Nearly 100 Middlebury students had a hand in planning, designing, and building InSite, the college’s entry in the 2013 Solar Decathlon competition. This weekend the public will get their first look at the results of all that work as the team hosts an open house in their newly finished home before they ship it out to California. We met with some of the team leaders this week for a sneak preview.
Summer may seem to be flying by, but there are still a few exceptional events not to be missed at the Bread Loaf School of English’s Vermont campus.
This year’s Elizabeth Drew Lecture takes place in the iconic Bread Loaf Barn on Monday, July 22, at 7:30 p.m., and features Natasha Trethewey, the United States Poet Laureate. Trethewey’s poetry is an evocative blend of the historical, philosophical, social, and personal aspects of her own mixed-race heritage. She’s published several books and won numerous awards, and is also the state poet laureate of Mississippi. (Last summer, Middmag caught up with Trethewey at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, where she was a returning faculty member.)
Taking the stage in Little Theater July 31 through August 4, the always-stellar Bread Loaf Acting Ensemble will present Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, directed by Alan MacVey. Tickets are available and free to the public beginning July 19—contact the Bread Loaf box office at 443-2771. Word from Bread Loaf is that the performance will take place in part outside the theater on the adjacent patio, weather permitting, and assistance will be available to those who might need it.
The Off Broadway sensation with a Middlebury connection has opened its 27th season to rave reviews.
PTP/NYC is performing both The Castle, an energetic epic by Howard Barker, and Serious Money, Caryl Churchill’s play about 1980s greed in London’s financial district, this season in New York. The two are in rotation Off Broadway at Atlantic Stage 2 and have already captured the attention of top reviewers from the New York Times, Broadway World, and Time Out.
The Castle, directed by Professor of Theatre Richard Romagnoli, features Tony Award nominee and Drama Desk Award winner Jan Maxwell as well as alums David Barlow ’94, Rachel Goodgal ’13, Stephen Mrowiec ‘13, and Aubrey Dube ’12. Sumi Doi ’13 is assistant to the director.
Serious Money, directed by Professor of Theatre Cheryl Faraone, has a cast that stars alums Tara Giordano ’02, Mat Nakitare ’11, Alex Draper ’88, Aubrey Dube ’12, David Barlow ’94, Megan Byrne ’96, Molly O’Keefe ’12, Sarah Lusche ’13, Isabel Shill ’12.5, and Noah Berman ’13. Christo Grabowski ’12 is assistant to the director, and the crew includes Alicia Evancho ’12 as choreographer.
The collaboration between the PTP/NYC and Middlebury began in 1987 and it remains the only collegiate program of its kind to offer undergraduate students opportunities to work in professional theater.
If you’re in New York this summer, be sure to check out the performances! See the website for the most recent information on show times and tickets.
Here are the annual “Top Ten” suggestions from Michael Geisler, vice president for the Language Schools, Schools Abroad, and graduate programs. Be sure to check the campus calendar for updates as well.
School of Hebrew
Sunday, June 11, 7:30 p.m.
Gitit Shoval and Ron Druyan concert
Mahaney Center for the Arts Concert Hall
Gitit Shoval, Ron Druyan, Tutti Druyan, and Shaqed Druyan perform renditions of Israeli and American music. Shoval, one of Israel’s singing treasures, was discovered at the pre-Eurovision contest of 1979 when she was just 13 years old. Since then she has performed around the world, both solo and with various musical ensembles. In addition to her work for adult audiences, Gitit Shoval has provided the Hebrew voice of many children’s characters. She has six solo albums and four holiday and children’s albums to her credit. Her seventh solo album complements her current show, From Gershwin to Dylan: The Genius of Jewish Songwriters.
Friday, July 5, 7:30 p.m.
“Chiche L’Afrique” performance, text and interpretation by Gustave Akakpo
“Chiche L’Afrique” is a one-man show performed by Togolese author and actor Gustave Akakpo, who invites political actors of Françafrique onstage. African leaders, Nicolas Sarkozy, Charles Pasqua, and others are the protagonists of this hilarious spectacle. With its ironic and cheeky tone, “Chiche L’Afrique” both entertains and provides insight into the situation in Africa, illuminating the consequences of bad governance on its local population. The show has received positive reviews since it was first produced in Paris, in 2011. It is directed by Thierry Blanc.
Friday, July 5, 9:30 p.m.
Chicha Libre concert
McCullough Social Space (standing room only)
Chicha Libre plays a mixture of Latin rhythms, surf, and psychedelic pop inspired by Peruvian music from Lima and the Amazon. This Brooklyn band includes French, American, Venezuelan, and Mexican musicians who combine covers of Peruvian Chicha with original compositions in French, Spanish, and English; re-interpretations of 1970s pop classics; and cumbia versions of pieces by Satie, Love, and Wagner. Chicha Libre has performed for audiences around the world.
Saturday, July 6, 9 p.m.
“A Mediterranean Myth”
The Italian School’s opening performance, a one-act play, is a semi-serious tale for a feminine voice performed by Isabella Carloni, faculty member of the Italian School. Carloni is an actress, singer, and songwriter for theatre.
Saturday, July 20, 8 p.m.
Music from China Youth Orchestra
Mahaney Center for the Arts Concert Hall
The Music from China Youth Orchestra encourages and nurtures Chinese American youth, and invites all young people interested in Chinese culture to become active participants in Chinese music. Established by the New York-based professional ensemble Music from China and under the training of its artistic director, Wang Guowei, the group performs classical and folk arrangements played on traditional instruments consisting of bowed strings (erhu), winds (dizi, huslusi), plucked strings (yangqin, liuqin, zheng, ruan), and percussion.
Saturday, July 27, 9 p.m.
Richard Miller, with guests Stacey Kent and Jim Tomlinson
Mahaney Center for the Arts Concert Hall
Miller and his acoustic guitar bring us music in several rhythmic styles, including Xote and Bossa Nova. Accompanied by Vanderlei Pereira on percussion and Gigi McLaughlin on the accordion, Miller’s “Rhythms of Brazil” brings together a combination of styles whose origins span from southeastern to northern Brazil. Stacey Kent (vocals) and Jim Tomlinson (saxophone) will be joining Richard on stage.
Thursday, August 8, 8 p.m. (pre-performance talk in English at 7:30 p.m.)
Friday, August 9, 8 p.m. (pre-performance talk in English at 7:30 p.m.)
Town Hall Theater
This beloved operetta by Johann Strauss will be performed by the carefully selected and talented students in the German for Singers Program as their culminating project of this summer. “Die Fledermaus” is a mischievous delight, a tale of friendly revenge and mistaken identities, with farcical elements and inspired silliness set to a luscious score by Strauss. No doubt, these elements will again be highlighted for maximum effect by the director and producer of the show, Bettina Matthias, who is the director of the German for Singers Program, and musical director Stefan Rütter.
Davis School of Russian
Sunday, August 11, 8 p.m.
School of Russian Choir
McCullough Social Space
Directed by Elena Sadina and Sergei Grachev, the School of Russian Choir, made up of students, will sing, dance, play folk instruments, and reenact various Russian folk rituals during this exciting performance.
Middlebury International Film Festival
June 22 – August 10, 7 p.m.
Middlebury’s International Film Festival is like no other film series. Starting in June, the Language Schools will present a major foreign film on the big screen in Dana Auditorium each week. The schedule of this year’s film festival can be found here.
Thursday, July 11, 8 p.m.
Le Vent du Nord
McCullough Social Space (standing room only)
Le Vent du Nord is the top traditional music group from Québec, performing melodies and stories and exploring multiple cultural music traditions. Since its beginning in 2002, Le Vent du Nord has exploded onto the folk music scene. The group’s first recording, Maudite moisson!, was awarded a prize for traditional album of the year in 2004. Their second album, Les amants du Saint-Laurent, was chosen album of the year at the Canadian Folk Music Awards. Le Vent du Nord won the 2011 Juno for best Roots & Traditional Album.
Back in Uganda, Damascus Kafumbe’s mother would wonder why he took so long to bring water back from the village well. It seems the well was too convenient to two Buganda royal enclosures where a young boy peeking through reed walls to watch court musicians could lose track of time. By age 11 Kafumbe was performing with a noted Ugandan troupe. He continued his studies with Buganda royal musicians and other masters throughout Africa, learning the subtleties of diverse cultures’ songs and dances; he also perfected the skills to craft traditional instruments. Another lesson, which he immediately makes clear to his Middlebury students today: “In all the African languages I’m familiar with, there is no word for ‘music.’ It’s such an integral part of life that we don’t have a word for it.” Even “African music” is a misnomer in such a culturally varied continent, says the affable, soft-spoken Kafumbe. As an ethnomusicology scholar, he settles for “African musics”; as an artist, he counts on his teaching and playing to evoke what English can’t translate.
“Damascus is the stunningly right person in the right place at the right time,” says Greg Vitercik, chair of the department of music. Middlebury wanted to give due attention to non-Western traditions, and ideally wanted a performing ethnomusicologist to bring some of them to life on campus. Kafumbe, also a composer, arranger, and ensemble director, was a hand-in-glove fit.
His arrival in 2011 as an assistant professor opened a path for students to explore musics they might only know through a Putumayo collection or YouTube video. They learn how Balinese gamelan, Nuyorican rumba, Irish fiddling, and Hindustani raga reflect and relate to the cultures, politics, economics, and religions of their societies. Student musicians with scholarly leanings can learn ethnomusicological research methods and techniques. Those wanting to pursue African musics in greater depth have a teacher who knows them in his bones.
“OK, so what do chimurenga and bikutsi have in common metrically?” he asks his African Soundscapes students after playing recordings of the two genres.
“Three-quarter time,” answers a student, correctly.
This survey course routinely shatters preconceptions that “African music” means drums and hand-clapping. Students examine traditions from the northern Maghreb to the southern Bantu cultures: songs that exalt kinship, encourage trance, or inspire dancing. “I had no idea!” is a common student reaction to this cultural kaleidoscope. Throughout, Kafumbe reminds them, “The ‘why’ is more important than the ‘how.’” Yes, they learn to distinguish different genres, but they also learn to hear the mix of ancient traditions and more modern responses to Africa’s tribal migrations, colonial rule, missionization, and surges for freedom.
“I’m proud that Middlebury can be one of the few institutions to promote the idea that African musics are not just drumming,” Kafumbe says. Students who want to feel Africa’s layered rhythms and distinct timbres in their fingers can take his African Music and Dance Performance course (there are dozens on the waiting list, notwithstanding an 8:00 a.m. start time and mandatory attendance.) With no audition, students learn to play an ensemble of traditional, mostly Ugandan instruments, some of which Kafumbe has crafted himself from natural materials such as animal hide and hair, Ugandan woods, fibers, reeds, and seed shells. For most of the students, mornings spent with the ndingidi (tube-fiddle), madinda (xylophone), or other instruments is their first experience playing music. (see slideshow to hear concert selections.)
In a dress rehearsal before the ensemble’s spring concert, Kafumbe gets the students’ attention by clapping a rhythm that they repeat. “When I am talking, no one is talking, no one is playing, please,” he says softly. He shakes a pair of nsaasi (gourd shakers) to start them in a piece he composed by blending modern and traditional elements. The students strike, bow, and pluck their instruments; the sound is lively but slightly ragged. “Oh, you’re slowing down,” he warns, and stops them.
He leans forward. “Music is a sweet thing. We have to feel it. We have to enjoy it, and we have to express it.” When they begin again, the loose ends have knit together. “I have never heard any of my American students play the madinda with such a sweet tone,” he compliments.
For graduating physics major Joe Putko ’13, this introduction to playing music has been unforgettable. “We miss out on these sounds in America—but I’m so grateful we can have this experience now,” he says during a break. “This class was a history class, a gym class, a performance class, but more than anything I’ve taken here it’s taught us to work and struggle together. It’s been a life class.”
Kafumbe closes the rehearsal on a musical high note that will carry into the next night’s packed performance. “When you are struggling—that’s when you make magic,” he reassures them. “I’ll love you guys till I die.”
Always at the forefront of new ideas for summer studies, Middlebury’s at it again with FoodWorks, a nine-week internship program for Middlebury students interested in local food and sustainable development.
With locations in Louisville, Kentucky, as well as here at home in Addison County, the program offers students a chance to work four days a week in different local food-related jobs and then take the fifth day to gather as a group and focus on a particular topic of the curriculum, such as sustainable agriculture and ecology, food systems, community and economic development, nutrition and health, food security and justice, and cultural food traditions.
FoodWorks was piloted in Louisville last summer and expanded this year to include Vermont partners. The 26 students—16 in Vermont and 10 in Kentucky—are working in local government, business and retail, publishing and marketing, nonprofits, and on area farms.
To learn more about what the students are doing on a daily basis and how they’re contributing to their communities, check out the FoodWorks website and blog.