Photo courtesy of Caitlin Kelly
It is a Tuesday night, and the hall-ways on the upper level of the Noble Center are relatively quiet, but just downstairs the Launders Under-ground is filled with people, and production assistants are setting up more chairs as I walk into the performance space at 8:00 p.m.
Students, alumni, and faculty gathered to see and hear St. Lawrence’s Rhythm and Roots ensemble present “Louisa & Friends,” described by the Facebook event as senior Louisa Stancioff ’s “senior concert/project/experiment of sorts.” The live performance was the culmination of months of work and rehearsal by the ensemble, Stancioff, and director and Associate Professor of Music Michael Farley.
The Rhythm and Roots ensemble creates a performance like this each year, and Stancioff has participated in them since her sophomore year. Each show is centered around a different theme based on the current music students. Last year, Farley suggested that they base this fall’s show around Stancioff as a singer and instrumentalist. “We try to build [these events] around people who are particularly gifted,” Farley explained at the beginning of the show. “I think you’ll see what I’m talking about tonight.”
The performers tackled a wide array of different numbers, not shying away from any genre – or topic. “St. Lawrence University does not condone the use of cocaine,” said Farley before the third number, “Tell it to Me” as performed by Old Crow Medicine Show, “but we’re going to sing about it anyway.” The audience was encouraged to join in on the chorus. Stancioff explained that she had to pick nine or ten songs from a list of hundreds that Farley sent her, most of which she said she had not heard of before. “It was quite an eclectic mix of music, and that was what we were going for,” she said. “We wanted lots of genres condensed into one wild show full of all kinds of instruments, musicians (both faculty and students), and sounds.” The performers moved from cocaine to Joni Mitchell to rumba to blues and all the way to an Eric Clapton and the Steve Winwood number – “Can’t Find My Way Home” – that elicited whistles and cheers from the audience.
The performers used an array of instruments to capture the many different music styles. These included tenor saxophone, guitar, congas, shekere, organ, cowbell, and more cowbell. Throughout the performance, Stancioff not only sang, but also played the banjo, the snare drum, and even the kazoo, explaining that they decided to incorporate the latter when she broke her hand in the middle of the semester and temporarily could not play the violin. The Friends included many other student musicians, including Max Maurer ’18 (who, we are told, is from Maine and likes long walks on the beach – at night) and José Miguel Santelices Ormazábal ’19, who sang lead voice on the Cu-ban rumba “Tenth World,” a piece that also featured what can only be described as a killer bongo solo by Wind Ensemble Director Kyle Tupper.
“I’m going to miss singing every single one of those songs. Especially the last one – Ricky Lee Jones’ ‘Juke Box Fury,’” said Stancioff, adding that she will also miss working with so many talented musicians. Ultimately, she said, “It was truly a spectacular experience.” The audience agreed, end-ing the night with resounding applause and a standing ovation.