30 Years of Performing Arts

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This week, the Z. Smith Reynolds library at Wake Forest published an online collection of past Secrest materials.  The anthology, which begins at the Series’ start in 1983 showcases not only the extraordinary performing artists that Secrest has offered to the Wake Forest community, but also the copious amounts of graphic artistry and planning that goes into making high quality interdisciplinary events.

A big thank you to Chelcie Rowell of the ZSR Special Collections for putting together this exhibit.

Explore through the link below:



Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

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Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is not your typical orchestra.  This group has gained notoriety for a huge part of the traditional orchestra that they lack: the conductor.  This appears to be a disastrous way to build a professional music group.  Without a conductor’s direction, wouldn’t technical and interpretative problems arise?  Orpheus’s success answers no to this question.

Founder and cellist Julian Fifer began this group with different ideas.  He liked the clarity and the flexibility of a chamber group, which traditionally acts without a conductor, and wanted to embrace this spirit in a larger setting.  Fifer explains that their structure creates “a particular blend of freedom and responsibility.” Without a conductor to coordinate musicians, it is the responsibility of each player to know all the music, including each instrument’s part.  But, each player has more freedom to contribute to interpretation.

The idea of a conductor-less orchestra has also received attention from business analysts.   Here at Wake Forest, students in Holly Brower’s business classes get the chance to learn about Orpheus through a study done by a Harvard business professor Elizabeth Ross Canter.  Canter is a huge proponent of the Orpheus structure for the business setting because it is a notable example of flexible leadership, with less hierarchy and more opportunity for people to play many different roles.

Canter boils down Orpheus’s leadership structure into 8 principles, universal to every business situation:

1. Put power in the hands of the people doing the work.

2. Encourage individual responsibility for product and quality.

3. Create clarity of roles

4. Foster horizontal teamwork

5. Share and rotate leadership

6. Learn to listen, learn to talk.

7. Seek consensus (and build creative systems that favor consensus)

8. Dedicate passionately to your mission.

In a business mind, this leadership structure shows fundamental positive outcomes: low turnover, high employee loyalty, customer satisfaction, and thus, a healthier bottom line.  For Orpheus, the free flow of leadership positions creates a collaborative environment and also carries an indispensible element for musical groups: an individual level of emotional involvement in the organization’s success.

Interested in seeing the Orpheus Process in action?  As part of their performance with the Secrest Series on February 26, they will be hosting an open rehearsal from 6-6:30 PM in Wait Chapel.

Don’t forget to stay for the pre-performance talk at 6:40 PM, given by professor of music, Peter Kairoff, and for the performance at 7:30 PM!


Announcing the 2013-2014 Secrest Season!

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ImageThe Carolina Chocolate Drops

An African-American String Band 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

7:30 PM in Wait Chapel

The Carolina Chocolate Drops prove that old-time, fiddle and banjo-based music can be a living, breathing, and ever-evolving sound.  Starting with material culled from the Piedmont region of the Carolinas, they seek to freshly interpret this work–not merely re-creating it, but highlighting the central role that African-Americans played in shaping our nation’s popular music from its beginnings more than a century ago.

The Jerusalem Quartet


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

7:30 PM in Brendle Recital Hall

The Jerusalem Quartet, hailed by The Strad as “one of the young, yet great quartets of our time,” has garnered international acclaim for its rare combination of passion and precision.  The quartet formed while its members were students at the Jerusalem Conservatory of Music and Dance.  They quickly found a shared commitment to the music that has not only endured, but has propelled them to the highest level of performance.  Their discography on Harmonia Mundi includes quartets by Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky, and Dvorak.  The program will include a new work composed for the quartet by Brian Elias, commissioned in part by the Secrest Artists Series.

CantusCantus Vocal Ensemble in “All is Calm”

Thursday, November 21, 2013

7:30 PM in Brendle Recital Hall

Acclaimed as “the premier men’s vocal ensemble in the United States” (Fanfare), Cantus is committed to inspiring audiences with music performed at the highest level.  Rehearsing and performing without a conductor or music director, the nine members of Cantus are renowned for adventurous programming spanning many periods and genres.  “All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914” by Peter Rothstein, with musical arrangements by Erick Lichte and Timothy C. Rakach, was commissioned specifically for the collaboration between Cantus and Theater Latté Da.  Through new arrangements of European carols and war songs for a capella voices, “All is Calm” recalls the remarkable World War I truce between the Allied Forces and German soldiers in no man’s land on Christmas, 1914.  This event will be presented in cooperation with IPLACe, the Interdisciplinary Performance in the Liberal Arts Center.

Orpheus Chamber OrchestraOrpheus Chamber Orchestra

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

7:30 PM in Wait Chapel

The 2012-2013 season marks Orpheus Chamber Orchestra’s 40th year of making internationally renowned music while reinventing the way the world thinks about musical collaboration, education and outreach, and democratic leadership.  By performing without a conductor and integrating musicians into virtually every facet of the organization, Orpheus empowers its members and infuses performances with unparalleled energy.  Orpheus has appeared on the Secrest Series previously in 1994 and 1998, and has also collaborated with other past Secrest performers such as Nathan Gunn and Wayne Shorter.

Their performance at Wake Forest will include an open rehearsal for students/faculty/staff and community members to observe their leaderless collaboration in action.

XiayinWangXiayin Wang, Pianist

Thursday, April 10, 2014

7:30 PM in Brendle Recital Hall

An artist with a winning combination of superb musicianship, verve, and riveting technical brilliance, pianist Xiayin Wang conquers the hearts of audiences wherever she appears.  As a recitalist, chamber musician, and orchestral soloist in venues including New York’s Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, she has already achieved a high level of recognition for her commanding performances.

Xiayin Wang completed studies at the Shanghai Conservatory and holds Bachelor’s Master’s, and Professional Studies degrees from the Manhattan School of Music.

Your Baroque History Check Up

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Next Thursday, the Venice Baroque Orchestra will take the stage in Brendle as our fourth Secrest event this season.  The VBO is renowned for their accurate and artistic representation of Baroque music.  In all of the excitement, I thought you may need some short and sweet reminders about what we call the Baroque Era.  Your music history debrief follows….

When is the Baroque Period?

Approximately 1600-1750.  It follows the Renaissance and is followed by the Classical era.

What is happening in the world during this century and a half?

Well, Europe is in the midst of a scientific revolution.  Scientists such as Kepler, Galileo, Bacon (Sir Francis Bacon, that is), Descartes, and Newton were using deductive and scientific approaches to studying science that relied on direct observation and reasoning instead of a ancient authority.

Meanwhile, there is more progressive thinking about politicsin Europe.  We see the Levellers advocate democracy and Hobbes write Leviathan. Many long-standing wars are settled: Henri IV in France guarantees freedom to some Protestants, while Protestant England and Catholic Spain end a years-long conflict.

In religion, conflict within the Holy Roman Empire precipitates in the this period in the Thirty Years’ War and the English Civil War

Another fun fact: this period is the beginning of America’s colonial history as many European countries, including Britain begin expanding oversees.

What does Baroque mean?

The term baroque means abnormal, bizarre, exaggerated and in bad taste.  The group that named this era clearly thought of it despairingly at the time.

What are the fundamental characteristics of Baroque Music?

The most striking aspect?  The focus on the dramatic.

Allow me to show you in picture:
Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s David (ca. 1620)
Michelangelo Buonarotti’s David (1501-4)
We have two statues, both of scarcely-clothed men, both by Italians, both named David.  But, they couldn’t be more different.  The first statue shows all of the ideal traits of Renaissance humanism–a regal, noble figure, the quintessential picture of balance and calm.  Michelangelo is evoking the ancient Greek ideas of the beauty of the human figure in a hero that is contemplative and still despite the oncoming battle with Goliath.  In Bernini’s rendition of David, the second statue, David isn’t calm and collected.  He sees the warriors coming and is winding up to sling a stone.  His body is in what looks like the most uncomfortable of positions, muscles taut, body twisted, face furrowed and tense.  Bernini is doing what Baroque artists loved to do: emphasize the dramatic in the art.  He is showing motion and change in attempts to get the viewer to respond emotionally rather than just admire the piece.
In music, this drama is centered in opera, but extends to all instrumental music.
A second striking aspect: the focus on the affections, aka the emotions.  Baroque composers wanted to move the emotions and conjure the passions in the soul.  Just take a look at Charles Le Brun’s illustrations.  He published this in a “Method for Learning How to Draw the Passions”

I could go on about different components and throw out words like basso continuo, recitative, and monody, but I’ll just let you experience the Baroque style at the performance.
Moving on…

Who are the fundamental composers of the Baroque Era?

Bach, Vivaldi, Geminiani, Telemann, Handel, Scarlatti, Albinoni Lully, and Corelli to name a few.  Funny enough, the first 5 composers listed will be performed by the Venice Baroque Orchestra Thursday night.

And finally, what makes the Venice Baroque Orchestra a special representation of Baroque music?

First, they play on period instruments. Second, they play the music of some of the most preeminent composers of the era.  And third, they are from the center of the music industry during the Baroque era—this means they get to see on a regular basis the places much of these songs were premiered or written.

Hopefully this clears up some of the mystery of the Baroque era and convinces you that you want to come to the performance!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

7:30 PM | Brendle Recital Hall

Dr. Peter Kairoff, director of Casa Artom, and Professor of Music will give the pre-performance talk in Rm. 208, adjacent to Brendle Hall, at 6:40 PM.
Reference tools: A History of Western Music by Burkholder, Grout, Palisca


The Big Picture

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Wonder what Secrest has been doing at APAP (the Association for Performing Arts Presenters) in New York City for the past 4 days?  I thought you had.  Here are some picture highlights.

“El Trovatore” at the Met

A showcase in the recently renovated DiMenna Center for Rile Artists.
A Showcase for Mark Baylin Artists

“Ballet with a Twist” Showcase at the Trendy xl NYC nightclub
Afro-Cuban rhythms at Birdland Jazz Club

An Irish Home for the Holidays

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When I listen to William Billings, I instantly see a snapshot of an early New England: brick streets, smoke spewing out of chimneys, a crispiness in the air, women in slightly tattered gowns, and men in cloaks.  This is very likely the product of several trips to Colonial Williamsburg as a child.  But, nevertheless, music has an incredible capacity to provoke the imagination.  Little better embodies the spirit of a culture or of an era than the music that was composed for the time.   Likewise, when I first listened to Danú, my imaginations eye took me to the Emerald Isle.  This time, the country side was swept with a coating of icy white, with sparkling icicles and wispy white flurries to match.  I also see a celebration in a house amidst this white countryside, with candles lit, laughing constant, a fire burning, and smiles all around.  In short, it is Ireland during the holidays.

This Wednesday, Danú will be here with us at Wake Forest performing their show, “A Christmas in Ireland.”  These expert musicians will play tunes that are uniquely Irish.  These songs may be quite different from Nat King Cole belting “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,” but there is no doubt that this group’s music will bring you the quintessential feeling of Christmas–a warmth of heart that pervades any culture.

Here is a preview of what the group will perform this week:

Hope to see you at the show!

Danú: A Christmas in Ireland
Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012
7:30 PM | Wait Chapel
Pre-performance talk at 6:40 in the Balcony Room
Tickets are free to WFU students/faculty/staff

Conservation liberal-arts style

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Conservation liberal-arts style

Kimberly McGrath, part of the Office of Communications and External Relations at Wake Forest published this wonderful article on the Wake Forest website today.  “Conservation liberal-arts style” talks more about how a booking for a jazz quartet became Jamazon, and highlights why interdisciplinary activity is so important to our community.

We’re getting really excited for our first concert this Thursday and we hope you are too.  Did you know that this will be Wayne Shorter’s only North American appearance this year?

See you at the show!