Singers perform poetry in 'Matchbook'

Tyler Stauffer photo: Sophomore Sara Maitland performed Tyler Stauffer photo: Sophomore Sara Maitland performed “Reubenesque.”

This past Friday, the Erie community gathered for a collaborative performance of original poetry and classical music compositions.

“Matchbook: An Evening of Poetry, Music, and Song” began at 8 p.m. in a well attended Walker Recital Hall to an eager audience.

Sponsored by the Poet Laureate Initiative of Erie County, the concert featured the poetic work of Beth Gylys set to the musical compositions of Dan Welcher.

Gylys, an award-winning author and English teacher at Georgia State University, formerly served on the faculty of the English Department at Mercyhurst.

The concert began with a welcome and introduction of Gylys by her husband, Thomas Forsthoefel Ph.D., a Mercyhurst professor of religious studies and the 2010-11 Poet Laureate of Erie County.

Gylys read a selection of her additional poetic work prior to the actual “Matchbook” performance commenced.

The poetry in her chapbook “Matchbook” became the inspiration for Friday’s song sequence.

Gylys says she “had always had a fascination for the concept of personal ads in which people would summarize themselves and what they were all about in a few, short sentences.”

When making her “Matchbook,” Gylys thought of every individual’s personal ad as a character and wanted to bring that character to life in their poem or in this case, their poetic song.

The poetic song came to life through the dynamic performances of singers from the D’Angelo Department of Music under the direction of Louisa Jonason.

The student performers included Andrea Baker, Sara Maitland, Brittany Barko, Katie Wagner and Nathan Stern.

After seeing her peers perform, freshman Kathleen Reveille said “it was nice to see my friends perform the songs of a well established poet.”

Although the performance was a delightful experience for the audience and performers alike, junior Katie Wagner, who sang “Luscious Latina” in a fun, feisty characterization, said, “the songs were difficult to learn, but we all (the performers) managed to have fun with our characters once we got the music down.”

The concert was an enjoyable blend of original, witty personal ads such as “Filthy Rich, In Search of a French Maid,” “You Smell of Money,” and “In Search of Undertaker’s Daughter” and upbeat, cleverly composed music.

The singers were able to bring Gylys’ characters to life through individual performances that brought smiles and laughter to those who attended.

Sophomore Sara Maitland performed a piece titled “Reubenesque.”
“It was a wonderfully refreshing opportunity to sing a such a modern original work like this,” she said. “It was difficult on a certain level because I wanted to give justice to the true essence of the poem.”