MusicUNB ‘swoons’ audiences at Memorial Hall concert

MusicUNB hosted "Swooning at The Salons" in Memorial Hall at the University of New Brunswick on Sept. 25, 2022. (Ince Husain/AQ)

Light flooded through the stained glass windows of the University of New Brunswick’s Memorial Hall theatre on Sept. 25 as the sounds of opera, piano, violin and clarinet intermingled.

Poetry recitals premised the performances, preparing the audience for the opera moods.

“Why am I not a rose?” recited Sally Dibblee, conductor of the Fredericton Lady’s Choir and a fine arts professor at St. Thomas University, her voice a rich pre-opera current.

The stage cradled a piano, two armchairs and a table with a vase that held a single flower, setting the ambience of the MusicUNB concert Swooning at the Salons.

Dibblee describes the setting as “reaching back in time when music … was a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon.”

The music ranged from classical to romantic to modern.

MusicUNB hosted “Swooning at The Salons” in Memorial Hall at the University of New Brunswick on Sept. 25, 2022. (Ince Husain/AQ)

Nadia Francavilla took to the violin, Julien LeBlanc to the piano, and Dibblee sighed into song. Richard Hornsby held his clarinet, listening from the armchair next to the vase with its lone flower.

The concert also featured comedic pieces. One opera depicted discs being playfully thrown into the mouths of frogs; another, an operatic dialogue between Dibblee and Leblanc about a lady insisting that she wants her unborn son to be a musician.

Franciavelli’s violin commemorated compositions by women uncredited as composers in their era, her sound turning from sensitive to stern in unbroken notes scaffolded by piano.

When interpreting the characters in her operas, Dibblee lets her physical reactions to the piece guide her.

“I can’t express my secret thoughts – I made my own backstory for [the operas],” said Dibblee, referring to a piece by Louis Spohr.

“The pain and the anguish that was written right into these lyrics is astounding. It’s just such a representation of human emotion. In the right circumstance, it makes for a beautiful experience.”

She describes the audience as “small but appreciative”.

“I could hear lots of people [emit] little sighs at the end of pieces, and that always feels really nice,” said Dibblee. “We do our best to bring our audience into the world that we’re creating.”

Dibblee said she loves her life full of music.

“It’s an incredibly satisfying way to make a living,” said Dibblee. “It’s all about beauty and emotions. It’s a great life.”

Liv Gould, a second-year student at STU majoring in human rights with a minor in music, came to the concert as Dibblee’s voice student. She described the concert as “a rollercoaster from beginning to end” and resonated most with “the sad, romantic-type songs.”

“I definitely felt a variety of emotions from beginning to end,” said Gould. “There’s a lot of storytelling, for sure.”

Gould said her favourite thing about classical music is that it “take(s) you on a journey” and she considers it a familiar type of music.

“Classical music is in all the movies we watch growing up, it’s in our living rooms. It’s everywhere,” said Gould. “Seeing it live is a special experience.”