Women’s History Month kicks off with ‘Aletheia’ performance

Categories:  The Arts    Music
Wednesday, March 7th, 2018 at 5:25 PM
Women’s History Month kicks off with ‘Aletheia’ performance by Livia Homerski
Contributed Photo

World famous musician and professor Abbie Conant performed her instrumental musical theater piece “Alethia” on Feb. 28 in Edinboro University’s Cole Auditorium. 

She has been touring across 28 cities in the United States performing “Aletheia.” Organized by Dr. Daniel Burdick of the Edinboro music department, this show was both an installment for the Edinboro University Chamber Players Concert Series and Edinboro University’s celebration of Women’s History Month. 

Conant wrote “Aletheia” as well as played trombone, sang and acted in the piece. Her husband, William Osborne, also helped write, direct and compose the piece, along with designing the set and sound. 

Conant faced years of reported sexism in the orchestral world, which has been documented in publications such as The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Blink.” She proved victorious after earning the position of principal trombone in the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, a prestigious German symphony orchestra, which has been active since 1893. Osborne has also written many articles on music sociology and women in music specifically, which has garnered national and worldwide attention through NPR, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and MSNBC. For more information on Conant and Osborne, you can visit their website, osborne-conant.org.

The show outlines the story of an opera singer named Aletheia who is preparing to sing at an opera house gala in rundown Detroit. She is watching the attendants of the gala from her window, and as she watches, she finds herself unable to move. Aletheia cannot shake the dread that overcomes her at the thought of performing and feels as though she’s trapped in a cage, which she quite literally was on stage. 

Conant stands inside the wire frame of an Iron Maiden with an ominous mask at the top, which she gestures to several times during the show. She does not leave this cage for the entire performance, which is not an issue, as the cage seems to be equipped with everything she needs. The small bins hanging off the side of the Iron Maiden contain items such as makeup, perfume and a cell phone in which she tries to phone character Jeremy, who does not return her calls. 

She utilizes these props throughout the performance, which makes “Aletheia” a musical theater experience rather than just a concert.

As Conant vocalizes the feelings of Aletheia in an operatic vocal style, the accompanying piano twinkles along, the notes ascending and descending with every line Conant sings. There are other ambient noises played along with the piano, such as the wind, as she comments on the wealthy patrons in the courtyard below. Conant also plays the trombone that rests just outside of her cage when words can no longer suffice and music must portray Aletheia’s monologue. There is a moment where a women’s choir sings, portraying a turn in the story. 

The show is meant to explore the literal and metaphorical “cages” that women find themselves locked in. According to the accompanying playbill for the performance, “The word ‘Aletheia’ is one of several ancient Greek words for truth and roughly means ‘creating a space where truth can appear.’” Conant’s transcendent performance is locked into a space of “truth” where she comments on constructs of beauty, worth, madness, performance anxiety and independence. 

In addition to the performance of “Aletheia,” Conant also taught a euphonium master class critique session on March 1 for students in the Edinboro music department. 

Although “Aletheia” launched the university’s Women’s History Month, there will be 20 other events throughout the month of March in celebration of the achievements of women across cultures, time periods and professions. 

Next up for the Edinboro University Chamber Players Concert Series is Amber Shay Nicholson on April 23. 

This will be a free performance taking place at the Blasco Memorial Library at the Erie Bayfront.

Livia Homerski can be reached at ae.spectator@gmail.com.

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