Mark Thatcher ’06 to sing modern music

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Contralto Mark Thatcher ’06 will give a recital tonight at 8:00 in Lang Concert Hall, where he will perform the music of Maurice Ravel, William Bolcom, Dominick Argento and Swarthmore music professor Gerald Levinson, and will be joined by Marcantonio Barone, piano.

Thatcher planned the program around the songs’ texts, all of which relate in some way to death, because he “wanted to see how twentieth-century composers approached the issue musically.” Otherwise, the program has is quite varied, ranging chronologically from Ravel’s 1925 work to Levinson’s recent works, which Thatcher describes as very difficult. They differ stylistically too, ranging from Ravel’s dramatic song cycyle, particularly the second song, “Aoua,” which Thatcher points out as a highlight of the program. “It’s sung from the perspective of a Malagasy person whose village has been attacked several times by white European settlers….The song reaches a terrifyingly triumphant conclusion with the villagers expressing that they have won every battle with the help from the tumultuous sky.” On the lighter side, Thatcher will also sing William Bolcom’s highly evocative and jazz-inflected Cabaret Songs. He also will have the opportunity to use all the different sections of his range. “I like performing pieces that span the range of a tenor through a mezzo soprano… I will use a little bit more than two octaves of my range for this recital.”

The contralto range is more directly associated with Baroque music, but Thatcher is eager to apply it to more modern music, and said, “If singers are to be more than historians, they need to perform music of their time.” Thatcher has an agenda beyond simply singing the music. The program includes several works traditionally sung by women, such as Argento’s “From the Diary of Virginia Woolf.” Women often sing works written for men, but the reverse is less common. “I am just trying to create more of a fair playing field between men and women in standard recital repertoire.”

Thatcher hails from suburban Chicago, and attended the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan and currently studies with Joan Patenaude of the Curtis Institute. He will pursue a career in vocal performance, specifically in new music, and said he chose Swarthmore over a conservatory because “I would be able to create my own performance opportunities and study voice with whomever I wanted.” So far, that has included the large production of Gluck’s “Orfeo” that he directed last year, in which he sang the title role.

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