When tenor Finn Segal took the hand of soprano Sofia Francis during a recent rendition of an aria from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, one audience member had seen enough.
“He’s cheating!” came the cry from the audience.
They had a point. Segal had just sung “La ci darem la Mano” from Mozart’s Don Giovanni with a different soprano: Tivoli Treloar. And Segal did embrace Treloar during their romantic rendition of the famous aria, which had elicited audible gasps throughout Schoenberg Hall.
So Segal’s holding hands with another soprano was too much for the audience of eight- to twelve-year-olds to bear.
On Friday, May 13, over 400 elementary, middle, and high school students packed into UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall to hear the Gluck Fellows Year End Showcase Concert. Students came from Highland Elementary, Beethoven Elementary, Brockton Elementary, Braddock Elementary, Emerson Middle, Venice High, and UCLA’s Horace Mann and RFK community schools. Seven different Gluck ensembles performed to an audience that adored and cheered them all the way.
The concert was made possible by the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music’s 27-year partnership with the Max H. Gluck Foundation. The Gluck Foundation’s mission is to bring music and the arts to underserved communities across Los Angeles. UCLA students apply to the Gluck Fellows Program for the opportunity to join one of the performing ensembles.
“It provides performances for the community, particularly in venues that might not otherwise have access to live music, such as low-income senior housing facilities and schools,” said Martin Hundley, community engagement programs manager at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. “At the same time, it provides financial support and community-based learning experiences for UCLA students.”
The Gluck Fellows Year End Showcase only features about half of the Gluck ensembles. All told, sixty-three Gluck fellows form sixteen ensembles—too many to play one concert. The repertoire chosen for the Showcase was targeted to the younger audience who would be attending.
The Gluck Saxophone Quartet performed animé music from Studio Ghibli. The Gluck Jazz Ensemble shared “Journey to the Firecaves,” an original composition by Gluck fellow and third-year undergraduate Colin McClure. This lively piece showcased an enthusiastic rhythm section supporting sonorous solos from trumpet and saxophones.
“The Gluck Fellows learn how to curate music for and engage with these specific audiences,” said Jan Berry Baker, saxophone professor, vice chair of the Department of Music, and faculty artistic advisor for the Gluck Fellows Program. “It’s a great opportunity for our students to learn about community engagement by performing and speaking in public as well as the power of music to affect societal change and joy.”
Baker noted that as entrepreneurs, performers, and teachers, it is imperative for musicians to practice the craft of curation. The Gluck program offers UCLA students the opportunity to share something truly meaningful with the greater Los Angeles community.
The musicians performing in the year-end showcase certainly knew how to play to the crowd. The Gluck Old Time Ensemble introduced fiddle tunes from Appalachia to Scotland while the audience gleefully clapped along. Children were invited to imagine themselves in a world of powdered wigs and colorful poofy dresses as the Gluck String Ensemble performed a Tchaikovsky waltz, the audience joyfully swaying back and forth.
But it was the Gluck Vocal Ensemble that scandalized the young audience. Tenor Finn Segal walked onto the stage, took a bow, then took the microphone and greeted the crowd. “We have two arias to sing for you today,” Segal told the audience, smiling mischievously as he spoke. “One is serious and the other is silly. Let’s see if you can guess which is which.”
Despite the gasps at seeing the singers hold hands and embrace on stage, the children had no trouble guessing that “P-p-p-papageno” from The Magic Flute was, in fact, the silly aria.
Closing the show was the Gluck Mariachi ensemble, which stepped onto the stage in their bright blue Traja de Charro apparel. They introduced their instruments and then launched into renditions of Son de la Negra and Caminos de Michoacan. The children cheered wildly, hands in the air, the scandal of tenor Finn Segal’s holding hands with two sopranos all but forgotten.