Faculty Artist Concert Series showcases composers of the 1680s

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Soft music played as seats filled with spectators waiting for a performance for the first part in this year’s Faculty Artist Concert Series at the University of Indianapolis. Student workers dressed in all black set the stage and prepared every visual detail, and audience members whispered among themselves in anticipation as faculty artists took the stage. 

“The Auspicious 1680s” was performed by UIndy Instructor of Flute Tamara Thweatt, Professor of Musicology at Butler University Sophie Benn and former UIndy professor of history, humanities and harpsichord and current professor at Butler University Thomas Gerber, according to a Sept. 6 email from UIndy Arts. The concert was held on Monday, Sept. 18 in the Ruth Lily Performance Hall, the email said. 

Thweatt said the program was aimed to feature the music of composers all born in the same decade: the 1680s. Works from composers Francesco Geminiani, Johann Sebastian Bach, Jean-Philippe Rameau and George Frideric Handel were featured and performed by the three musicians according to the program handed out at the concert. 

Gerber played harpsichord, according to the program, he was accompanied by Benn, playing the cello and Thweatt playing the historical baroque flute. Each artist has an extensive background in music and performs in several orchestras, concerts and side gigs in the Indianapolis area, the program explained.

Photo by Allison Cook From left to right: Sophia Benn, Thomas Gerber and Tamara Thweatt perform in the Faculty Artist Concert Series on Sept. 18, in the Ruth Lily Performance Hall. Benn is playing the cello, Gerber is playing the piano and Thweatt is playing the historical baroque flute.

The concert premise was Gerber’s idea, according to a short speech he gave before the concert began. He said that he invited Thweatt and Benn to accompany him to bring the idea to life. The pieces performed were challenging, Thweatt said and that working with the lengthy historical pieces was quite a journey with the historical flute.

“[It was a] real challenge and a big project for me, because I played [the songs] many times on the modern silver flute,” Thweatt said. “But I’ve never played [them] on the historical flute.”

Thweatt explained that she practiced several times a day for nearly six weeks leading up to the concert, especially since the concert was on a version of the instrument she was not that familiar with. She said she would also do another short practice before bed on the baroque flute to ensure she could retain the information. 

“[When I slept], my brain was thinking about the Baroque flute techniques,” Thweatt said.

Thweatt said that the location of the Ruth Lilly Concert Hall had a big impact on the performance as well. Since the concert performed music from hundreds of years ago, she said that the historical instruments did not have as much projection to them. According to Thweatt, the concert hall provided an adequate space to work with. 

“We have a beautiful recital hall here that is very resonant with a lovely acoustic,” Thweatt said. “The flute I was playing on is meant to be played in that kind of space. […] I felt like the entire concert hall was my instrument, not just this little wooden flute. So that was wonderful for me to sort of find a voice with this instrument in that space on a very, very challenging piece.”

Thweatt said she encourages members of the UIndy community to attend the Faculty Artist Concert Series. Students can also listen live on the radio, but connecting with live music is important for both the audience and performers, according to Thweatt. 

“I think everybody needs in this day and age, some beauty and creativity for their soul,” Thweatt said. “It’s a way for human beings to connect in some way. […] I think that’s important. Instead of sitting in your room and looking at your phone or a computer screen.”The next Faculty Artist Concert Series comes up on Oct. 9 and will focus on “Genre and Gender in Music,” according to the UIndy website. It will be featuring a Stravinsky octet, performances by Thweatt and several other pieces, Thweatt said.

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