This Saturday, various music groups will join forces to perform a concert titled “Parfum de la nuit,” the first Yale Symphony Orchestra concert of the semester. The Yale Glee Club, Yale Camerata and soprano soloist Laura Nielsen MUS ’20 will join YSO to feature the works of Emmanuel Chabrier, Camille Saint-Saëns, Claude Debussy and Francis Poulenc Saturday night in Woolsey Hall.
“Parfum de la nuit” — which roughly translates to “the perfumes of the night” — will include music by exclusively French composers, which is “a little bit different” for the YSO, according to co-president and oboist Laura Michael ’20. The main piece for the concert, Poulenc’s “Gloria,” was decided by YSO Director Toshiyuki Shimada — who is on leave for this academic year — Yale Camerata Director Marguerite Brooks and Glee Club Director Jeffrey Douma last year. The interim YSO conductor William Boughton later designed a French-themed program around this piece. According to Michael, student musicians received the choice as a welcome change of pace.
“The French music we’re playing at this concert, especially the Poulenc, it kind of has a sense of humor to it,” Michael said. “You can have a sense of humor about the heftiness.”
The Glee Club will accompany the orchestra for two pieces, including Debussy’s “Trois Nocturnes,” which features a chorus of women during its final movement, titled “Sirens.”
The collaboration between YSO and the Glee Club is a long-standing tradition, but usually occurs only once a semester.
This time, the concert will also feature a soprano soloist from the School of Music. Nielsen had never worked with the YSO previously, but began rehearsing with the orchestra on Monday. She said that she was immediately “floored” and “blown away” by the students’ professionalism and talent.
Nielsen said that the music selection for this concert is difficult but exciting. She has sung works by Poulenc before and is looking forward to performing his music with YSO.
“Poulenc’s musical language in his choral works is enigmatic, idiosyncratic and highly original, embracing bold contrasts and traversing a huge range of emotion from awe to terror to reverie to giddy playfulness,” Douma said.
Douma added that Poulenc’s music is often demanding on the performers. The “individual voice leading and harmonic language” in Poulenc’s music pose challenges for its singers, Douma noted.
“But in the end [“Gloria”] is an enormously rewarding. entertaining and moving piece to sing and to hear,” Douma said.
More than half of the concert will be conducted by YSO members Henry Shapard ’20 and Ian Niederhoffer ’19, the ensemble’s student conductors. Both students joined YSO as musicians — Shapard on cello and Niederhoffer on viola — but have studied conducting throughout their times at Yale.
“It’s such a gift to stand in front of them,” Shapard said. “It’s an extraordinary privilege.”
Shapard said that the pieces he will conduct in Saturday’s concert, including the “Danse Macabre” of Saint-Saëns, are “recognizable,” which can cause the audience to lose interest.
He said that he will work to highlight the “textures” that are layered in the music in order to keep the audience engaged throughout the performance.
“If anyone comes to the performance who’s never heard the music before, I hope that they can fall in love with the music just like we did,” Nielsen said.
The performance will take place this Saturday in Woolsey Hall at 8 p.m.
Lindsay Daugherty | firstname.lastname@example.org