 1967, Memory of that Summer Day” and “Flag Day 1944.” Wharton was joined by David Abbott, professor of piano at Albion College and Lia Jenson-Abbott, assistant professor of piano and music theory at Albion College, to perform “Flights of Fancy.”
After the first song, Wharton talked about why he made “Flights of Fancy.” During the pandemic, his mother started to lose her family members. He made this piece for his mother during that hard time. The dates of the songs surround her birthday. He pulled parts of his mother’s wedding song into the piece.
The second piece Wharton performed was a single song called “Neue Diabelli-Variation,” which is a variation of Beethoven’s music. The song was commissioned by Jensen-Abbott to Wharton for composing. Jensen-Abbott performed the piece and afterward, she spoke about how she commissioned Wharton, and how he composed the song to take on a more playful and tuneful feeling.
“On the Road” was the third piece performed, and it also featured three songs: “Buskers,” “Balladeers” and “Troubadours.” The piece was performed by Albion College’s Emily Dierickx, the flute instructor, Mathew Kay, the trumpet instructor, and Nicholas Laban, a head collaborative pianist. The talk for this piece was about how flutists and trumpeters typically don’t get along, but for this piece, they had to.
The last piece was called “Prohibition,” which featured three individual songs. The first was “Flapdance,” followed by “Speakeasy,” and “Bootlegging.” The piece was performed by Laban and Nathan Salazar, the saxophone instructor at Albion College. The talk was given by Wharton about how he composed this piece, which was the first piece he had ever composed for a saxophone.
After Wharton spoke, the concert was done. It ended rather jarringly at 8:40 p.m. without any closing words. The musicians finished the last song and began taking down the white wall.
Jarring is a good word for the experience. After the first talk, every other one happened before the piece was played. Only the first speech, for “Flights of Fancy,” happened in the middle of the piece. The talks themselves were fascinating to hear, yet they felt unorganized.
Looking at the concert as one narrative, to find a theme as to why these songs and pieces were played after each other, two conflicting ideas that created a singular idea arose.
First, “Flights of Fancy” was composed in 2022. “Neue Diabelli-Variation” was composed in 2020. These pieces were composed during the pandemic. “Flights of Fancy” itself was created because of events that happened to Wharton’s mother during the pandemic. Those pieces through their creation carry the idea of the pandemic.
“Prohibition” and the song “Flag Day 1944” focused on before and during World War II. The prohibition era was when alcohol was made illegal in the United States, which began in 1920 and lasted until 1933. Flag Day, or June 14, 1944, took place during the Battle of Normandy in World War II. This piece and song carried a theme of before and during World War II.
The overall theme gets split into modern and historic; two clashing themes that work. Each of the two themes focuses on different times when our country was in conflict. The prohibition era, World War Two, and the pandemic were both times when our country was in great hardship and struggle. All of it creates the singular idea of struggle and hardship.
The pieces and songs pull together historical events and blend them with what has happened in our own modern time. It shows how our country has struggled through many years, yet is still standing; how we all suffered our hardships and are still here.
The actual music was stellar. Every piece and song was skillfully crafted by Wharton, creating a night of music that was astonishing.