Focus on Faculty: Baroque Tour

In Oswego State’s second installment of the Focus on Faculty series, Juan La Manna took stage with other performing artists on a Baroque tour of music and dance. The hour-long concert took place on Sunday afternoon in Sheldon Hall Ballroom.

La Manna, known for both his unique, colorful “lucky” socks and his sense of humor both on stage and in rehearsal, began the concert with a gag. His phone rang loudly while still in his pocket, eliciting a laugh from the audience. He checked the phone, turned off the ringer, and addressed the audience.

“That was Bach calling,” La Manna said, followed by another laugh from the audience. “He reminds you to silence your cell phones. Let’s all do it together.”

Beginning the concert was George Frideric Handel’s nine-movement dance piece, “Water Music.” The piece, which originally was composed for an orchestra, was just La Manna playing the piano. After the first movement, the featured dancer of the night, Ligia Ravenna Pinheiro, La Manna’s wife, glided in from stage left to perform the dance.

She wore a large pale yellow dress replete with a bustle. Both the legs and the arms were shortened to allow for more flexibility. The outfit was completed with white stockings and brown platform shoes with a yellow ribbon. The dances were smooth and controlled, featuring simple but difficult maneuvers. As Pinheiro would explain in the post-concert talk, in this style of Baroque dance, the legs were choreographed, but the arms were improvised.

Following the dance was Georg Philipp Telemann’s “Sonata in A minor” for the oboe featuring Carol Fox who is the long-time conductor of the Fulton Community Band, on the oboe. The four-movement sonata followed many typical Baroque themes, although the first movement, siciliana, felt somewhat progressive for the era. The second movement, spirituoso, followed its name, as it was light and airy. The adante movement was slow and heavy, with meandering melodic and accompaniment lines. The final movement, vivace, felt like a Renaissance dance piece compared to the rest of the movements. As with all professional oboists, Fox displayed incredible lung support and control.

Following that was “Chaconne in D minor,” which the program showed was composed by Bach and Brahms. This was another piece that featured Pinheiro, this time dressed in more contemporary dancer’s clothes, with black dance shoes, loose black slacks and green shirt. Pinheiro’s dance was controlled and precise, with fewer movements across the stage and more with one foot planted. This piece was especially unique, as La Manna played the whole piece with just his left hand.

The second of the pieces with Fox was “Concerto in C” by Domenico Cimarosa. The four-movement piece was more classical in feeling than Baroque. The introduzione flashed the imitative nature of baroque, but had more harmonic presence of classical. The movement also featured a small solo section with just Fox playing.

The second movement, allegro, featured a common baroque technique called the “basso continuo,” which is a steady, unchanging bass line. The movement was much more of a dance section. The siciliana was heavier, with a medium tempo, and had a low piano end. The allegro giusta featured very involved piano playing, and the audience got the feeling of a whole orchestra playing.

Finally, 15 members of La Manna’s College Community Orchestra joined the performance in a small set-up to the right of the stage, as well as five members of a local dance company, The Next Jenneration Dance. They played the six-movement Henry Purcell piece “Suite from The Fairy Queen.” The dancers, choreographed by Pinheiro, often danced in groups of two or more and only occasionally would all of them be moving. The effect was unusual, as it allowed the audience to appreciate each girl’s technique, but still get the experience of a full dancing ensemble.