When a group of distinguished alumni from KPU’s Music Department returned to the Langley campus on Jan. 25, they did so not to learn from their former instructors, but to make music with them.
The “Past and Present Faculty Showcase” saw three faculty members—Jane Hayes, Dale Throness, and Gail Suderman—perform alongside alumni Natascia Dell’erba, Katie Miller, and Jonny Michel.
Dell’erba, a soprano, has worked as a soloist with organizations such as Bard on the Beach and the Vancouver Symphony, and placed first in the National Association of Teachers of Singing competition. Katie Miller, a mezzo soprano, is also a professional opera singer who has worked with L’Opera de Montreal as an artist-in-residence. She has won operatic competitions such as the Canadian National Music Festival and the Young Artist’s Encouragement Award. Finally, tenor Jonny Michel is currently the Director of Choral Music at the Langley Fine Arts School, and has been featured in the Vancouver Symphony, Chilliwack Symphony, and Good Noise Vancouver Gospel Choir, as well as Trinity Western University’s Masterworks Chorus.
Although only recently resurrected, the music faculty showcase dates back to the department’s infancy.
“When we started, we used to have a faculty chamber music series that ran for about five years but was stopped because of budget cuts,” says department head Jane Hayes. “I decided to resurrect the series three years ago because I felt that students needed the opportunity to hear their instructors perform, and it was a good way to engage the surrounding community in live music.”
The event on Jan. 25 opened with Liebeslieder Waltzes by Johannes Brahms. It is speculated that the folksongs and love poems entwined into the pieces of this opus were inspired by Brahms’s unrequited love for another composer’s wife. The alumni and Throness stood proudly on stage as Hayes and Suderman masterfully played each piece on the Steinway and Sons grand piano.
The contrasting dynamics and pitch-perfect harmonies created a truly operatic atmosphere. Captivated by such melodies, the audience watched in silent awe.
“Last year was the Music Department’s 25th anniversary, and I was a principal organizer of a big alumni celebration,” explains Hayes. “This concert was a natural extension of that event, giving us the chance to bring in alumni to perform with their instructors.”
Soon after intermission, Throness and Hayes performed Songs of Travel by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams, with Hayes on piano and Throness singing baritone. The story of this song cycle revolves around the beauties and hardships a traveler faces on their journey through the English countryside. In fact, this specific cycle was performed in the original faculty chamber series 20 years ago.
For the finale, the grand pianos were placed next to each other to illustrate two generations coming together. The piano duet accompanied the performers in a Canadian folk song suite called All Around the Circle, which was arranged by John Greer.
Both alumni and audiences will be waiting to see what the future has in store for these inspiring musicians from KPU’s award-winning music program.