In collaboration with Rice University's ENGL 397, "Capturing Music: A Cultural Writing Clinic" taught by professor Sydney Boyd, Ars Lyrica Houston recently hosted a creative prose writing competition. Dr. Boyd's course was created with a goal: To discover the cultural role that classical music plays in Houston. Over the course of a semester, students attended a diverse array classical music concerts that reflect the diversity that is Houston's classical performing arts scene.
Students from ENGL 397 attended Ars Lyrica's most recent "Italian Sirens" concert and were given a writing assignment to capture Italian Sirens in 400 words. The winning entry was selected by a panel inclusive of Ars Lyrica staff, board members, and Artistic Director.
We are excited to announce our winner, Lydia Dick, and share her insightful entry. Please see the winning entry & biography of the author below!
My mother loves Baroque music. When I was a young girl, she would force me into my patent leather Mary Janes and drag me to local performances. I remember sitting in a crowded church pew surrounded by wrinkly patrons who would grin down at me and pinch my cheeks. “So nice to see someone so young appreciating this beautiful music!”, they would say. ‘Appreciating’ is a strong word, I would think as I filled my programs with doodles. I hated the smell of mothballs and soap, the indecipherable lyrics in foreign tongues, and the bald head inevitably obstructing my view of any of the performers. These associations left me with an immediate aversion to harpsichords, lutes, and any other Baroque sounds.
So, it was with some trepidation that I attended Sunday evening’s performance of Ars
Lyrica’s Italian Sirens. As I entered Zilkha Hall and sat at a mezzanine seat with impeccable sight lines, it was clear right away I was in for an entirely different experience. From the stage festively lit up with the colors of the Italian flag, to the feather boas they were handing out during intermission, it was clear that Ars Lyrica’s intention was to make listening to 17th and 18th century music fun, not didactic.
The program selection gave me an entirely new appreciation for Baroque lyricism. Phrases such as “I want no one else with me apart from a cold cliff and my fated death,” in Lasciatemi Qui Solo, transported me from the concert hall to a woman’s suffering as she contemplates her suicide above the ocean’s craggy rocks. Others like “I do not know if that smile mocks me or confides in me,” in Non sò se quell sorriso surprised me with their relevancy in my own life almost four centuries after they were written. As each new phrase struck me with a wave of imagery and emotion, my appreciation grew for not only the lines of music, but also the musicianship of the performers that magnified the subtleties of the words’ meanings.
I can no longer say that I cringe at the sound of the harpsichord. Instead, I think of it as a means of transportation to a time where people were just as inclined to express their emotions through music as we are today. Next time my mother visits, I’ll ask her to strap on her Mary Janes and we can enjoy a Baroque performance together.
About the Author:
Lydia Dick is a senior at Rice University majoring in Cognitive Sciences. Growing up, she was lucky to have lots of exposure to music outside of the concert hall. She and her two siblings studied violin together as well as voice. Lydia now manages a student-run bike shop at Rice and enjoys biking to art museums, used bookstores and concerts in her spare time.