Carmina Amoris (Songs of Love)


Photo by Iris Gross Derke

Celebrating 145 years of singing, the Lehigh Choral Arts fall concert features director Steven Sametz’s choral symphony Carmina Amoris; a dynamic masterwork that sets a collection of medieval poems and love letters to music for orchestra, chorus, tenor and soprano soloists. The concert features sopranos Carmen Pelton and Tami Petty, and Grammy-winning tenor William Burden.

If you have not yet heard one of Sametz’ compositions, you may be delighted to experience music that is at one time tender, and another time tumultuous. The singers are put through the wringer in articulation. Often times their syllables turn percussive; somewhat more a sound scape than language. One need look to the text to see how Sametz adapts melody to deliver the delicate nuances of love. But just as you’ve been soothed, the realities of being in love come crashing in with frenetic understanding of the frustrations of relationships. What compels Sametz to write on love with such vigorous complexity?

Sametz’ program note explains, “When I first began to look at medieval Latin texts for Carmina amoris, the epigrams, marginalia, and love letters I found by clerics and nuns from the fourth to the thirteenth centuries were a revelation. The beauty and freshness of the language spoke across the centuries.  In matters of love (longing, desire, lamenting, sleepless wondering, making up and quarreling), it appears not much has changed from the so-called “dark ages” to our own well-illumined era.”

Writing about Sametz’ work in the Choral Journal, Douglas Boyer states, “Reflecting the growing debate on gay civil liberties, [this work] speaks to the struggle that has been inherent for the gay population for centuries.”

To attend any of the performance of this work, whether this weekend or next week in New York, one may walk away with a renewed sense of purpose.

The Choral Arts performs Carmina Amoris and I Have Had Singing in Baker Hall, Zoellner Arts Center on Friday, November 14th and Saturday November 15th – both at 8pm, or next week at the historic performance in Carnegie Hall on Friday, November 21 at 7pm in honor of Lehigh’s 150th anniversary. To understand the significance of the Carnegie Hall performance, the Lehigh University Communications Office prepared this video:

For deeper look into Sametz’ composition, please visit his website through which he shares the original Latin texts, English translations, and even sound clips of the work. But don’t let this complete online access to his work replace the moment of sharing the life of the work in live performance. To be surrounded by the natural acoustics of the human voice to ear; presented by musicians of the highest caliber in a concert hall built for exactly this connection, is to experience the best quality of sound and spirit.

Faculty Research in the arts – a query

[note from director, Silagh White]

aa1s3tyuqss7i1o7Have you ever had a random conversation with a faculty member that haunts you? I had such a one yesterday with architecture faculty, Nik Nikolov. He’s been at Lehigh for a couple of years and has done some impressive research. Two of his projects have been built in response to community invitation; the first with the 2013 annual Playhouse Design Competition of the Eastern PA Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the second for the Christmas City Village for the Downtown Bethlehem Association.

So what haunted me? The conversation was about the balance of teaching and research. Academic arts disciplines (music, theater, visual art, creative writing, poetry, design, architecture) define research through production. Music professors compose music or perform recitals and concerts. Theater professors act, direct, design lights, scenery, costumes. Et cetera..

University faculty / artists also balance a rigorous teaching role in that they not only offer quality training in these disciplines for students, but come up with innovative ways to facilitate student discovery. They don’t just say, “do this like me.” They offer challenges for students to find creative solutions. They encourage students to find barriers in their thinking and break them. It’s not just what they teach, it’s HOW they facilitate student learning. Faculty who are passionate about what they make, and how they encourage future generations to be creative problem solvers takes investigation, rigor and training in itself. The lingering question is why pedagogy is not also considered research? This is what haunts me.

Faculty are evaluated on the quality of their research and teaching, as well as service to the institution. The lines between all three areas blur. But for all of the work, creation and service- Lehigh is always better in that we get a close connection to their expertise.

Response and thoughts are most welcome in the comments below.

UPDATE to the conversation.

This is what I love about making thoughts transparent. People actually read these posts and respond with new information. What did I learn from my public query? Pedagogy DOES count as research. There is also a Journal of Architectural Education, in which Prof. Nikolov has had two papers on teaching design were published. Since Prof Nikolov was so generous in reading this post, I also learned that he has done extensive research in computation and environmental simulation. He also continues to practice as a certified architect on his “off” hours from Lehigh responsibilities.

Prof. Nikolov’s work is impressive, as is the work of all the architecture faculty at Lehigh. They are also excellent human beings; ready to embrace the challenges of new building design while also nursing the creativity and problems solving skills in our students.

I can’t wait to see what happens with the Hammerschalg Design Lecture Series that Professors Viscardi and Nikolov are doing. Find out more about these here.




LU Philharmonic Concerto Marathon Celebration – Images

This gallery contains 44 photos.

This past Friday and Saturday, the musicians of the Lehigh University Philharmonic celebrated their annual Concerto Marathon concert with a warm and supportive audience. All who braved the elements, especially the inevitable challenges of  snow removal and navigating snow covered streets, shared beautiful music and  special moments for all of the student soloists. As luck … Continue reading

The End of an Era

Were you on campus for the first and only ArtsFest in 2006 when the Chinese landscape paintings by Zang Hongtu were hung in the center of the Packer Memorial Chapel?
Photo by Theo Anderson

Photo by Theo Anderson

 How about the outdoor performance of Koji Kakinuma in 2007?

What about the 2009 partnership with the South Side Initiative and the Bethlehem Biopsy project with Britain’s Christian Nold? Were you lucky enough to have worked on any outsider art projects with Mr. Imagination? What about seeing some [ahem] interesting art exhibits in the galleries? Been to any odd ceremonies? Do you know of any alum who took the Raw Vision or any of the iterations of “Ecce Elvis: Elvis Studies as a Postmodernist Paradigm for the Academic Study of Religions” courses?
Students today may have come across the Secret Art Enclave if they’ve wandered in the woods of South Mountain.

They might have also seen or helped build the Chinese Bridge (above), or the Chinese Pavilion on the Greenway. Over the years, dozens of guest artists, lecturers and artists in residence have engaged students and the community through the visionary leadership of one faculty member.

It’s the end of an era. Yes, that’s a sentence that should be read with as much dramatic flair as possible. For many readers, too much institutional time has passed between some of the more infamous events born from the vision of one professor. For others readers, perhaps not enough.

The founder of the program which eventually became the idea generator for this weekly newsletter is “fading into the mist.” Dr. Norman Girardot’s no-cheese-tray retirement event will take place tomorrow, December 5 from 3:30-6:30 PM, in Zoellner Arts Center, Lower Gallery. There will be testimony from members of the Religion Studies Department and other partners in crime. Find out some of the legendary stories of one infamous faculty member.
(Pictured: Silagh White and Norman Girardot as they were…. back in the day)

Student Installations in Fair-Mart

Curious about the art installations in the East Fairmart-Martindale Library Buildings? The project is the result of the summer architecture studio course ARCH 123: Visualization and Fabrication in Architecture, taught by Professor Hyun-Tae Jung. The installation label reads:

The main focus of these projects is to help students learn how to see form and create structure through the exploration of patterns found in nature. Nature is abundant with patterns and variations of logical systems of organization. The process of identifying and formalizing these patters serves as a foundation for us to begin deriving our own systems from. These new systems extend past the efficiency of their original forms to provide us with a purpose and direction for designing architecture.

While advanced and worthy of study in learning to read and practice good design; the concepts portrayed through these projects are only the introductory steps in the process of architectural design as a whole.

The works were created by students: Shannon Hsuan Chen, Danny Aguilera, Ron Medina, Pei Pei Yang, Greg Barber, and installed by a student curator, Mike Amidon. These works remain installed until October 4, 2013.

We encourage you to see these works up close; but please; don’t touch the objects! Library is open during summer hours: Monday-Thursday, 8am-10PM; and Friday, 8am-5pm; Saturday, 10am-5pm and-Sunday, noon-5pm.

Special note of thanks to the Lehigh Library administration who supports public installations of student created works of art.

IMG_4750 IMG_4751 IMG_4757 IMG_4758 IMG_4759 IMG_4761 IMG_4764 IMG_4765 IMG_4766 IMG_4767 IMG_4752 IMG_4753 IMG_4754 IMG_4760 IMG_4762

The Large Flowerheads – Extraordinary Band On and Off Stage

If you’ve been attending any festivals in the area, or hanging out at the many free summer concerts in either the parks or the other communal gathering areas in the Lehigh Valley, you may have come across this very interesting band, The Large Flowerheads. The band is a local cover band with a focus on popular groove music of the 1960s. According to their website, the band is named after a carton of artificial flowers spotted in a warehouse rehearsal space. The Large Flowerheads consist of Maureen “Moe” Jerant on drums, Greg Geist on rhythm guitar and mandolin, Billy Trexler on lead guitar and electric sitar, and John Harkins on keyboards and bass guitar.  They play songs from The Box Tops, Buckinghams, Beatles, Neil Diamond, Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Tommy James & The Shondells, Cream,  Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane, The Human Beinz, Sonny & Cher, and The Hollies.


They have a pretty dedicated crowd; one that often marks their gigs with a *very* colorful and interesting spectacle. Lots of the them don their tie-dye T-shirts or scarfs, and are ready to clear a space for a dance floor. This dedicated audience does not sit for long. Could it be just nostalgia?

Some comments about this band that they post on their website are worth sharing:

“The Large Flowerheads concert – FAN-FREAKIN-TASTIC!  Individually and collectively, a wonderful work of performance art! I loved it……thank you for an evening of truly fine entertainment.”
– James D. Craig

“A sincere thanx to you four….my now wife, then girlfriend and I use to see you guys…..when we were first dating, so it was a nice trip back in time.”
– Michael J. Roxberry

Compliments from the fans that make it onto their website don’t just appear from being spectacular musicians. There is an acute awareness of building an audience that this band has accomplish over the years. This is also evidenced on their “kudos page by the comments from area presenters. Pay particular attention to the second one:

Thanks…you guys had a GREAT crowd and a great show.”
– Patrick Brogan, director of Performing Arts, ArtsQuest/Musikfest

“I want you to know I think your team is great – you should provide seminars on how to run your band business properly.  Your prep, your communication, organization, humbleness – I’ve worked with so many musicians & I never have to worry about stuff when dealing with you guys.”
– Kim Kerstetter, Manager, Sugars Stage & Spirits

“Great show gang! …It was one of the BEST Classic Rock acts I’ve seen in years!  Being a classic rock musician myself, I just had to appreciate the cohesiveness and comraderie that this group exudes. Their musicianship and harmonies are flawless, it was like listening to the original artists.”
– Dennis Clift aka The Minstrel

The crowd just loved you guys! Soooo fun… that music is just super fun!
– Lisa Koza, Lisa Koza Productions

Moe Jerant has come to Lehigh University a few times for leading drum circles. She’s a regular artist for the First Year Prelusion program, ArtsAlive.  We get a thrill from our little session in front of the University President’s House. The first year students who participate get a huge release from pre-college nerves. I’ve also had the good fortune to work with Moe on a special project in 2009 with an artist in residence on campus and in South Bethlehem schools. She helped a group of Lehigh, Broughal and Holy Infancy students prepare for a performance with an ensemble from Northern Ireland, the Different Drums of Ireland.

Moe graciously spoke at the 2010 iDex: Art Entrepreneur session of the Baker Institute, and has been a guest speaker in other courses. What she often tells students about her work, “It [being a musician] is not all about you. If the audience isn’t having a good time, you’re not doing it right.”

All of the musicians in the band want their audience to have a great time – and they deliver. They are not only excellent musicians, but they are consummate professionals in booking gigs with presenters in the area. They know that it takes a certain amount of care to develop relationships with people who are making decisions on whether or not to hire you.

Last week, they were the featured performer for the Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission weekly Sculpture Garden Concert. If you recall the weather; afternoon showers threatened outdoor events. The show had to be moved to the pre-set indoor location – City Hall Rotunda. If there is any promotional support to these free concerts, rain location information is not always shared. Not to put too fine a point on what happens to presenters in these kinds of situations, but there’s usually a little panic about getting the word out to people about the change.

The Large Flowerheads have put years into building a strong fan base, taking email addresses at every performance, and applying every other audience building technique known to 21 century communication practices. But again, here it’s not just about what you do, it’s how and why you do it.

The band arrived two hours before their scheduled performance time to allow for change of location, just in case. As they were re-setting up in the Rotunda, they were on their cell phones and mobile devices, updating their website and contacting their dedicated fans to spread the work about the changes. By 6pm, the Rotunda was already filled with people, and even spilled out into the hallway around it. Some lucky fans got to sit in the seats normally taken by City Council members at public meetings. Needless to say, the flies in the Rotunda haven’t had this much fun. Ever.

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Students who aspire to be musicians should take some notes from the business, showmanship and musicianship of The Large Flowerheads. Local readers and presenters probably have this band on their “must haves” for their festivals and public events. No doubt there are other musicians in the Lehigh Valley who also understand that success comes from all the work that goes behind the scenes as much as on the stage. It’s much more real than the overly produced miracles of overnight success stories on TV. Case in point, This is a picture I took as the band was vamping; waiting for “Sonny and Cher” to make their appearance on stage. All because I asked for a picture.

moe &john

The final goodwill for the night? Since I’m on the band’s email list, I saw in real time the communications mentioned in this post. As I was reviewing the short video I took of the concert, I saw an email come in at 9:30pm from the band:

TONIGHT!  We just got the call!
JULY 12, FRIDAY, 10pm – 1:30 am
Last Minute Show TONIGHT!
Molten Lounge at Sands Casino
Bethlehem PA
Groovy ’60s Dance Party!
This email says a couple of things, beyond the writer’s capacity for being on the grid 24/7. The band’s communication practice with the audience is above and beyond expectations. While I didn’t run to the Sands to catch the second show, I and all of their fans that were online at that time on a Friday night were reviewing pictures we took at the Rotunda show. This band really knows their audience.

RIP, Claude Black (1933-2013)

ImageJazz pianist Claude Black may not be well known in the Lehigh Valley. Claude Black was a highly respected jazz musician in Toledo, Ohio. I first met him as one of the “in-school artists” for the Toledo Muse Machine. From 1997-2001, I was lucky enough to be Claude’s driver/escort and MC for his many performances in middle and high schools of northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. I even got to introduce Claude to a few young students and teachers who wanted to hear more of his music at Murphy’s – a fine jazz club in downtown Toledo.

I have always admired jazz musicians. As a classically trained bassoonist, I marvel at the ability of jazz and folk musicians who play more by ear. They way they turn a musical phrase, stretching a tune almost beyond it’s recognition, but still contain it’s structure within an agreed upon musical “rule” in order to keep something musically together. I love working at “hearing the tune” while the artist improvises around it. I love hearing the musical interplay between the musicians; the lock-step rhythm between the bass and drums, the way a soloist fits or doesn’t. It is fascinating.

There’s probably going to be a couple of long articles written about Claude in the next couple of days – he passed away last night at the age of 80. He’d been fighting cancer for while. A few links of articles I’ve found about Claude’s career tell some of the stories he shared with me those many road trips to schools at a time way too early in the morning for a jazz musician.

See, it’s just not right to wake a legend at 7am. Too often, I had to pick him up at his home the morning after a long set at Murphy’s. I’d have his coffee in the car just the way he licked it: two creams and four sugars. I’d also bring along an orange juice, knowing the vitamins would give him a little more sustenance for the young audiences. Since Claude was an African-American jazz musician, most of the schools wanted him to perform in February during Black History month. In addition to being insanely early, the poor man had to bear with the cold temperatures, too.

The first part of these trips were rough for him. But once he warmed up the crowd with a snappy number, he started to tell the students about touring the Dr. Martin Luther King in the 1960s. He talked of performing for segregated music halls; of how moving it was to hear the Reverend speak. He didn’t tell the kids of the stink bombs blowing up on stage, or of the terribly racist things he had to endure. He played standard tunes, he played his own tunes. He really didn’t talk that much in his school performances. He played.

Every school that heard him was polite. I’m not sure if any of the students that heard him understood the legend that was sharing the same air they were breathing. The teachers and the administrators I worked with did. When Claude finished his set; the principal would ask for one more round of applause before the assembly ended. Then, privately back stage, the principal, a few teachers and an occasional student would ask for an autograph. By this time, Claude’s energy was at the “performer’s high.”

In the car ride home, his stories about the “real scene” of his first job were quite shocking. Things he’d never tell a reporter, or his grandchildren. I think he shared them with me to see how far he could go with his flirting. I played along. Why not? I got some great stories out of him. Stories of being on the road with Aretha Franklin in the mid-60s, sharing the stage with Harry Belafonte, the jazz clubs in Toledo and Detroit. Never stories about other artists; only young one who needed to be taught a few lessons. He never yelled at young musicians who boasted of skills they had yet to develop. He just whooped their butts on the stage; like it’s supposed to happen. These stories are treasures of our time together.


My favorite story of Claude is when we were first introduced. He said, “Hey, your name is White and you’re white. My name is Black, and I’m black. How about that?” Another interesting story is the one performance where he, Cliff Murphy on bass and one of his “sons?” on drums played back up for Jon Hendricks at one of the Toledo area high schools. This was a crowning moment for the University of Toledo; bringing Jon Hendricks back to Toledo to be a professor of jazz. Claude knew he wasn’t the star of the show – but he didn’t pout. He played. When it was his turn for a solo, he was pure class.

By the time I dropped him back to his home from every one of those school shows, he was ready for lunch and a nap. He usually had to rest up for another late night back at Murphy’s. He was also getting ready for his 2000 concert at the Toledo Peristyle. That concert was going to set all of his finances straight. He wasn’t going to have to sell anything too precious to help pay for his wife’s medical bills.

I’m listening the to CD of that concert as I write this post. I can’t share the CD on this post. But I can share a YouTube link from a 2008 performance. The video also features a few other Toledo Area musicians: Gene Parker (Tenor Sax) Jeff Halsey (Bass). Sadly, I don’t know the name of the drummer.

When I left the Muse Machine in 2001, I lost touch with Claude. When my kids were born, I stopped going to Murphy’s. After I moved to Bethlehem, I had heard he was battling prostate cancer, but that he was still playing with Cliff once in a while. I stayed in touch with him through friends who knew him better. I am honored to have worked with him in such a small way. In the grand scope of his career, these performances many have been insignificant. But to all the students, teachers and administrators who heard him in their school auditoriums, or cafe-toriums, on either surprisingly in-tune baby grand pianos, or rickety-a couple of key’s missing-uprights, I’m forever grateful for the chance to have heard him.

I’m thinking about playing his CD at the end of the MLK Opening Ceremonies at Lehigh University. Besides this post, it’s another way I can pay tribute to a man who shared so much others.

Local playwright in Queens!

I receive immense satisfaction from doing community engagement work, especially when I attend local arts and cultural events. I get to meet talented and dedicated people who provide cultural depth in our community. Whether they be faculty and staff who continue to practice their chosen art avocation, self-taught artists who dig deep into exploring the depths of their own creative process, or seeing the work of the many brilliant performing and visual artists, Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley is full of “awesome” folks.

About two years ago, I met a local writer at Lehigh University’s Drown Writers Series. DWS is a bi-weekly gathering for students, faculty and staff at the Humanities Center. I thought the man was a graduate student, until his introduction. Known to many staff and students who frequent the Trivia Nights at either the Bethlehem Brew Works or Steelstacks, he also co-produces local comedy nights, and is a regular presenter at Lehigh’s DWS. He is none other that Steven Bost.

Steve’s work is entertaining, smart, and full of references that make me want to keep my iPhone on so that I can sneak in a web search while he’s performing. A couple of weeks ago, I learned that one of his plays, Minerva (yes, in addition to being a successful producer and comic, he’s an accomplished playwright)  is being produced in Astoria Park – that’s Queens, New York, folks! The company, On The Square Productions presents a series of free plays in Astoria Park during the summer. Steven’s play, Minerva, will be presented on July 13-16, 20-23, 26-29 | All performances are at 7:30pm. The producers have assembled a nice collection of links for us to know even more about the play,  it’s characters,  and even includes an interview with the playwright.

Want to know how you can support Steve’s extraordinary work? Why not hop on a bus to see the production on Saturday night (July 21st). Steve is chartering a bus with a reasonable price point for all who can fit on it. The bus would leave Bethlehem around 3pm, let us off very near Astoria park with enough time to grab a bit to eat at any number of reasonably priced offerings, enjoy the play, then hop back on the bus for an easy return to Bethlehem around sometime before midnight. Sure you could think about doing it yourself. But it’ll be way cheaper on this bus and so much more fun to see with a group. And you never know what new things we’ll learn about each other on the way. See about getting off work that night, if you need to. More details on the bus will be forthcoming. I’m sure those who want to know, will know where to look. Never fear, we’ll share the info on this blog as soon as all details are confirmed. But – if you want to assure you get a seat on the bus, keep your eyes peeled to the usual suspect information resources: (Hint, Facebook, Twitter, blogs). If you’re not sure where to look, it’s time you started networking in the Lehigh Valley. There’s an amazingly treasure trove of creative people here – get out once in a while and discover them. For now, please consider blocking off the evening of July 21st and hop on the fun bus to New York.

Even if you chose to stay in town for the night – there’s still PLENTY of cool stuff happening in the Lehigh Valley.

~Silagh White, Director of Arts Engagement and Community Cultural Affairs

artist of the day #68: Shintaro Ohata

Many artist work in both 2 and 3-d but rarely do that work in both at the same time, and never have I seen it done as powerfully and seamlessly as with Japanese artist Shintaro Ohata. His vibrant sculptures meld so well with his lively paintings, it can often be hard to tell that they are separate. I would almost classify his work as being 2.5-d. Also, there is a real sense of warmth to his work. Ohata’s mastery at working with light really makes his pieces come to life.

The pieces are very emotional. He seems to often play with the theme of solitude. Many of the pieces depict one person in a great big busy city and almost never looking toward the viewer or anyone else in the painting. When there is more than one person, they aren’t relating to each other what so ever. The most interaction in any of his pieces is between a little girl and a cat. Also, as real as his pieces feel, he seems to want to play with some level of fiction and fantasy. A few of his pieces have characters that seem to be part animal, or some sort of new species. His work to me is playful yet highly emotional. Each piece comes off like a scene from a movie. And the designs of his characters seem to take influence from both Japanese cartoons and impressionist paintings. Even though they are sculptures they look as though they were made out of sploches of paint.

Unfortunately I can’t attest to what these are like to see n real person. They are currently exhibiting in Tokyo and I spent too much money on skee-ball and temporary tattoos to fly over and check it out. If they are this lively in a photograph, I am sure it is quite the sight in person.

Artist of the Day #59: Lori Nix

There is something playful about the work of Lori Nix that reminds viewers of 6th grade dioramas, but then there is certainly something sinister about the work that feels like it has slinked out of an episode of The Twilight Zone. With these two elements being so prevalent in her work, we are left with some interesting paradoxes. There is something precious and fragile about a tiny translucent deer sipping from a pond. Then you see that it is clear, not out of a touch of magic, but because it has been drinking from toxic waste infected waters, you begin to think twice about the meaning of the piece.

Throughout the body of Nix’s work she is dealing with some darker themes. One series The City, she imagines New York in a post natural disaster future. She shows natures triumph over our modern way of living. Perhaps it is a reminder that we don’t really need to watch our careless habits regarding the environment for nature’s sake, nature will be just fine, but if we’re not careful, we are the ones that are going to feel the whiplash.

One could definitely draw some parallels to another artist I wrote about a few weeks back, Slinkachu, as they are both dealing with a miniature world, but there are certainly some differences. Slinkachu deals with the relationship of a small world within a large one, Nix is attempting to create a small world all in its own right. She is creating every aspect of her photographs from the light source to the infinite backgrounds. Her pieces have a cinematic feel that instantly have one thinking about entire plots and the characters within it. Also, her work is different in that it can be enjoyed more easily in both the finished photograph and the finished installation. With Slinkachu, to see the original installation would be very difficult. Whether or not that makes the work of one more appealing than another might be more specific to the viewer.

Nix’s pieces have a cinematic feel that instantly have one thinking about entire plots and the characters within it. It makes you wonder if she wanted to be a set designer but just didn’t have the budget to work that big. It might seem tedious to work with a T-Rex skeleton that’s only 3 inches tall, but it would be just as tedious to come up with the several million it would cost to work with the real thing.