Orchestra performs for McCain series


Music is inspired from all around. From the place where one lives, to life experiences anywhere. It can take on any form or interpretation and paint a simple or complex picture.

This was the case in McCain Auditorium last night, as the Venice Baroque Orchestra and Robert McDuffie performed two interpretations of the well-known classic, “The Four Seasons.”

The show was the third in the 2010-2011 McCain Performance Series.

The Venice Baroque Orchestra, founded in 1997, is a world-renowned orchestra, known for its performances on period instruments, and McDuffie is a Grammy-nominated violinist.

“Le Quattro Stagioni,” or “The Four Seasons,” was written by Antonio Vivaldi, one of the most influential Italian composers of his time. It is the first four concertos from “Il cimento dell’armonia e dell’inventione,” or “The Contest between Harmony and Invention,” first published in 1725.

The orchestra performed the piece on period instruments, or instruments manufactured at the time the piece was written. The use of these instruments allows for the sound and texture the composer originally intended when writing a piece.

The second interpretation, “Violin Concerto No. 2,” or “The American Four Seasons,” was written by American composer Philip Glass especially for McDuffie in 2009. The musicians switched bows for the piece, and the harpsichord was replaced with a synthesizer.

“The most obvious difference to me was the presence of the electronic keyboard,” said Todd Holmberg, executive director of McCain Auditorium. “The Glass piece was just more hypnotic and intense. There was just a different feel to the music, it puts you in a totally different mood.”

“I was just impressed with the entire group. They were so silky smooth, precise and it’s just wonderful to see 18 of them still playing a chamber music style,” he said. “I was experiencing the music with every one of them because they were communicating the music with everybody on stage.”

Holmberg said when it came to comparing the pieces it was impossible, and the pieces were like apples and oranges. Audience members had their favorites though.

Manhattan resident, Louise Dilly, said she loved the Vivaldi repertoire, and found the period instruments a very interesting part of the show.

Eric Zoeller, manhattan resident, said he looked forward to “The American Four Seasons.”

“I’m a big fan of Glass,” he said.

To the musicians, however, there was no comparing. Instead they celebrated the music, and the picture it paints.

“They are two different pictures,” said Ivano Zanenghi, lute player for the orchestra. “When you picture Vivaldi you see the sea and Venice, and when you listen to Glass, you see the big land of America. It’s very different colors.”

Alessandro Sbragio, doublebass player, said when it comes to comparing the two pieces, it is difficult because they are from two different times.

“The technology takes one thing, and the poetry takes another,” he said.

While the music allowed for the demonstrations of the different cultures of the composers, the traveling behind the show has allowed for the musicians to experience firsthand the culture that inspired the music.

Zanenghi and Sbragio said they have been to America 11 times to perform, and said they have been able to learn more about the American culture each time.

“I love the American people because they feel free, they are curious,” Sbragio said. “They are big, enthusiastic about everything. They have a sense of democracy inside.”

Zanenghi described Italy as a very passionate, yet laid-back country.

“You can live, breathe the freedom in other ways and see the beauty,” he said. “The life is beautiful, we enjoy everything.”

With the differences and similarities between the American and Italian culture, Zanenghi and Sbragio said at the end of the day, the interpretation of music is all about how a person feels and what the music does for them.

“Music is like love, at the end it’s always the same thing,” Zanenghi said. “It depends what you feel, the emotion. When you give something you give all; this is the music.”

Debate between candidates muddies political party lines

Austin Enns staff writer

With a few ideological exceptions, the debate between the two 2nd Congressional District candidates from the House of Representatives served to show how similar the candidates were on many issues.

The debate was hosted by the League of Women Voters of Topeka and Shawnee County and filmed by KTWU, a Topeka TV station, which also provided a moderator. The League of Women Voters provided some of the questions for the debate, set up the format and screened the questions the audience wanted to ask the candidates.

Lynn Jenkins, Republican incumbent, won the coin toss, meaning Cheryl Hudspeth, Democrat challenger, gave the opening statements in the debate. From the very start, Hudspeth was on the offense.

“The incumbent Lynn Jenkins told us two years ago that she would be a spokesperson for our district; instead, she has followed the Republican leadership faithfully and voted against our economic interests at every opportunity,” Hudspeth said.

Hudspeth attacked the “Pledge to America” Republicans released several weeks ago, as well as their pledge to cut spending deficits by cutting social programs.

Jenkins was aggressive in her speech as well and asserted that since Democrats were in power, they should be responsible for the problems both candidates claim are crippling Congress.

“Twenty-one months ago when I was first sworn in to Congress, Washington was a mess under the watchful eye of President Obama and a Democrat-controlled Congress, it’s now a full-blown disaster,” Jenkins said. “As a CPA, it’s my professional responsibility to work toward balanced books. As a mother, it’s my duty to act. Decisions made today are hurting our children and their chance at the American dream.”

No question showed the ideological divide between the two candidates as much as the first one, which asked what programs they would cut in order to trim federal deficits.

Jenkins picked big government initiatives, like stimulus dollars and the new health care bill, as areas that could support a cut in funding. Hudspeth attacked the military industrial complex and said, besides reducing the defense budget, the U.S. needs to lessen spending levels in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Both candidates toed the party line on many issues, with Jenkins advocating smaller government and competition as the answer, while Hudspeth emphasized government’s duty to fix the educational system, build partnerships with the private sector to prevent outsourcing and the failure of the free market. Campaign finance reform was one area where Jenkins and Hudspeth did not have a party platform to rely on.

“It’s certainly eye-opening to run for office and see how corporate money flows into the campaign of candidates running for office, but it’s not going to happen from Congress,” Hudspeth said. “It’s up to Kansas voters to decide we’re not going to elect candidates who behave this way.”

After a quick rejoinder about the legality of corporate money, Jenkins said government should not regulate campaign finances; instead candidates need to be responsible when disclosing donations.

“My response is simply transparency and an open and honest government is the way to go,” Jenkins said. “Right now every campaign contribution that we get is recorded in a timely fashion for every American to go and take a look at, and I think that is the best way to do it.”

In the last half of the debate, there were many areas of agreement between the two candidates.

Immigration was the first subject in which a consensus was reached, and the two candidates agreed that businesses are ultimately responsible in preventing the hiring of illegal immigrants. Agricultural subsidies was another area of agreement as both Jenkins and Hudsp
eth said the subsidies were needed to keep a level playing field in international trade. Both candidates agreed that the U.S. needs to keep supporting Israel militarily, increase funding for alternative energy projects and impose sanctions on Iran.

But it was Jenkins’s agreement with Hudspeth on the topic of Social Security funding that caused the most murmurs. Hudspeth said that she would pledge to vote against any piece of legislation that cut benefits, raised the retirement age or tried to privatize Social Security “absolutely, unequivocally.” Jenkins was equally adamant about not changing Social Security.

“Look, we are not going to break promises to our senior citizens,” Jenkins said.

Not all the questions were about political issues, though; both candidates addressed Congress’s lack of bipartisanship.

“I think the first thing to do is quit locking committee doors,” Jenkins said. “I think Republicans, I don’t know if they operated that way when they were in charge but, if they did, shame on them.”

Jenkins added that she thought Republicans would “change the tone” in Congress.

Hudspeth blamed Republicans for the lack of bipartisanship.

“Ms. Jenkins has had two years to vote for reasonable bills, but she voted down over and over and over again,” Hudspeth said. “She is aligned on one side of the field with her team.”

Constituents can make their own decisions on Nov. 2.