Songs of the Past
Orchestra members and twins, Emily Ji ‘22, Principal Cello, and Katherine Ji ’22, ConcertMaster, joined Orchestra their freshman year and share thoughts on their Music Department experience while getting ready for the upcoming concert on April 17, titled Songs of the Past. Both have been involved in music for years, with Katherine sharing she had no plans to be involved in music when coming to Denison but said, “I started taking lessons with Dr. Philip Rudd, and he strongly encouraged me to get involved in orchestra!”
Songs of the Past, according to Dr. Chelsea Gallo, Visiting Conductor for Orchestra, is very special because it’s a collection of old songs made new, and includes pieces by Janacek, Price, and Respighi and plays off the nostalgia that everyone is feeling during COVID for simpler times when we felt like we had more control.
Read on to hear from Dr. Gallo and sisters Katherine and Emily Ji, about the concert and their experience in the music department.
Dr. Gallo, can you tell us a little bit about the pieces and the background?
This is very special because every piece on the program is an existing song in the respective cultures they are from.
So the piece starts with Leos Janacek and it uses folk melodies from the area of Bohemia/Movaria, which then segways into a collection of movements by Florence Price.
Price was a Black composer from Arkansas, influenced by blues and african folks songs and spirituals. Her first symphony had its premiere with the Chicago Symphony in 1933 which earned her the recognition of being the first female, African American symphonist. The piece is a collection of children’s songs and there are three movements that really highlight how talented she was and how she wrote tunes and counterpoint and went through these different key centers.
The concert concludes with Ancient Airs and Dances by Repighi who is a composer that I love. He is a complicated composer with a complicated path but this piece is a harkening back to lute melodies in 16th century Italy he makes them new again by bringing his own compositional style, like counterpoint to those melodies.
In the same way that Dr. Gallo’s experience in the arts industry embodies the liberal arts experience through the connections she makes between music and the sciences (this is a reference to the Denisonian article on Trello about Dr. Gallo if we wanted to link that here?) students at Denison find ways to blend the two together.
Emily Ji ‘22 is a biology major and spanish minor from Columbus, Ohio who naturally gravitated towards Orchestra her freshman year who always knew she wanted to be involved in music. She is currently the Principal Cello.
Katherine Ji ‘22 is a biology major and a chemistry and music performance double minor. She is a music fellow and she has been part of the orchestra ever since her freshman year, with Emily Ji ‘22, her twin. She is currently the ConcertMaster.
How did you get involved in the Orchestra at Denison?
Emily: I’ve been playing the cello for a really long time, ever since 2nd grade, so music has always been a huge part of my life. When I came to Denison, I started taking private lessons with Dr. Cora Kuyvenhoven, since Denison covered lessons, and naturally got into the Orchestra.
Katherine: My story is pretty similar to Emily’s. I’ve been playing violin for a really long time as well. I actually had no plans to be involved in music when I started but I started taking violin lessons with Dr. Philip Rudd, who is also my advisor, and he strongly encouraged me to get involved in orchestra!
Emily, what is your favorite part of Orchestra? What drew you in?
I think when we enter college for the first time, we’re all looking for a place to find a sense of belonging and community and I found that in Orchestra. I’m on the pre-dental track so my life trajectory is pretty set for the next couple of years, but one of my favorite things about Denison is that I am able to connect with people that have vastly different interests and backgrounds. With COVID, it’s been a challenge to keep that same sense of community because we are all masked and we don’t have stand partners, but Dr. Chelsea Gallo does a great job of connecting people through small group ensembles during rehearsals!
Katherine, do you have a favorite class that you took?
My favorite class was a Psychology of Performance class I took with Dr. Hanna Hurwitz where I learned about how our body changes while performing. I think that all of us have experience performing in some aspect, whether it is in music or through presentations and speeches that we make for classes or interviews, so I found this really eye-opening. For me, my body and hands will shake when I get nervous before playing, and this class taught me about distal focus, where instead of focusing really small and specific on my hands, I try to look at the broader perspective.
Songs of the Past performance is April 17, 7pm in Sharon Martin Hall in the Eisner Center. Open to Denison Students, Faculty and Staff and advanced tickets are required.