Soothing Sounds from Ladd and Thomas

Published 2 weeks ago -


Katherine O’Neil, Staff Writer

Just a man and his guitar. That is all that was needed to impress audiences Thursday, October 18th as Christopher Ladd took the stage in the Tsotsis Family Academic Center.

Now a world-renowned classical guitarist, it is hard to believe Ladd’s musical talents had humble beginnings.

“My parents were public school teachers, we really couldn’t afford to have lessons so it was really sit down with your favorite records and try to tear everything apart and break it down,” said Ladd.

Ladd, originally from Washington D.C., performed as a part of Assumption’s HumanArts Series during common hour.

Ladd was most recently a featured performer at the 2017 Sarajevo International Guitar Festival and has had appearances at the Vijećnica in Sarajevo, the DiMenna Center in New York City, the Viennese Opera Ball hosted by the Austrian Embassy, and the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.

Ladd opened the concert with “Magic Serenade” by Bryan Johnson, a slow paced, stunning introduction to the rest of the pieces. Ladd followed that up with “A Wisp in the Dark” by Frank Wallace and “Elegie” by Johann Kaspar Mertz. Ladd closed the show with “El Decameron Negro.” Composed by Leo Brouwer, the piece is based off of a collection of African folk tales.

Although Ladd has played all of the pieces before separately, playing all four of these pieces in one show was a new idea.

“I wanted to play a program that was all guitar composers and see how that felt, and it felt pretty good,” said Ladd.

Ladd has not played “El Decameron Negro” in quite some time and was happy to get to play it again. He regards it as one of his favorite pieces of all time.

The HumanArts performances are free to Assumption students and the public, which Ladd admires. He notes that if a school has the ability to provide free concerts to students, they absolutely should. Growing up around D.C., he wishes there had been free concerts.

“If there was a free concert at the Kennedy Center, I would have moved in,” said Ladd.

Ladd’s performance was met with thunderous applause.

“As a guitar player, it was a very new experience for me because I have never seen classical guitar live before, so it was very interesting” said Ryan Gadoury ‘19.

“I came just to enjoy it, I was a music minor in college..it did not disappoint,” said Professor Knurr.

Much like Chris Ladd, all Susan Knapp Thomas needed to silence the audience was her harp. Thomas came to campus Tuesday, October 23rd and played a handful of harp pieces.

Thomas is a widely respected harpist. She was the Acting Principal Harp for the Hartford Symphony from 2010 to 2014 and is now an Instructor of Harp and Chamber Music Coach for the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, Connecticut.

Thomas took time to speak to the audience and make sure they understood the harp as an instrument.

“This particular harp is a concert brand harp and concert brand harps have 47 strings and then there are big Lever harps that I mentioned in the beginning that range from 22 to 38 strings,” said Thomas.

Thomas opened the concert with “Black Orchid”, a piece by Christina Grix. She then moved on to “Three Lyric Pieces from Op.12” by Edvard. Grieg. After that Thomas played a piece called “Ganagobie,” which was inspired by a French monastery and was written by Bernard Andrew. Thomas mentioned that she always liked to play dance numbers in her concerts so she played “Canaries/Double de Canaries” by Francois Couperin, “Tango” by C. Salzedo and “Samba” by Bernard Andres.

Thomas finished the concert with more recent songs like “Eleanor Rigby” by the Beatles and “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran.

After the performance she spoke more to the audience about the harp. An audience member asked if the harp is an instrument primarily played by women. Thomas explained that there are more and more men playing each year, but yes women primarily dominate it.

For those who did not know, Thomas took time to explain how a harp works.

“It’s sort of like a piano, the lower octaves you play with your left hand, and the higher octaves you play with your right hand,” said Thomas.

Each string was also color-coded and that was for a specific reason. She needs to know what notes she is playing when she plucks a string.

“The reds are C and the F’s are black,” said Thomas.

Professor Clemente, Professor Graveline and Jacqueline Chlapowski are responsible for this year’s HumanArts performances.

Solo performers were given preference over groups, mainly due to time restrictions and focus was given to plucked instruments.

Professor Clemente noted that a good musical performer must have skills involving history, drama and mathematics. Offering these concerts blends well with the Liberal Arts curriculum Assumption offers.

“While we offer many courses pertaining to this, there is no replacement for live performance with its many visual signals and its potential for personal interaction between performer and audience,” said Professor Clemente. “Recordings simply cannot match this level of expression.”

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