Sunday in the Yard with Art

by Victoria Aschheim

In a poem dedicated to Lillian and Meyer Schapiro (Meyer, of art history fame), Delmore Schwartz (MA from Harvard, and briefly, assistant professor of English composition at Harvard) described "Sunday's luxury," shown in Seurat's painting of Parisians at contemplative leisure on a Sunday afternoon on the Island of La Grand Jatte along the Seine in the 19th century. "What are they looking at? Is it the river? The sunlight on the river...or the luxury and nothingness of consciousness...the Sunday people are looking at hope itself," Schwartz reflects. Other more animated joys awaited the Harvard community on a sunny Sunday afternoon in and around Harvard Yard in the 21st century - on April 25, that is!On my way through Tercentenary Theater, I caught an impromptu performance by the Veritones, called Yard Jam, on the steps of Widener Library, in celebration of Admitted Students Weekend. After the concert concluded with a set of Backstreet Boys songs, members of the Veritones invited pre-frosh up to ask questions. I also joined the Veritones to talk about what performing for prospective Harvard students means to them. Risa Ward, alto and music director, remarked that the Veritones' pre-frosh performance is always one of her favorite times of year, garnering a "huge turnout." Soprano Christina Buckley, added that pre-frosh weekend is one of the "most exciting times to perform." The admitted students are "really receptive to a cappella," some of them having never heard that style of music before, at least not in such a momentous setting as the steps of Widener Library while at the cusp of their college careers. Indeed Jake Montgomery, an admitted student, told me he had never seen live a cappella, and that the Veritones, channeling a full band, sounded "just as good as if instruments were playing."Elliott Rosenbaum, baritone and assistant choreographer, explained that a cappella is "particularly and uniquely collegiate" and attracts pre-frosh as a "distinguishing element of the college experience." During the academic year the Veritones, along with other a cappella groups, give joyous concerts in Sanders Theatre. Tenor Bennet Caughey agreed that pre-frosh make some of the "best audiences." "No one loves a cappella as much as high school students; they are still fresh and really like" the sounds of the Veritones. You can hear the Veritones anytime at their official YouTube channel!Next, I joined the two harpists of the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra to attend a Sanders Theatre concert by the Boston Philharmonic, featuring Alberto Ginastera's Harp Concerto, Op. 25, performed by young soloist Gwyneth Wentink. Just before the concert started, I met music director Benjamin Zander running through some last-minute gestural flourishes in the Memorial Hall transept. He had led a pre-concert discussion about the program, which also included "Sensemayá" by Silvestre Revueltas and "The Rite of Spring" by Igor Stravinsky. Maestro Zander described the concert to me as "one of the Orchestra's best concerts yet," "full of life, vitality, and rhythm," with "a lot of kids" filling the audience, and the orchestra "in top form." A harmonius ending to a beautiful spring afternoon at Harvard with arts in the air.

[Caption: Widener Library adorned with the ARTS FIRST banner]

[Caption: Members of the Veritones (from left): Julia Rudolf '10, Morgan Mallory '10, Risa Ward '10, Christina Buckley '11]

[Caption: Veritones, Bennet Caughey '10 and Elliott Rosenbaum '13]

[Caption: Spring in full swing: a view of the Yard from the side of Widener Library]

[Caption: Benjamin Zander]

[Caption: Boston Philharmonic performing in Sanders Theatre]