Usually, when you go to a concert, the musicians want your eyes on them. But when you go to MSU’s Abrams Planetarium this Thursday, the members of Corna Forza brass ensemble want your eyes to go heavenward.
"There's a stage in the Planetarium, but it kinda competes with the dome, so we're actually experimenting with not even using that stage at all." says Mary Beth Orr, MSU grad student and member of the French Horn ensemble Corna Forza. "and the seats recline back just a little bit, so you are forced to be in a much more comfortable position to look at the ceiling. So, we're incorporating really the story of each piece, what we feel, what we see in our minds when we play these pieces, that's what we're putting on the dome."
As for why this quartet called Corna Forza is abandoning the usual recital hall for Thursday’s performance, that began with a basic question as Orr explains.
"Who do I want this recital to even be for? and when we all sat down and realized we wanted this recital to be for as many people from as many backgrounds as possible. It clicked with us: We cannot do this in a standard recital hall. We can't! And it became: Okay… how do we share how we experience this music as performers with an audience member that isn't going to be viscerally, physically performing this music. And maybe an audience hasn't ever experienced music like this before, isn't trained, maybe only listens to pop music. What better way to do that than to use more of the senses and so how do we incorporate visuals? There's no better place to make your recital about the music and the experience and less about the performer than the Planetarium."
MSU’s Abrams Planetarium is shaped, just like most of them are, a circular room with a domed ceiling. Acoustically, it would seem like a nightmare to adjust to, but Corna Forza is using the unique shape and the sounds the dome creates to their advantage, which Orr is rather excited about.
"And as far as the space goes, it actually creates a kind of a unique experience with our percussionist. Elizabeth Carney is going to be playing an African drum with us for one of our pieces and we're actually going to stick her in the middle." says Orr. "If anybody's been tot he Planetarium, the way the dome works, whoever is sitting right in the middle, that sound echoes and rings like crazy, but anybody else outside of that immediate area hears it in its pure form. So, it's actually really perfect the way those acoustics work because everybody is going to hear what they need to hear and the same things. But yet, the person in the middle is going to get a ring to their sound that you just can't match. It's going to be perfect for the African drumming."
There is another unifying theme of Thursday’s concert, one Mary Beth Orr and Corna Forza think of as secondary to the music making: All the composers are women.
"Instead of making our recital focused about women composers, it was more of 'Hey, how do we include as many different types of people in this to just experience the joy that these composers are bringing?' So I think maybe taking it away from not just making it all about women, but making it about everybody exploring something new. And then I think you're going to take everybody else along for the ride rather than maybe alienating people that don't want to come hear something just because a women wrote it. They just want to hear good music, so how about we just perform good music by everyone?"