Singing Violas from the “Docter’s office”

By April Lee

It has been traditional in the “Docter’s office” to include singing in student recitals. Kirsten Docter, viola professor at Oberlin Conservatory, and her students joined forces to put together a lovely ad-hoc concert — Viola Choruses — on May 6 at 4:30 PM in Stull Recital Hall. 

The program began with four extra violists from the studio of Peter Slowik. Ty Willoughby, Kate MacKenzie, Chloe Kitzmiller, and Mark Kliesen performed an entrancing rendition of York Bowen’s Fantasie for Four Violas. Just last weekend, they played the piece at Chamberfest! This second time around they took it a step further and memorized the Fantasie, which allowed each member to flaunt their characteristic sounds, while all-in-all resulting in a more remarkable total.

Following one moving performance with another, Docter was the soloist in Max Bruch’s Romanze for viola and orchestra. A few notes in, she mesmerized her listeners with Izzi Aronin’s and Kimbo Love’s arrangement of the orchestral part for ten violas.

During the entire collaboration, they were more than studiomates, they were a team. The students breathed together, made eye contact, and listened to each other as they supported their teacher and watched her every moment shine. It was an admirable reversal of roles. 

The real reason behind this concert was the world premiere of student composer Sasha Paris-Carter’s Viola Choruses. Each of the four movements represent a distinct genre, and was played without pause.

Paris-Carter had originally planned on writing “Waterfall: Lip” for a band, but later figured that it fit right into this composition. The first movement is a girl group revenge anthem, in which senior Ilana McNamara powerfully led the ensemble in singing.

“Waterfall: Plunge Pool” is poised and influenced by early music. “Beasties” is an 80’s alt pop. And finally, “Ticket to the Sea,” the most memorable movement, is an homage to ukulele playing. Here, the violists strummed their instruments while humming together. Their formation was a semi-circle, reminiscent of campers huddled around a bonfire singing songs.

This was a short and beautifully creative concert highlighting the human voice in two ways — vocally and through the viola. 

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