Classical performance “2 x 2” shines in Schwarzman Dome
Last week, Jun-Davinci Choi and Nicole Lam directed two classical music showcases under their Creative and Performing Arts project “2 x 2.”
Courtesy of Kris Aziabor
This past week, Jun-Davinci Choi ’23 and Nicole Lam ’25 directed two showings of their classical performance, “2 x 2.”
The showings, hosted by the Schwarzman Dome, involved a vocal and instrumentalist ensemble that performed songs and spoken word ranging from Robert Frost’s “Choose Something Like A Star” to Arnold Schoenberg’s “Notturno for Harp and Strings.”
“Nicole and I had worked on some musical theatre projects (Word Nerd and A Chorus Line), through which we recognized that there was a surprising lack of student-run classical music projects that combined vocal and instrumental performance on campus,” Choi told the News in an email. “Especially given the abundance of vocal and instrumental talent on campus.”
Choi and Lam hand-picked both the vocalists and instrumentalists — which involved a sextet of violinists, violists, a cellist and a piano player — for the program through connections previously made within Yale’s musical groups.
“We had three to four vocal rehearsals and two orchestral rehearsals before Thanksgiving break and a dress rehearsal during the week of performances,” Choi explained. “I’m known for my preference of short and compact rehearsal schedules.”
Both performances shined in Yale’s Schwarzman dome, a rotunda space frequently used for arts projects on campus. Choi and Lam chose the space particularly because of its unique acoustical properties and reserved it through Yale’s Creative and Performing Arts application.
“I had a meeting with Dean Krier for administrative and logistical questions regarding the Berkeley College Orchestra when I was informed that the dome would be opening to two student projects this semester,” Choi said. “I was interested in how the blend of vocal and instrumental sounds would work there.”
The lighting for “2 x 2,” managed by Lam, also added to the experiential nature of the performance: at times, the room grew pitch black, held only by warbling basses or sopranos, to bounce alive again with flashes of orange and yellows. The audience seating arrangement was also decidedly experiential: Choi and Lam placed certain spectator seats next to vocalist and instrumentalist seats for a more immersive experience.
Their program title, “2 x 2,” referenced the multiple dualities within the piece: two musical directors, two ensembles, and two nights of showcases. These couplets became apparent to the musical directors from the beginning, they explained toward the end of Friday night’s showcase.
“The theme of duality has always existed within 2 x 2 since the beginning,” Lam told the News in an email. “We wanted to take all these dualities and combine them into a holistic, artistic experience.”
Choi and Lam, in addition to conducting the entire performance, occasionally recited spoken word between sections of strings or vocals. Among them were 20th-century poems by Herbert Howells and Edward Elger and a 18th-century Latin poem by Giovanni Pergolesi. These, combined with the echoing music and brilliant lighting, tugged at a range of senses and emotions throughout the show.
“I really liked that it was a smaller, more intimate performance,” audience member Quinn Murphy ’25 said. “The biggest thing I took away was an appreciation for the people at Yale. On a random Thursday night, I can go to a small performance and hear such incredible music live.”
The Schwarzman Dome is open for reservations year-round. Its Creative and Performing Arts projects typically debut within the last two weeks of each semester.