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River Falls holds first Noon Coffee Concert

October 1, 2015

On Friday, the 25th of September, a new sound took the stage at River Falls. This year’s first Noon Coffee Concert — one in a series of five — was held in the Abbott Concert Hall of the Kleinpell Fine Arts building.

It was approximately an hour long, beginning with free admission, continuing with performances from the artists and culminating in coffee, mingling, and some excellent snacks (brownies, for example, were quickly snapped up). Pianist Laura Caviani was featured along with David Milne, a music professor here at River Falls.

Caviani and Milne played a collection of classical music, which they put a jazz spin on, often incorporating improvisation—hence the name of the performance: “Jazz Improvisations.” The pieces ranged from peppy to mournful, always peppered with jazz elements and always dynamic. A few of their selections included “The Girl with the Flaxen Hair” by Claude Debussy, “Sea Journey” by Chick Corea, and “Mademoiselle,” a piece based off Chopin’s “Waltz in A flat,” by Caviani herself. Student Amanda Weber, who attended the concert, commented, “I really liked their last song, “Blue Rondo a la Turk,” ‘cause I knew it. I’ve played it before, so listening to them play it perfectly was really cool.”

There was a sizeable turnout to see the duo; the crowd was largely made up of students, but there also a surprising adult element to the attendees. Weber says that she went to the concert partly to fill a class requirement, and partly out of genuine interest and enthusiasm for the performance. “It was kind of for a class,” she admits. As part of her Understanding Music class, she has to attend four concerts per year. “But I also play saxophone,” she continues, “and Dr. Milne is my saxophone director/instructor.” She says that Milne cancelled one of their lessons to perform in the concert, and she was intrigued. “I was like, I should go to this concert.”

Word of mouth can be a good way to spread news about events like the Noon Coffee Concert. Student Shiza Idrees heard about the concert through Weber. “I never went to a concert ever in my life,” she explains. “She [Weber] really wanted to go, so I went along with her.” She adds that she liked the concert. “It was pretty good,” she decides. “[Milne] was really good, and so was the pianist…it was pretty cool.”

Milne was asked to play at the concert by the chair of the music department, who started the coffee concerts. “The idea was to present a member of the [music] department with talented musicians,” he says. His is one of a number of pairings between music faculty and outside artists. Caviani, in turn, was brought in by Milne. “Dr. David Milne, an old friend and colleague, who also has been on faculty at UW–RF for many years, invited me to perform with him,” she explains.

For Caviani, the concert was not without its challenges. “It is always a fun challenge to perform for a “live” audience,” she says. However, she continues, “It was my pleasure to have the opportunity to perform in the River Falls community. The audience was very receptive and warm.”

When asked about her favorite part of the performance, Caviani says, “[My] favorite part of any jazz performance is when something unexpected happens; which is all the time, because we improvise most of what we do!” She adds, “It was a particularly fun performance that day.”

Milne differs from Caviani when describing his favorite aspect of the performance. “I’ve long had a love of both jazz and classical music,” he says. His favorite part of the Noon Coffee Concert was “fusing” jazz and classical approaches to music, since he says that he seldom has the opportunity to incorporate jazz element to classical music. The result, he says, was a “high-quality musical performance.”

“It was a good concert experience,” muses Weber. “It was a good length. It wasn’t too long, wasn’t too short.”

Idrees agrees. She says she’d go to more Noon Coffee Concerts, and adds, “I’d probably go to see the extended version,” because the Jazz Improvisations between Caviani and Milne will not be the last to occur on a River Falls stage. Another, extended version of the performance will take place on November 5th, also in the Abbott Concert Hall, and also free of admission charges.

Milne encourages people to attend more Noon Coffee Concerts. “By all means, go,” he urges. “Support live music at the university and in the community.”

Caviani concurs. “I would play there again in a heartbeat,” she says. “It was truly an honor to be a part of it.”