She slid her bow across the cello strings with piercing intensity, playing along to lines about sea foam and love.
That’s how Sherill Roberts, cellist and adjunct professor of music, opened her faculty recital April 15 in the Delkin Recital Hall.
The packed room listened as Roberts and a variety of accompanists created music to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Titanic sinking.
Roberts’ accompanists included her daughters Rosemary Roberts on the harp and Amelia Bierly on the cello.
The family trio blended the harp and cellos to weave together, “A Shape of Ice,” a piece composed by Bierly.
Bierly gained inspiration to write the piece from Tom Hardy’s 1912 poem, “The Convergence of the Twain (Lines on the loss of the Titanic).”
“I took inspiration from the rhythmic and melodic cadences of Hardy’s words,” Bierly said. “His rich, yet sparse writing style challenged me to create full textures and timbres while still maintaining a sense of great space.”
The next pieces were parts of the trio, “Enchantment of April,” which featured the sounds of piano, cello and clarinet. Chris Engbretson accompanied on piano while Theresa Schumacher mixed in clarinet.
Between pieces, Roberts took a break from playing cello to introduce Judy Koontz, an audience member whose grandmother, Kate Herman, was a passenger on the Titanic.
Roberts circled the room, showing a faded photo of Herman at age 24.
The next song,”Rest in Peace, Titanic,” was composed by Schumacher’s aunt.
“When I mentioned to [Schumacher] that this concert was on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, she said that her Great Aunt Tilly had published a song about the event,” Roberts said. “We thought it would be fun to include in the program.”
Schumacher explained how the family didn’t know how her aunt had written music until after she passed away.
“It was quite a surprise when we found that sheet music in one of her drawers,” Schumacher said. “Dear old Aunt Tilly could do more than everyone thought.”
“Rest in Peace, Titanic” featured bold piano chords by Engbretson, Roberts on the cello, and accompanying singing by soprano Natalie Gunn.
Roberts finished the evening with an emotional, lively rendition of Frank Schubert’s “Quintet in C Major, Opus 163.” Accompanists added violins and a viola to Roberts’ and Bierly’s cellos, creating dramatic, passionate music.
“The two cellos have some sublime melodic passages that need to sound almost as one instrument,” Roberts said. “To find a cellist who could play so perfectly with me, I had to grow my own.”
Joanna Peterson/Managing editor
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