‘Very large and very loud’ Instrument to Highlight Gager Concert

| April 10, 2009

What’s five feet long, has strings and can wake up a dorm full of students? According to Sweet Briar College music professor Rebecca McCord, it’s a guzheng, an ancient Chinese instrument that’s the highlight of the fourth and final event of the 2008-2009 Janet Lowrey Gager Community Concert Series.

At the free concert, which will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 19 in Sweet Briar’s Memorial Chapel, first-year student Mi “Mia” Li will play the guzheng, an instrument in the zither family.

When she first brought the guzheng to college last fall, Li kept it in her dorm room. She soon discovered that she needed another place to practice. “[It is] very large and very loud,” McCord said. “She had it in her dorm room and the entire hall said, ‘It’s got to go.’ She even laughs about it.”

Li, who came to Sweet Briar from China, now practices at the College’s Babcock Fine Arts Center. “She needed a place to house it, so I found a place for her to be able to practice here [in Babcock],” McCord said. “It’s so loud that she can’t practice next to other instruments.”

McCord described the guzheng’s sound as “plucking” or “strumming,” and said the music tells a story about “waterfalls or the running of horses,” for example. It also reminds her of the soundtrack from the movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

“This is going to be very interesting, and I cannot remember that we’ve ever had an exotic instrument like this during this entire [Gager] series,” McCord said. “This is really wonderful and she’s very good at it. … It’s not that her piece will be the longest of the day, but it will certainly be the most intriguing sound that we’ve heard at a Gager concert in a long time.”

Also on the program are Emi Masuda, an exchange student and pianist from Japan, and Temma Clark-Braverman ’11, Mary Massie ’10 and Sarah Schofield ’11, who will sing solos accompanied by pianist Anna Billias.

Masuda studies with McCord and Clark-Braverman, Massie and Schofield with voice instructor Marcia Thom.

Soprano Claire Wittman, daughter of SBC theater professor Loretta Wittman and a student at Holy Cross Regional Catholic School in Lynchburg, will sing, accompanied by HarpSong, an ensemble directed by SBC harp instructor Virginia Schweninger.

HarpSong also will perform, as will Becky Edmondson, a harpist and receptionist in the College’s dean’s office. Rounding out the program will be Rafael Scarfullery, instructor of guitar at Sweet Briar.

The Gager series is made possible by the support of Forrest Gager, in memory of his wife, Janet, who served as Sweet Briar’s director of public relations. All concerts are held in Memorial Chapel and are free to the public.

For more information, contact McCord at mccord@sbc.edu or (434) 381-6115.

— Suzanne Ramsey

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