Major setback requires minor improvisation

Emily Jolly

     Dr. Holly Hubbs of the Ursinus Music Department exhibited some of her flexibility and quick-thinking skills on the afternoon of Feb. 4 when her Hubbs and Friends Faculty Recital was forced to proceed without her friends.

     Hubbs explained that she found out around 1:30 p.m. the day of that her friends would not be able to make it to the recital scheduled for 4 p.m. The musicians were traveling from the Gettysburg area, which unfortunately had become the victim of a Pennsylvania snowstorm, and they were having difficulty with road conditions and accidents. Hubbs made the decision that it wasn’t worth the risk.

     “After months of planning, [I was given] a couple of hours in my mind to figure out what we were going to do instead,” said Hubbs.

     “Sometimes you have to adapt on the fly. It can be an interesting facet of live performance,” Hubbs added.

     The original program was supposed to feature the saxophone quartet Hubbs is a part of, with a performance focus on French music.

     Hubbs explained, “A lot of quartet repertoire is French pieces, so I wanted to try to see whether people could hear that as I was explaining it, this very melodic and sort of light, happy, sort of vivacious music that’s also sort of technically difficult at the same time, so we hear that especially in the French quartet piece that we didn’t hear. It’s tremendously difficult. But, it doesn’t sound difficult. It needs to sound easy and tossed off.”

     Because the program lost several of its expected performers, and therefore the quartet pieces, the original French focus had to be scrapped. Hubbs decided to convert the original program into a mix of French, Germanic, and English music, in order to show the contrasts and similarities between the styles.

     Hubbs thought, “Let’s contrast some of that [French] music with some…from other countries and see if people can hear [that] Germanic music sounds different than French music does, and English music sounds different [than both].”

     While the missing members of the quartet decreased the number of performers, Hubbs was still accompanied by Seth Trumbore and Dr. John French of the Ursinus Music Department.  Trumbore played the piano for the first piece, while French featured on the harpsichord, piano, and even the organ for the rest of the program.

     Hubbs ended up playing five different instruments throughout the recital, beginning with the soprano saxophone on Fantaisie by Denis Bédard, the alto recorder for Jean Baptiste Loeillet de Gant’s 12 Recorder Sonatas, the alto saxophone in “Enfach Innig” from Three Romances by Robert Schumann, the tenor saxophone in Six Studies in English Folk Song by Ralph Vaughn Williams, and a solo on the piano to show off the Jazz style with “Old Folks.” She ended the night back on the soprano saxophone with Fantaisie by Jean Baptiste Singelée.

     The change from the original concert order allowed Hubbs to play music she wouldn’t normally have chosen.

     “I never would have played a piano piece. That was very random, to just decide to do that. I would never normally play piano on a recital of any kind here.”

     It also gave her a chance to go back to some past favorites.

     Hubbs explained, “The Vaughn Williams that we played, the English folk songs, that’s like a homecoming in some ways for [me and French], just as a duo, because we played that probably like eight or ten years ago, so that makes it fun and these things that you didn’t know were going to happen happen[ed].”

     To pay homage to the Super Bowl, set to begin just a few hours after the recital, French led the audience in a rendition of “Fly Eagles, Fly” on the organ in Bomberger Auditorium.

     Around 40 people attended the recital, including community members, faculty of the music department, and students.

     Hubbs was extremely pleased with the turnout.

     “It’s a dreary day and of course, Superbowl Sunday, so [the turnout] very much surprised me. I loved seeing students’ faces. I don’t always see student faces when I give a recital so that made me very happy. I saw community members, and students, so [I] totally couldn’t have asked for [a better] turnout.”

     The students in attendance appeared to be just as pleased to be there as Hubbs was to see them.

     According to sophomore Julian Schwartz, “It was great, it showed the technical virtuosity of Dr. Hubbs and Dr. French. Good catalogue, good programs, good theme, good improvisatory feel.”

     “I thought it was really good. Dr. Hubbs is an amazing professor, and you could see the passion as she was playing, and she’s really talented,” Said

Lauren Feldman, a junior at Ursinus.

     Another junior, Indira Joell, summed up the performance as “a super educational and enjoyable concert.”

     It was really important for Hubbs to have the opportunity to perform on the Ursinus campus.

     Hubbs explained, “[My] professional life . . . as a musician is not on campus, so sometimes, or all the time, I feel like students don’t have an ability to see me as a working musician, even though that’s like completely who I am as a person and who I’ve always been as a person. So, it’s very important for me to do this because it’s at least . . . an opportunity . . . for the people that are here to see that ‘oh, that’s what [she] actually do[es],’ and otherwise you would never know.”

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