Naomi Oliphant expects to be a little emotional when she first tries the keyboard of Georgetown College’s new Steinway Concert Grand Piano about an hour before the free concert she and tenor Daniel Weeks will play on Sunday (Sept. 27). Both the prized instrument and this fall’s five-concert series are named for the late Stephen Tilford, a former undergraduate student of hers at the University of Louisville – and later a beloved professor of piano at Georgetown who died at age 40 in 2006 from colon cancer.
“I was really close to Stephen,” said Oliphant, who had him at U of L for piano ensemble, piano pedagogy and Baroque Keyboard Literature in the mid-Eighties. Weeks and Tilford crossed paths at Florida State University after that when both were working on advanced degrees.
“When I first sit at the piano,” she continued, “I think it will be a bittersweet moment….realizing that the piano is in memory of Stephen who was taken from us at far too young an age, but also recognizing the fact that the presence of the Tilford Piano will mean others will come to know about Stephen in the future.”
By 3 p.m., when Oliphant gives sound to the Steinway Grand (Model D), she hopes the John L. Hill Chapel audience will celebrate how her former pupil and friend is being honored. “That we’ve lost Stephen is very sad…but, look at the positive – something wonderful has come out of it,” she said.
This second event in the Stephen Tilford Memorial Concert Series will include works by Handel, Brahms and Liszt (see complete program below).
The Tilford Piano is also featured in the two concerts that follow: Oct. 11, four pianists – Michael Potapov, Ruth Reid Tompkins, Caleb Richie, and Elizabeth Wolfe; Reid Tompkins and Wolfe were both classmates of Stephen’s, and Potapov ’05 and Richie were his students. Nov. 8 – Mami Hayashida, Assistant Professor of Music (piano) at Georgetown College, and her husband, Daniel Mason, Professor of Violin and Head of the String Department at the University of Kentucky as well as Lexington Philharmonic concertmaster.
The series also celebrates the new Osborne-Tilford Family Organ – a Johannus masterpiece, made in Holland to the specifications of Daniel Tilford, father of Stephen. Concert organist Chris Oelkers opened the series Sept. 20 and organist Glenna Armstrong Metcalfe ‘85, the current organist/choir director at Georgetown’s Faith Baptist Church, will have the finale Nov. 15.
Sunday’s concert will be the 70th-plus time Weeks and Oliphant have performed together in the 10 years they have combined their talents. Here, Oliphant recalled some of their favorite moments in an e-mail:
“I think some of our most memorable have been those we’ve given on the three European tours we’ve undertaken so far. European audiences are so supportive of classical music concerts, and it has been so exciting to perform in beautiful halls, so full of history, that are packed with enthusiastic listeners.”
“We both love to travel, and through out travels we have met some wonderful people and learned so much about music traditions in other countries. After our 2008 performance at the Brno Conservatory in the Czech Republic, we were taken on a very cold and snowy January day to the Brno cemetery to see the graves of famous Czech composers. It meant so much for us to pay homage at the grave of Viteslava Kapralova, the most important 20th century Czech woman composer whose song cycle, “Navzdy” we had performed on our recital program.”
And, here’s what Oliphant would have the audience play particular attention to on Sunday:
“The ‘Three Browning Songs’ by Amy Beach are included on our CD, ‘Women of Firsts’ which was recorded earlier this year. Amy Beach was the first important American female composer of the 20th century. She was writing at a time when it was still not considered “appropriate” for a woman to have a performing career. In fact upon her marriage, her husband made the decision that she would leave the concert stage and she turned instead to composition, producing a large body of repertoire. After his death, she quickly returned reestablished her performing career, and truly overcame the gender issue by achieving an international reputation as a pianist and composer of music heard frequently on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Her music is not at all “feminine”! Using rich harmonies and lush textures consistent with late-Romantic music, she wrote music that was emotionally charged. The technically brilliant piano parts not only supported the human voice, but also more importantly set the mood.”
“Also on our program will be Brahms’ ‘Acht Lieder und Gesange von G. F. Daumer.’ The deeply felt poems surely made Brahms think of Clara Schumann, for whom he had a profound affection.”
Oliphant still has vivid memories of the memorial service in Hill Chapel for Stephen Tilford in ’06: “I don’t think I will ever forget Stephen’s coffin being wheeled down the aisle of your chapel after his service….while we listened to a recording of him performing. What a wonderful last memory for us to have!”
Below is the full Sept. 27 program – with much potential for new memories.
Daniel Weeks (TENOR)
Naomi Oliphant (PIANO)
- Two London Arias G.F.Handel (1685-1750)
- Alzo al volo from Radamisto (1720)
- Pastorello d’un povero armento from Rodelinda (1725)
- Lieder und Gesänge, Op. 57 Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Von waldbekränzter Höhe • Wenn du nur zuweilen lächelst • Es träumte mir
Ach, wende diesen Blick • In meiner • Nächte Sehnen
Strahlt zuweilen auch ein mildes Licht • Die Schnur, die Perl and Perle
Unbewegte laue Luft
- Three Browning Songs Amy Beach (1867-1944)
The Year’s at the Spring • Ah Love but A Day • I Send My Heart Up to Thee
- Pace non trovo from Tre sonetti di Patrarca Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
- To Julia, Op. 8 Roger Quilter (1877-1953)
The Bracelet • The Maiden Blush • To Daisies • The Night Piece • Julia’s Hair
- Homenaje a Lope de Vega, Op.90 Joaquín Turina (1882-1949)
Cuando tan hermosa os miro • Si con mis deseos • Al val de Fuente Ovejuna
Weeks and Oliphant on CD
Their first CD together entitled Women of Firsts: A Recording of Art Songs by Lili Boulanger, Amy Beach, Grażyma Bacewicz and Vítězslava Kaprálová was released on the Centaur Records label in December 2008. The CD showcases Art Songs of women composers who were the first in their respective countries to achieve national and international recognition for their compositions.