By Michele Tallarita ’12
Shannon Moran ’14 (Levittown, N.Y.) knew she wanted to research a gifted composer for her honors thesis in music. She didn’t imagine she’d get to write about one spending a large portion of the year on campus.
Moran is conducting her project on Gabriela Lena Frank, a Grammy-nominated and Latin Grammy-winning composer and pianist, who is serving a yearlong residency at Lafayette.
Frank’s visit includes an interdisciplinary arts symposium, master classes, and visiting classes to discuss artistic creation.
“This is something I could only do at Lafayette,” says Moran. “Students at other schools might have a big speaker on their campus, but they don’t get to meet them and talk to them.”
Moran has chosen to analyze the 35-minute major work Frank is composing for choir (Lafayette Concert Choir and Chamber Singers, along with the Concord Chamber Singers), two vocal soloists, two pianos, and a string quartet. The work, which will premiere April 13 at Lafayette’s Williams Center for the Arts, is inspired by the poetry of Nicaraguan poet Pablo Antonio Cuadra as he describes life at sea through Nicaraguan folklore, in a fashion similar to Homer’s Odyssey.
“I’m going to analyze the new music in terms of creative process, from the viewpoint of a performer, since I’ll be performing the work as a member of two different choirs,” says Moran.
Moran and Frank are discussing the composer’s process of putting poetry to music. This intersection of music and literature makes Frank’s work of particular interest to Moran, who majors in both disciplines.
“I’m not coming at it from one perspective,” she says. “I’m coming at it as a musician, as a reader, and as a lover of poetry.”
Moran first encountered Frank’s work while doing EXCEL Scholars undergraduate research with Jennifer Kelly, associate professor of music and director of choral activities, who is advising her thesis. Moran helped with Kelly’s book, In Her Own Words: Conversations with Composers in the United States.
Franks’ residency is part of a series of arts-related events and activities supported in large part by a portion of the grant the College received in 2011 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to infuse the arts into the curriculum.