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Students, professors anticipate return of annual Vivaldi at Powell performance

A student walks through the Rotunda of Powell Library. On Wednesday, the library will be the location of the Vivaldi at Powell concert event. (August Suchecki/Daily Bruin)

Vivaldi at Powell Music Concerts in the Rotunda

Powell Library Rotunda

May 4

8 p.m.

By Kevin Lin

May 3, 2022 5:29 p.m.

Musicians plan on decorating Powell Library with the sounds of spring.

On Wednesday, a group of UCLA chamber musicians consisting of a conglomeration of professors and students will play a series of pieces at the Powell Library, including “The Four Seasons” by composer Antonio Vivaldi. As the first performance after a year-long hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the musicians will welcome back the annual tradition that highlights UCLA’s first-year music performance students – and, due to COVID-19, this year’s sophomores are also performing. Violin performance professor Movses Pogossian said he believes this custom immerses the musicians in a positive musical environment where they can have fun with the notes.

“(From this event), what we noticed was how they (the first-year students) gained so much in confidence on a musical and human level,” Pogossian said. “They bonded among themselves, and they had also created a new level of trust between them and their teachers. It was definitely an idea that everyone wanted to continue, which we did every year since.”

Vivaldi at Powell was one of the events that first-year music performance student and violist Layla Shapouri looked forward to when coming to UCLA. Two years prior to landing at UCLA, she said she remembers attending one of the concerts and being drawn by the opportunity to play music accompanied by an ensemble rather than by a piano alone. She said what made the event special was the professors in the ensemble supporting their students as soloists.

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to go to UCLA yet, but I remember thinking the professors playing in the orchestral background was such an incredible opportunity,” Shapouri said. “ To have the opportunity to play with accompaniment that’s not just a piano is really incredible. I’ve never had the opportunity to do so and I’ve performed many times.”

[Related: UCLA PEER Lab to host symposium amplifying voices in musicology research]

In preparation for playing at Powell Library, first-year music performance student and violinist Rubani Chugh said generating sound in Powell is quite different from playing in a normal room. Due to the high reverberations of Powell, adjusting to the venue focuses on the nuances of generating sound through a violin to maximize clarity in a reverberant place, Chugh said. For example, Chugh said in the second movement of Vivaldi’s “Spring” where there is a slower melody, she uses vibrato, or the vibrating of the pitch, sparingly in order to hear the natural sound of the instrument.

“A lot of the time, you might not even have to vibrate (the pitch) so much because you want the whole ringing sound to come out,” Chugh said. “It felt really magical, just seeing how all the sounds blend together. The sound was ringing out of the echoes of the violin and was continuously resonating, which was really cool to play.”

For cello professor Antonio Lysy, the repertoire selected was intended to showcase the musicians’ talents by them being at the forefront of the music. Each of the three works, two of them being concertos, present themselves as solo works, and the musicians are accompanied by the ensemble of music faculty members, he said. These pieces are optimal for the event by being both virtuosic and also manageable for the first years while transitioning into a new college environment, Lysy said.

“(Vivaldi’s) “The Seasons” are all pieces that have a written poem that depicts the music, where each season has beautiful, bucolic references to Italian life during the season,” Lysy said. “It (Popper’s ‘Requiem’) has some gorgeous melodies, and you hear three cellos with the very unusual, dark, rich tone that they can make playing together. We also have a triple violin concerto by Vivaldi as well … it has very simple melodies that seemed to just work.”

[Related: Student Allie Schulz finds voice with self-produced EP ‘Flash Fiction’]

For this specific Vivaldi at Powell installation, Pogossian said he and his team decided to partner with Midnight Mission, a nonprofit that helps to combat homelessness, to make this event more than just a performance. As a head of the Los Angeles Chapter of Music For Food, an initiative through which musicians play music to raise awareness for food insecurity, Pogossian said he plans on donating the proceeds Vivaldi at Powell to Midnight Mission. Pogossian hopes his students form a core group that will be able to utilize their talents in order to contribute to the local Los Angeles community.

At the end of the day, Pogossian said he wants his students to realize that Vivaldi at Powell is a place for them to have fun with their music. Disregarding the pressures of playing in front of critics or jury members, Pogossian said the music these students play is much more than just the criticism they get. Ultimately, for Pogossian, the most important aspect of music is bringing positivity.

“Although they (the performers) are students at university, this is not an occasion to be judged,” Pogossian said. “This is an occasion just to share the joy of music and to remember that music totally can do wonders. They are bringing a lot of pleasure to the audience, and (I want) to have that kind of attitude towards the joy of performing.”

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