Dr. Benjamin Warsaw Performs at Piano in the Arts

Stanton Dobson, Copy Editor

The Piano in the Arts concert series has started again and Dr. Benjamin Warsaw put on and conducted the first show. He took the roles of both orator and performer during the concert as he gave detailed introductions to the songs he was about to perform. The concert was held on Oct. 3 in the Fine Arts Auditorium. 

This Piano in the Arts performance was dedicated to Warsaw’s newborn child. The set list included three lullabies chosen in dedication to his son. One of the pieces was an original composed by Warsaw that he debuted at the concert for his son and wife who were in attendance. Warsaw told the audience that he wanted to test if his composition would work to pacify his newborn. Unfortunately, though, it appeared that the piece had the adverse effect as his son who arrived sleeping was roused during its debut. 

Warsaw also included more original pieces during the set like “Amorphous Rain” and “Sleepyhead & Black River Blues” from his collection of pieces titled “Microcosms.” He explained to the audience they were influenced by the musical technique of ‘minimalism’ which involves slight harmonic and incremental variation between chords. 

Minimalism seemed to be the theme of this program as several pieces in the set list were picked to represent that technique.

Warsaw explained that the purpose of the Piano in the Arts concert series, which has been put on at Armstrong for seven years, is to introduce the public to new music. He elaborated that he could program in famous and recognizable classical pieces, but then the listeners tastes will never expand. He explained that he wanted the audience to explore and interact with unfamiliar pieces and form their own opinions about them. People can leave with the resolution that they enjoy a particular composer’s work or find out that they “really hate minimalism,” Warsaw joked.

Among the audience, there were several attendees that indeed formed their own opinions.

“I enjoyed the show… I really enjoyed everything on there but the one that stuck out to me was the ‘Graceful Ghost Rag’ by William Bolcolm… and I really enjoyed the ‘24 Variations on Bach Corale (selections)’ by Fred Hersch,” Tamarra Daguisan, an Armstrong alumni that studied music under Warsaw, said.

“I enjoyed that he was making commentary because I could understand, and there were a lot of [music] students in the audience, so we all could just listen to the music on a deeper level. I thought that was good,” she said.

Another attendee was Honor Grant, a senior music major. She said, “I feel like it [the event] introduced me to a lot of new music. I really enjoyed hearing a variation on something I maybe have already heard, but it was like he put his own twist on it. He really put in work for this, and it really showed. It was great.”

When asked to identify her favorite piece, Grant said, “I’m not going to lie, I loved Chopin’s ‘Etude in C-sharp Minor, Op. 10 No. 4.’ That was one of my favorites and then ‘Glassworks’—I loved that one. That one and ‘Graceful Ghost Rag’ were like my favorite of all time.”

Junior political science major, Liz Ossi, and senior business economics major, Kirsten James, were also attendees. They stated that the rendition of “Georgia On My Mind” by Hoagy Carmichael/Benjamin Warsaw stood out to them the most and they thought the event was fantastic. 

The Piano in the Arts concert series is hosted every year in the Fine Arts Auditorium with a different orchestrated program and theme. Admission is free for students. All members of the community are encouraged to attend the next concert next semester.

 

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