Artists of I-House Shine in Virtual “Salon Sundays”
Updated to include the “Salon Sunday” event held on May 23, 2021.
On April 11, 2021, International House introduced a new virtual event for the delight of alumni and residents. Scores of participants gathered online on a Sunday afternoon for a twist on the traditional “Salon Night,” one of the numerous cultural events that I-House produces each year. These events typically are held onsite and open only to current residents and nearby alumni. With the pandemic curtailing all in-person events at the House, I-House pivoted to virtual programming and took the opportunity to invite alumni from across the world to participate. The resulting Salon Sunday was a wonderful showcase of the exceptional talent that can be found across the global I-House community.
Croatian pianist Javor Bračić ’12 initiated and produced this event after performing at a virtual I-House alumni reunion hosted by I-House and the New York Area Alumni Chapter (NYAAC) earlier in the year. With support from the I-House team, Bracic hosted the pilot event from his home in New York City.
Opening the program was Vlada Vassilieva ‘10, from Mexico, who played Beethoven’s “Andante Favori” in celebration of the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Next, Czech mezzo-soprano Pavlina Horakova ‘11 joined from Prague and sang a composition inspired by a Czech folk song. From New York, Canadian pianist Bryan Wagorn ’12 played a prelude by Chopin that conveyed the late composer’s yearning for expression during his solitary convalescence. Canadian clarinetist Christine Carter ’11 presented a synchronized recording she had made with her collaborators in The Iris Trio—Molly Carr on viola and Anna Petrova on piano—as the latter two performed from Kentucky.
Bračić was the next to perform. He prefaced his musical selection with a reflection on how the pandemic had affected his creative process in a surprising way, and shared some joyful news from the past year. He then played an exuberant rendition of Debussy’s “L’isle Joyeuse.” Exhilarated and breathless from his performance, he then introduced the next artist. Current I-House resident Ethan Fisher greeted everyone from a practice studio at the Manhattan School of Music. He played the vibraphone, accompanied by Brandon Choy on trumpet. While enjoying the magic of this improvisational jazz collaboration, attendees marveled at the way Choy was managing to play the trumpet through his mask.
The next performance brought attendees back to Canada, where German-born Florian Hoefner ’11 presented a video of “The End of the Tunnel” by The Florian Hoefner Trio, featuring himself on piano in Canada, Sam Anning on bass in Australia, and Peter Kronreif on drums in New York.
While each performance was stellar, the ensembles especially were testament to the tenacity and professionalism of these I-House alumni. The artists recounted their process for preparing for the event. As the pandemic continued to restrict the ability for musicians to play together in person, they would send each other recordings of their respective pieces, to practice by or to complement one another; in fact, Horakova’s vocal performance was accompanied by a pre-recorded track from Bračić .
The final piece was a video production entitled “Brown Sounds,” featuring mezzo soprano Raehann Bryce-Davis ’13 performing a composition by Ayanna Witter-Johnson ’11. The title and lyrics had come from a poem by the late African American writer Henry Dumas. A lush and soulful sensory experience, the video premiered with the LA Opera in March 2021 and has since won numerous awards and acclaim from international film festivals.
Despite the normal challenges with the virtual production and digital technology, the event was a great success, offering participants the immediacy and transcendence of live performance, and evoking for all the power of gathering in community—a true celebration of the I-House Spirit.
Building on the success of its initial outing in April, International House held a second virtual Salon Sunday on May 23, 2021, featuring live and pre-recorded performances by I-House alumni:
- Bogdan Dulu ‘10 played various pieces on the harpsichord with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
- Avner Finberg ‘12 performed “Sirens” on the violin accompanied by an electronic soundscape.
- Emily Joy Sullivan ‘13 shared about her time with the I-House choir and presented “Solstice,” her original composition of electronically manipulated acoustic sounds.
- Mike Boyman ‘14 debuted an original composition entitled “Seeking Solace” to express his experience of the pandemic, which included joyful times as well as challenges. Javor Bracic performed the piano composition.
- Sarah Sommer ‘11 gave a reading of her children’s picture book, The Goose on the Roof. A clarinetist when she was a resident, Sommer described how she shifted her career, taking a leap of faith with good results.
- Paulina Simkin ‘12 described how she had shifted to acting during her time I-House and how the pandemic reconnected her to piano. Her performance combined piano and voice in a medley of “La Vie en Rose,” “Moon River,” and “Moonlight Serenade.”
- Vlada Vassilieva ‘10 shared a recording of herself performing an energetic and original piano arrangement by and with Anatoly Zatin, her husband and creative partner in their ensemble, Duo Petrof.
Alumni artists from all years who would like to participate in future Salon Sunday events are welcome to contact Javor Bračić directly.
(Pictured at top: Bogdan Dulu with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra)