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Pomona College spreads awareness on issues through music

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Cheyenne Vargas
Staff Writer

The music department faculty of Pomona College presented its annual Celliola and Friends performance as a virtual concert Sunday. 

The concert intended to bring a sense of human connection and issues with being in a pandemic-dominated world to light for the audience.

“This was the first time in months that we actually got to make music with other people even if we weren’t in the same room,” said Melissa Givens, assistant professor of music at Pomona College. 

The artists said they were grateful to perform since it has been an unusual time for many of them and having to deal with not being able to really play for six months. 

“As a musician you go around and play your music but because of COVID all that had to be put to a stop,” said Cynthia Fogg, performance faculty member.

With the Pomona College campus not being open, the artists had limited time to record their tracks and had no rehearsal time between the singers and the instrumentalists. Weeks of preparation turned into hours. 

Givens, a soprano, performed “Mandolin Songs” and “Dear Lieder” with ease despite never actually being on stage with the ensemble. 

“This is something you do because you love it despite having those restrictions,” she said. 

The other performers agreed. 

“There is something so special with the energy exchange you get between the performer and the audience when performing live, but I understand the need to keep people safe,” said Scott Graff, performance faculty member.

Typically for the performances, singers and instrumentalists would be able to go over the score with two to three rehearsals prior to the show and rehearsals running two and half to three hours. 

“We had the time in a room together to listen to one another and interact with each other to get a better sense of the music,” said Graff.

The performers were able to overcome the struggles of adapting to the pandemic and were able to give the best performance they could, given the available time.

“We had to look at it as just a different kind of music making because you are not able to respond in the moment,” said Genevieve Lee, professor of music.

The Celliola concert is a yearly event held at the beginning of the school year. This year, the songs held more importance as it presented rising issues in the world. 

“This is the fourth year in a row of doing satirical music with this year having a very important election,” said Fogg. 

The pieces were straightforward as the singers were able to provide the meaning through song with additional help from the instrumentalists. 

“We are kinda painting the text in a way by having abrupt harmony changes or a change in texture to set the scene for the listeners,” said Lee. 

The pieces attempt to express the frustration at the current state of politics and the disbelief in the way in which issues are not being taken seriously by those in power. Among the satire and frustration there is still a sense of hope among the pieces that are being translated. 

“The importance this idea of resistance brings in the piece, is there also comes the realization that hope can prevail through these troubling times,” said Graff.

The Celliola and Friends concert is available to stream online through Dec. 15 at

Cheyenne Vargas can be reached at

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