By Reginald Goudeau
It’s hard to predict what you will experience at an Oberlin TIMARA recital. Oberlin TIMARA recitals and the advertising for the one on February 24 gave no hints other than to say, “A senior recital presented by Claire O’Brocta.”
Upon entering the Cat in the Cream, audience members heard Jigsaw, the antagonist of the Saw franchise, ask everyone, “Do you wanna play a game?” Nothing could have prepared the audience for what followed.
Shortly after the voice’s challenge, Annabelle Tolley rose to face off against it during three. Even though everything was scripted, the brief moments of audience participation were impressive. For example, some fish scattered around the Cat Annabelle had to collect were under the audience’s seats. During the second challenge, a game of trivia, the audience responded well to these minigames, and many were enthusiastic to participate.
Other actors played characters — like an NPC who assigned Annabelle the first fish challenge, or another asking Annabelle and the audience questions about popular contemporary video game franchises like Portal, Assassin’s Creed, and Minecraft. One actor later joined Claire and Tempest Baum for the final battle as Annabelle heroically readied her violin alongside the band.
Despite the lengthy build-up to a short music portion, the works showcased were fantastic. The framing here was also brilliant, allowing the ominous voice to showcase synth-like music typical of TIMARA, while Claire’s band played similar tunes with live instrumentation in response. The back-and-forth structure was a good choice from a dramatic and practical standpoint. Either solely Tempest Baum, or the duo of Claire and Tempest worked on the recital’s electronic music. The live band featured Baum on piano and synth, Ellie Rui on drums, Miles Berry on bass, Hamish Robb on guitar, and both Delaney O’Brocta and Tolley on violins.
An initial track featured one of the violinists collaborating with Tempest before Robb and Berry joined too. The band had clear chemistry, even in how their ad-libbing meshed. Each worked to elevate the other members’ instruments rather than competing and sacrificing cohesion. In the second rebuttal track, Rui and Baum worked with live synths to create a threatening vibe. This tactic was not unexpected but still created tension. It was especially poignant once the accompanying instruments joined Baum and Rui.
The violinists sat out for the last song, but the track was still impressive. The band played faster with more emotion and ad-libbing from nearly everyone. The epic guitar solo from Hamish foreshadowing a soon-to-come victory over Jigsaw was also well done. The same applies to Tempest’s solo, who began a string of wonderful transitions between instruments.
While most knew the band would win, Claire and others made an engaging thirty-minute show. Viewers may have begun their experience confused but quickly became ensnared in Claire’s trap. The vague advertising, pop-culture references, and satisfying music were all intentional. The show even happened on the five-year anniversary of Claire’s initial TIMARA audition.
Claire and her crew left numerous audience members curious about what other TIMARA recitals entail. Perhaps that was Jigsaw’s plan after all.