UMKC conservatory alumni inspired a captivated audience on Friday evening as they returned to grace the White Recital Hall stage.
The UMKC Conservatory Alumni Association hosted Return Engagement, showcasing the talents of five outstanding alumni. The concert offered current students the opportunity to see and hear from people who were once in their shoes.
The night got off to a lively start as ten BFA dance program alumni took the stage to perform Continuum (2018), a piece choreographed by former Kansas City Ballet dancer and 2007 graduate Molly Wagner. Set to music by Penguin Cafe Orchestra, the dancers moved and breathed with the sound filling the theater, inviting the audience to feel the music within them and setting the tone for a melodious evening.
Next on the program was pianist Sora Park playing Danzas Argentinas, Op. 2, composed by Alberto Ginastera in 1937. Park received her Artist’s Certificate from UMKC in 2015.
The piece was written as a set of three dances for solo piano. The first, dissonantly bitonal from the start, soon gave way to the second; a beautifully lilting legato. A surprising atonal chord led into the fast and furious third dance.
With a steady underlying rhythm, the piece brought to mind trains chugging down tracks or a bustling city scene. Park skillfully executed all three sections.
Bráulio Bosi, DMA, guitar performance, 2015, next took the stage playing three pieces by Brazilian artists. The first was Carimbó da Macaxeira (2014) by Salomão Habib. It incorporated interesting percussive aspects that Bosi created by striking the side of his palm against his guitar between chords.
His second piece, Xodó da Baiana by Dilermando Reis, had many notes painting a colorful melody that showed off the instrument. Last in his set was Lamentos do Morro (1950) by Garoto. This piece, a samba, seamlessly alternated between a big samba school sound and a quieter more intimate club feel.
Accompanied by UMKC assistant teaching professor Dr. Michelle Alexander on piano, Maria Kanyova, BME, choral, 1988, wowed the audience with a raw emotional performance of “There are no words…” from the opera Out of the Darkness (2016, rev. 2018) by Jake Heggie.
Dr. Kanyova, an associate professor of voice at UMKC, most recently starred as Krystyna Zywulska in the show’s world premier with the Atlanta Opera. The opera’s first act tells the true story of Zywulska, a political prisoner at Auschwitz concentration camp during WWII.
Kanyova’s beautiful soprano touched every heart in the audience as she portrayed Zywulska recounting her experiences.
Ending on a lighter note, Jim Mair, MA, music, 1990, closed the show playing saxophone accompanied by Mike Ning on piano. Mair’s first piece, Mandy’s Song, was written by him for his daughter. The playful jazzy tune put a smile on everyone’s face.
The second was composed by Ning and titled Blues for YP Ning and his Wife. As indicated by the title, this piece had a more bluesy vibe. Mair’s part on a sopranino saxophone created an interesting duet, sometimes echoing the piano and sometimes playing the melody right along with it.
The concert was followed by a reception giving current students and faculty the opportunity to meet and network with the performers.
The evening’s variety and talent effortlessly demonstrated why the Conservatory has been a source of pride for UMKC and the University of Missouri system for over 100 years.