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Festival ‘Helps’ change music

The Robert Helps Festival at USF is a weekend of musical concerts, critiques and lectures, this year featuring renowned Dutch composer Louis Andriessen and Jonathan Howard Katz, winner of the Robert Helps prize.

Headlined by a multimedia-collaborated concert, “Late Night With Louis,” at 10 p.m. in Theatre 2, from the 80-year-old Andriessen – who occupies the composer’s chair at Carnegie Hall, the festival aims to change the way people view and hear classical music.

The festival, held from Friday to Feb. 18 at various locations on campus, will have nine concerts and a number of lectures and classes where people can learn more about the classical genre.

At his concert, Andriessen will share his piece, “M is for Man, Music, Mozart” along with a video by British film artist Peter Greenaway. Andriessen’s music is minimalist, making bold statements with as few notes as possible; The Los Angeles Times dubbed him a “rebel with a very large cause.”

“M is for Man, Music, Mozart” is comprised of four songs and three instrumental interludes tying together a common theme: humanity, said violinist and visiting professor Monica Germino. First came man, then through man came music and through these mediums came Mozart, she said.

“We are hoping that all the hipsters at USF will come out,” Germino said. “I am really bored with classical concerts where they come out, bow, play, bow and then some guy comes out and moves a stand.”

Monica Germino combines electric and traditional violins, aiming to create a unique performance. The New York Times has described her concerts as “viscerally thrilling … with an explosive energy.”

There is a misconception that classical performances are for older generations, Germino said, but they’re trying to change this. The festival seeks to do so with a “club atmosphere,” allowing the audience to relax, she said.

“My first goal is to play great music,” Germino said, “but my second goal is to break down that barrier between the audience and the performer.”

USF students will also be performing this weekend but not with traditional pieces. From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, student composers will showcase their work and compete for the Director’s Prize.

On Saturday at 8 p.m., students will also perform with music faculty and rising soprano star Mela Dailey.

Scott Kluksdahl, a USF cello professor and chair of the Robert Helps Festival, is one of the faculty performing. Eleven students from the cello studio will accompany him and Dailey.

“I think it is always good for students to see their teacher involved with the very same process that they are involved with on a day to day basis,” Kluksdahl said.

Their group will perform American and English songs for soprano and cello. The cellos will surround the audience rather than remain on stage, another effort to change the way classical music is performed, said Zachary Sherrin, a junior majoring in cello performance.

“We’re playing a piece on Superman and everyone knows who Superman is, and it’s not the typical orchestra (piece),” he said.

The concert will also feature “Metropolis Symphony” by Michael Daugherty, a constantly-moving piece that involves everything from whistles to electric violin.

When asked about what the concert represents, Kluksdahl said: “The people who make the sound, the people who created the sound – the people who hear the sound. It’s about making something new.”

Andriessen will also hold a lecture describing his life and career Friday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., as well as a class Saturday at 10 a.m. to critique student composers and guests.

“Each musician has their own experience and backgrounds,” Sherrin said. “Being able to learn what these people have learned is just fascinating.”

For more information and a full schedule of events, visit helpsprize.arts.usf.edu.