Temple Times Online Edition
    September 14, 2006
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Lights! Music! Action!

Grad student aims to enlighten new audiences with ‘Luminescence’ concert

Maria Shaplin, a Temple graduate student in theater lighting design, worked with master’s candidate in choral conducting Mark Doerries to illustrate the “colors and moods” of the music in Luminescence. Shaplin created the above watercolor after listening to “A Boy and A Girl” by the American composer Eric Whaticre. The piece, which describes a young couple’s love, “begins warmly, like being wrapped or embraced with a thick blanket of comfort, and ends with intense sadness in the loss of the couple — yet the blanket of comfort persists, symbolizing the strength of eternal love,” Doerries explained.
(Watercolor courtesy Maria Shaplin)

Mark Doerries has ambitious goals.

He hopes to turn the world of classical music on its ear by changing the traditional repertoire, infusing it with a multi-sensory experience and developing younger, more diverse audiences along the way.  


“It’s an attempt to bridge the gap between musical elitism and the American mainstream culture,” explained Doerries, a master’s candidate in choral conducting in the Boyer College of Music and Dance.


On Friday and Saturday, Sept. 15 and 16, at 8 p.m., he will present “Luminescence:  Experiments in Visual Acoustics” in the Conwell Dance Theater, fifth floor, Conwell Hall, Broad St. and Montgomery Ave.


The concert fuses choral music with dramatic theatrical lighting that will encompass both the 16-voice choir and audience members to draw listeners and singers together in a shared experience. 


Working with Doerries on the project is Maria Shaplin, a Temple graduate student in theater lighting design.


“We’ve been teaching each other the languages of our respective arts,” said Doerries.  “Maria comes to every rehearsal, we talk through the colors and moods of the music, and she takes the ideas and paints watercolor pictures of the singers and the lighting for each scene.”


With the exception of an opening Renaissance work by Thomas Morley, the music itself is 20th and 21st century and includes a piece by Arnold Schoenberg, Friede auf Erden (Peace on Earth), that is rarely performed because of how difficult it is — both to sing and to listen to.


Don’t look for the choir members — mostly Temple undergrads, grad students and faculty — to be attired in traditional tuxedo garband standing on risers.   “I’m trying to distance myself from the tuxedo-wearing choral environment, so the singers will wear clothes like the audience is wearing, and they’ll intermingle with them.”


His goal of attracting a college-age, 20- to 30-something audience has led Doerries to distribute posters and flyers about the concert at restaurants, bars and clubs on Temple’s and Penn’s campuses and in the city — not exactly the usual marketing targets for a choral music concert.  With “Luminescence” also on this year’s Philadelphia Fringe Festival roster of performances, he hopes that will also help draw a younger, musically adventurous crowd.


Doerries, who graduated from the College of William and Mary and already has a master’s degree in music theory from the City University of New York’s Aaron Copland School of Music, will receive his master’s in choral conducting from Temple’s Boyer College in May 2007.


“I always knew I wanted to do conducting.  I auditioned for Temple, and Temple is very supportive of new, innovative performance styles, more so than many schools in New York.  It felt like the right place for me.”      


“Luminescence” is supported by a $9,000 grant Doerries received from Temple through the General Activities Fund and administered by the Boyer College to establish a choral ensemble dedicated to the performance of interdisciplinary, multi-media projects.

Harriet Goodheart




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