Arts & Life
The concert hall of the Houlihan-McLean Center held a diverse audience of students, faculty and local Scranton residents Feb. 4. They gathered to hear a performance by our new Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald R. Boomgaarden, Ph.D.
Keeping with its tradition of featuring great musicians on campus, The University’s Performance Music kicked off the Spring semester with a piano recital in which Boomgaarden played a collection of pieces composed by Frédéric Chopin, a Polish composer and pianist during the Romantic era. A distinguished historian of opera, music aesthetics and harmonic theory, Boomgaarden attended several prestigious universities, including the Eastman School of Music and Harvard University’s Institute for Management and Leadership in Education, before beginning his teaching career. Most recently, he was the dean of the College of Music and Fine Arts at Loyola
University New Orleans before his appointment as Provost at The University.
Having enjoyed an active career as a concert pianist, Boomgaarden gladly accepted the invitation from Cheryl Boga, musical director, to perform his own recital. On the night of the recital, he gave a brief introduction before sitting down to play on a historic Steinway B grand piano. His program included a collection of Chopin’s mazurkas, preludes, nocturnes and waltzes, which are some of Chopin’s shorter influential works. To begin, Boomgaarden tapped into his Czech heritage and played three of Chopin’s mazurkas, which he described as “the evocation of the world of folk music of Eastern Europe.” They were lively in tempo, like most folk dances, yet still classical and harmonic, nostalgic and beautiful.
“For Chopin,” Boomgaarden said, “I’m sure that many of these pieces are a way to connect and to live in that wonderful world of Polish charm.”
Of Chopin’s 24 preludes, Boomgaarden chose those that gave new meaning to the word “prelude” in music. While the term “prelude” often refers to an introduction, Chopin changed the prelude genre with these 24 individual pieces. They were brief, as preludes are, but nevertheless stood as whole, self-contained units. As Boomgaarden explained,“Chopin’s Preludes are not preludes to anything.”
Then followed a collection from one of Chopin’s popularly used genres, the nocturnes, which he composed 21 of during his career. A nocturne is usually a musical composition that is inspired, unsurprisingly, by the night.
For Chopin, the “idea of a great evening was to sit down in a salon and play some of these pieces,” Boomgaarden said.
He concluded with a performance of three of Chopin’s surviving 18 waltzes, five of which Chopin wrote as a child. Despite popular opinion of a waltz, Chopin’s waltzes contained many variations in tempo and Boomgaarden assured the audience that trying to dance to them is very difficult.
The audience’s energy prompted Boomgaarden to encore with a rendition of Louis Armstrong’s “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans” because he lived in New Orleans for five years. Boomgaarden then joined members of the audience to discuss the performance and sign autographs for fellow admirers of Chopin’s works. The University is grateful for Boomgaarden’s eloquent presentation of Chopin’s compositions and for shedding light on the beauty and complexity of the works of this renowned genius musician of the Romantic era.