Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Trillium chamber honors Langston Hughes

By Cinara Marquis


As a part of SUNY Plattsburgh’s Black History Month programming, the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion collaborated with the SUNY Plattsburgh Music Department to create a truly magical experience.


The Trillium Chamber players performed in the afternoon Feb. 4 in the Krinovitz Recital Hall, featuring Janice Kyle on oboe, Robin Cameron-Phillips on flute, Jennifer Moore on piano and Janine Scherline on clarinet. Regional guest musicians Mike Lewandowski was on percussion and Matt Dunne on bass. Special guest Sheridan Hughes, descendant of poet Langston Hughes and abolitionist Lewis Sheridan Leary, read selected works written by Langston Hughes from his experiences in Paris and Harlem, New York.


Allison Heard, vice president of DEI, opened the performance with some facts about Langston Hughes and encouraged further research. She spoke about his troubles with segregation in school and college, as well as the inaccurate representation he faced throughout his college career.


Referring to a mentor that Langston Hughes found in a teacher in high school, Heard said:

“We all have opportunities to mentor and touch other people with our kindness, with our love that we can pour into one another. We don’t have to wait for people to ask us, and the story of Langston Hughes, he leaned towards so many people.”


She continued, about his pioneering work in activism.


“He spoke profoundly about issues which, at that time, were very scary issues to talk about. He wrote on so many different topics, some of which can be difficult to read, to hear, to comprehend, but it was so significant because at the time he talked about the plight of Black Americans, he traveled the world, he did so many different things. 


And even though the news and the media were oftentimes so negative, so many of his stories focused on the positive aspects of being Black in America.”


The musicians played a variety of stunning pieces. First was the beautifully pensive and, at times, playful “Divertimento,” composed by Malcom Arnold. It included “Allegro Energico,” “Languido,” “Vivace,” “Andantino,” “Maestoso,” and “Piacevole.” Next was the beautiful piano and flute duet, “Fujiko,” composed by Andy Scott.


“Portraits of Langston,” composed by Valerie Coleman, was accompanied by selected works of Langston Hughes read by Sheridan Hughes. The pieces were brilliant, some humorous and boisterous and others humble and solemn – all were read with a great passion that could be heard through the laughter and “mmhmms” of consensus in the audience. The music that accompanied the readings shared these emotions; they were “Prelude: Helen Keller,” “Le Grand Duc Mambo,” “Silver Rain” and “Parisian Cabaret.”


After a brief pause, the chamber played the entrancing “Gentle Notion,” composed by Jennifer Higdon. Lastly was, “Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio,” composed by Claude Bolling. It included the bright and bombastic “Baroque and Blue” and the stunningly smooth “Sentimentale” and “Fugace.”


The event was open to all, and it showed in the faces of the audience, which consisted of SUNY Plattsburgh students, alumni, faculty and local residents. After the standing ovation succeeding the performance, conversation boomed in the recital hall. Beautiful music accompanied by spreading awareness about Langston Hughes’ creative work was a beautiful way to welcome Black History Month to the campus.


Stay up to date by subscribing to the Music Department’s newsletter, News & Notes, by contacting Performing Arts Coordinator Dwayne Butchino at butc3332@plattsburgh.edu.

Visit the SUNY Plattsburgh Department of Music Calendar of Events at https://www.plattsburgh.edu/plattslife/arts/music-calendar.html.


To learn more about the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and other DEI events, visit https://www.plattsburgh.edu/plattslife/diversity/index.html.


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