USU Orchestra: COVID-19 feelings expressed through music
On December 7, in the Daines Concert Hall, the Utah State University Symphony Orchestra performed “The Sound of Talking,” a symphony of students’ feelings during the coronavirus outbreak.
The concert was orchestrated to celebrate music composed by American women and featured works by three composers who had a particularly memorable message.
One of these composers was Florence Price, who was the first African-American woman to have a piece performed by a large symphony orchestra.
Sergio Bernal, director of the USU Symphony Orchestra, called Price a pioneer in composition that paved the way for future women pursuing composition.
The orchestra performed “Leyendas”, a piece by the famous modern composer Gabriela Lena Frank, inspired by folk and popular music from Peru. The music evokes very powerful legendary situations and feelings, fitting in perfectly with the ambience of the concert.
Bernal also came up with the idea of composing a piece about the emotional impact of the coronavirus on students.
“It’s a very specific topic and, of course, very relevant these days and very relevant to us because we are a university. I thought it would be interesting to describe what the students are feeling in these troubled times, ”said Bernal.
He turned to Emma Cardon to write the music. Cardon grew up in Cache Valley and was part of the USU Youth Conservatory while in high school. She recently graduated from Vanderbilt University and is pursuing graduate studies in music composition at the Cleveland Institute of Music.
However, his career in music composition began long before his college career. She submitted her first play to a competition at the age of six.
“She rose to the challenge and I think she wrote a masterpiece,” Bernal said.
Cardon started this play in the summer and had interviewed students at USU and Vanderbilt. She asked the students to fill out interview sheets and compose the lyrics from their answers.
“One of the questions was, ‘What are the things that you miss the most? “, Said Cardon. “I asked people to give adjectives about how they felt at the start and end of the pandemic so that you can kind of see the change in people’s emotional state. And I asked the students to write a short poem describing how they felt.
The piece is divided into five movements, each movement expressing different emotions felt during the pandemic.
“It takes the music – for the most part – from the students’ own words,” Bernal said. “And she organized them in a way that gave a very powerful message and wrote exceptionally good music to accompany these texts.”
The first movement, I Miss, expressed what aspects of life students missed most during the pandemic and what they wanted to recover.
“They missed the sound of the conversation,” Cardon said.
The next movement, I Feel, illustrated the adjectives the students listed about how they felt during the pandemic.
The third movement, Breath, has lyrics taken from a poem written by a student.
“A year ago, they told me to hold my breath for 10 seconds,” the student wrote. “I waited here below the surface.”
This movement is very introspective and distressing, written in a beautiful tone and style, as Cardon describes it.
The fourth movement, The Silver Lining, is about how we all received something positive for ourselves during the pandemic. The song expressed how easy it is to feel guilty for profiting from the pandemic when other people have been injured.
The final movement was about hope for the future, leaving the concert on an upbeat note.
Malia Mabray, a USU junior who attended the concert, said there was a lot to like about it. “I really liked the instrumentals of the five sections. I think the words were really inspiring and specific to how everyone was feeling during the pandemic. “
Thomas Glenn was the tenor of the concert and said that Cardon’s piece has moments of uniquely beautiful beauty.
One word from The Silver Lining movement struck Glenn the most: “Everyone seemed to be pulling themselves together, even though we were apart. “
“The implications of this sentence are obvious,” said Glenn. “It encourages connection despite the separations in our current state. Even though we are physically far away most of the time, we can still make sense of each other’s lives in new and creative ways.
Counselors from USU Counseling and Psychological Services, or CAPS, gave a brief address to the audience about the resources available for students who are mentally and emotionally struggling with the pandemic. These resources are available at https://www.usu.edu/aggiewellness/mental-health.