The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

UWEC music faculty performs “Musical Love Letters”

Faculty members performed pieces that shared their takes on what love can mean
Photo by Elyse Braun
The concert was held in the Market & Johnson Clearwater Recital Hall

UW-Eau Claire’s music faculty performed at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 2 at the Pablo Center. The concert was titled “Musical Love Letters” and featured performances ranging from vocal to instrumental.

The concert was part of an annual series called “UWEC First Fridays,” which features members of the music staff who chose to participate.

Nicholas Phillips, the music and theatre arts department chair, organizes the series with support from the Pablo Center.

Felipe Vargas Magdaleno, a music lecturer, said that the series occurs annually and always has a different theme.

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“Every first Friday of the teaching month, we have a concert,” Vargas Magdaleno said. “We try to, every month, have a different theme and feature different styles or different formations, groups.”

With February being the month including Valentine’s Day, the music staff wanted to do a concert surrounding the idea of love.

“With Valentine’s Day coming up, we thought there were all these great pieces written, both instrumental and vocal, as a sort of love letter to someone significant in the composer’s life,” said Kenneth Pereira, an associate music professor.

Each of the professors who chose to participate picked pieces of music that displayed love through the stories of a range of composers.

Music professor Namji Kim performed solely on the piano, one of the pieces being “Romance Op. 28, No. 2 in F-Sharp Major” by Robert Schumann.

The composition was created by Robert for his wife Clara, who outlived him by over 40 years and the piece of music remained dear to her for all of that time.

“[Robert] wrote that romance when he was engaged to Clara, and she happened to be one of the greatest pianists in the century and also of all time,” Kim said. “The day she died, she asked her grandson to play that romance, and she died after hearing it.”

Kim said that music is a form of expression that does not need words.

“I think that music can express love in ways that words cannot,” Kim said. “Sometimes words are pretty limited because they are very specific. Music, because it’s vague, it’s abstract. It’s not specific.”

Pereira, who performed by singing, showcased “A Letter from Sullivan Ballou” by John Kander. Kander, who is most commonly known for creating the musicals “Chicago” and “Cabaret”, set the letter from Sullivan Ballou to his wife to music.

“Sullivan Ballou was a Union soldier. He wrote this letter about a week before the battle at Bull Run, in which he was killed,” Pereira said. “It’s his last words to his wife saying, ‘I think we’re gonna go into battle, and if I don’t return, always know that I’ve loved you.’”

Pereira said that this piece gives a clear example of the importance of performing music for other people.

“I just want to think of myself like a window through which the audience experiences a piece. And my job’s just to keep my window clean,” Pereira said. “For me, does music really exist if it’s not being performed? Is it fully existing?”.

Vargas Magdaleno performed solely on the guitar. His selections for his performance included “Moon River” by Henry Mancini and “Yesterday” by the Beatles.

Those are my wife’s favorite songs, so I played those songs as my love letters to her,” Vargas Magdaleno said.

Vargas Magdaleno said that he recognized that there is an exchange between performer and listener, even in the hardest of times.

“In such hard times that we are living in — wars, political divides — I think events like these really bring us together,” Vargas Magdaleno said. “ I get to express myself and to share those things that I think are beautiful, and I also get such great energy and appreciation from the audience.”

The next UW-Eau Claire First Fridays concert will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 1 at the Pablo Center with the theme “Mixed Styles.” 

Braun can be reached at [email protected].

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