Kaleidoscope Concert: A Multi-Colored Experience

Afton Weaver, Staff Reporter

Music poured out from every corner of Hunter Conservatory at this year’s second annual Kaleidoscope Concert on Sunday, Nov. 5, turning the intimate space into a multi-colored, immersive experience unparalleled by any other concert Whitties might attend.

An experimental performance, Kaleidoscope offers an ever-changing, yet fluid compilation of music collected and performed by Whitman students and community members alike. The 45-minute concert, directed by Professor Kristin Vining, was composed by various musicians and incorporated unique pieces that came together to create one continuous composition for the audience. Audience members took in the sights and sounds of a beautifully decorated Kimball, lit only by twinkling lights which hint to where the music was coming from.

Each piece was unique, representing diverse genres and styles of music that are atypical of a conventional concert which might exhibit more carefully orchestrated performances of jazz and classical music. At Kaleidoscope, listeners were immersed in unwonted sounds of the Freedom Singers and the Whitman Chorus, along with other solo instrumental pieces.

Photo by Taj Howe

Among the performances were two Irish and American fiddle tunes, performed by sophomore Sami Braman. Although her peers and fellow musicians often hear her playing casually, this was the first time she was able to perform a fiddle piece for a music department organized event. The sounds of her individual pieces contributed to the uplifting mood of the overall experience.

“[The concert was] focused on the sound of the music and the experience of being in the middle of it all rather than the performance,” Braman said. “Usually we’re watching the performance at Chism or Cordiner and it’s a big thing. This is more of a community thing where we’re all experiencing the sound experience.”

In an attempt to recreate a music experience of the past, the musicians were scattered around Hunter in balconies as well as on the main floor.

“This concert is unique because back in the day, the music in Whitman was all in Hunter, and it was a very reverberate place,” Braman said. “You could always hear everyone practicing at the same time and it was a little more chaotic. I think Professor Vining wanted to harken back to the way that musicians sounded then, and so having people play on each balcony was a cool way to do that.”

Audience members sat on the main floor and stood dispersed around the four tiers of balcony while performers occupied all space in between, creating a three-dimensional musical experience for listeners.

“The audience will have a fun time hearing a sound and not knowing where it’s coming from or who is playing it,” Braman said. “I think that’s an interesting experience, having sounds come from all around you rather than just in front of you.”

To Sophomore Erin Cunningham, who performed as an accompanist on the cello, the transitions of each individual piece flawlessly into the next one allowed her to fully engage with the music.

“It’s supposed to be seamless,” Cunningham said. “The last note of the preceding piece seamlessly transitions in to the new piece and that is really cool because we don’t usually get to play like that. Usually when you perform, there are all these gaps and setting up and motion and movement … the ambiance of [Kaleidoscope Concert] allows you to be fully immersed in the music. The audience should never be confused about what’s going and they should just be following the music and just be immersed but at the same time it’s casual and fun.”

Collaborating to create this brief yet complex concert, Whitman students and community musicians added depth and width to the sound.

“Dr. Vining got the whole community involved,” Cunningham said. “The concert was created through submission of pieces, so it was kind of formed to encompass a diverse set of ideas and visions.”

Among the audience members was sophomore Shanti Borling. Having attended the concert to take a break from her Sunday evening workload, Borling left feeling refreshed and in awe of the incredible talent that transpires when Whitman students and community members bring together ideas.

“It was incredibly peaceful,” Borling said. “I think it’s really cool how the music program connects with local musicians. That really added to the experience.”

As the piano uttered its last few euphonious sounds to close the concert, the conservatory filled with applause.

“All the music means something and we all put it together,” Cunningham said.

The culmination of experimentation and collaboration, Kaleidoscope Concert brought together musicians of different backgrounds and genres of music to perform all together, an opportunity they get only once a year.