Very few times do the likes of Mozart, Bach and Grieg find themselves on the same program as traditional folk songs or jazz standards. Sunday, Miami University’s Morpheus Chamber Ensemble seamlessly pieced together a performance integrating these varied styles.
Morpheus, now in its fifth year, was founded by Miami music professors to provide another performance opportunity for strings students.
Morpheus is traditionally a string orchestra, complete with violin, viola, cello, and string bass. In certain circumstances, other instruments join the group as guests. This past Sunday a harpsichord, oboes and French horns joined the fray.
Mary Harris, professor of viola, was one of those professors and is still coaching and performing with the group.
“[Morpheus] provides a very different orchestral setting,” Harris said. “It is a vehicle for working on different styles of music, and we perform a wide range of music.”
Morpheus also acts as a recruiting tool, giving prospective high school strings students a chance to come and work with students and faculty. Sunday’s concert allowed select students to get a taste of Miami.
Sophomore Alex Port, a music education student on violin, came as a high school senior to perform with Morpheus. “That weekend and performance was a big factor for my decision to come to Miami,” Port said. “It was a blast.”
“Sunday’s program provided a walk through music history,” violin professor Harvey Thurmer said.
The concert started with the well-known J.S. Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 3. The small string orchestra, complemented with harpsichord, displayed excellent ensemble awareness. Instrument balance was well-done throughout, and the rhythmic motif breathed with ease.
After a simple yet powerful harpsichord cadenza, a quick inhale by the group provided the impetus needed to end the concerto. Engaging rhythmic precision provided an excellent opening to the concert.
Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante featured professors Thurmer and Harris, in addition to a full group of students including the addition of the oboes and French horns. The light, bouncy, yet full sound gave the traditional Mozart feel. The balance, particularly between the strings and winds, was perfected and performed at ease.
Prospective high school students joined Morpheus for Grieg’s Holberg Suite. The five dances of this suite were of all different styles. The group utilized dynamics, much to the delight of the listener, to keep the flow of each movement.
The finale of the concert was Deer in the Headlights, a traditional folk fiddle tune arranged for string orchestra. The rhythmic pleasure evident throughout fiddle tunes was present and playful.
The quick ending, complete with an emphatic up-bow from the violins and violas, supplied the perfect conclusion to the performance. Sunday’s concert was no exception in providing a high quality and exciting musical opportunity for Miami students and prospective students alike.