GVSU undergraduate students perform in 'A Kurt Weill Cabaret'

By Tasman Mattox | 10/15/17 9:56pm

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GVL / Courtesy - gvsu.edu

With midterm season upon students at Grand Valley State University, a night out enjoying a live performance may offer a nice break. 

Students at GVSU are invited to attend the musical event “A Kurt Weill Cabaret,” hosted in the Betty Van Andel Opera Center, which will run from Thursday, Oct. 19, to Saturday, Oct. 21. The show will be directed by Dale Schriemer, professor and director of opera theater at GVSU, and performed by GVSU undergraduate students. 

The cabaret features the music of Weill, a Jewish composer who worked in Germany, France and the U.S. Weill fled Germany in 1933 under fire for writing music criticizing fascism.

“In France he wrote French music, and in America he wrote English-language music," Schriemer said. "Even though there was some difficulty in making the adjustment, he did. Kurt Weill morphed, chameleon-like, culturally, into different things.” 

Weill could be considered one of the most culturally influential composers of the 20th century. 

“Aaron Copeland talks about Kurt Weill having something so dark but yet at the same time so appealing, strangely appealing,” Schriemer said. “And if you’ve ever seen Sweeney Todd, there’s this darkness there, but it’s so appealing on some level. So certainly Stephen Sondheim, too, stands on Kurt Weill’s shoulders.”

Schriemer thinks the students will learn much from performing Weill’s music. 

“I think there’s going to be a greater and deeper understanding of fascism and how art can be related to culture in a very immediate sort of way,” he said. “He dealt with culture very close. It wasn’t this lofty idea; it was music for people to use.”

Amanda Haverdink, a GVSU senior, music education major and one of the cabaret performers, said she’s learned a lot from rehearsing the show.

“This process has taught me so much about taking risks and making the music your own," she said. "Everything you need is on the page—the notes, the rhythms, the words— ... but it is up to you as the performer to shape it and characterize it so the music speaks through you and your experience.” 

Schriemer wants to give the students confidence and satisfaction in their performances.

“Performers really learn by performing; it’s like a football team always practicing and never playing the game," he said. "There’s a whole world of a difference between those two things. It’s really important for me to get them on the stage. It forces them to learn. 

"They’re going to do it in front of people, and they want applause. The stage teaches better than I do.”

Assisting with this process was Michael DeVries, a Broadway performer who did a three-day residency at GVSU. 

“He held a master class with our cast, which gave us the opportunity to perform and gain feedback from him, and did one-on-one coaching sessions throughout his stay,” Haverdink said. “It was so beneficial to us as singers and actors to have insight from someone who has had a long and successful career in the industry.” 

Working with Schriemer is something Haverdink said she has greatly enjoyed.

“He has such a vision for each song in this performance, and he is able to really effectively communicate to the cast what it is that we're representing,” she said. “At every rehearsal, he pushes us to personalize our songs, evoke more emotion and make the performance as seamless as possible.”

The director wants this to be a beneficial experience for all the students.

“It is the greatest joy of my life,” Schriemer said. “I feel that I am so privileged to do something that I love, and the people that I’m doing it with love it as well.”

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