Editor’s note: Less than an hour after posting this story, we learned it has been postponed.
NORTH MANCHESTER — Maegan Pollonais will perform “Songs of the Islands” at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 26, in the upper level of the Jo Young Switzer Center at Manchester University.
Because of restrictions imposed by COVID-19, the venue will be closed to all but the performers and a small technical crew. Instead, the performance will be live-streamed on Manchester University’s Facebook page.
The 12-song collection by Dominique Le Gendre resonates with Pollonais. She was born in the United States but grew up in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, a Caribbean nation.
“As an American musician, I learned about mostly European and American composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Rorem and Bernstein,” said Pollonais. “I rarely ever got a chance to delve into music from other parts of the world. Being an Afro-Caribbean woman, I thought that it was time to change that dynamic.”
In 2016, the Classical Music Development Foundation of Trinidad and Tobago commissioned London-based Trinbagonian composer Le Gendre to compose art songs of the Caribbean.
“This is significant because, in the Caribbean, calypsos and folk songs are usually accompanied by guitar and band,” Pollonais said. “This is the first time we are seeing Caribbean songs with piano accompaniment where, in true art song aesthetic, the piano holds equal prominence as the vocal line.”
Assistant director of student diversity and inclusion at Manchester, Pollonais will be hooded in May with a Doctor of Arts in vocal opera performance at Ball State University. A mezzo-soprano, she holds a Master of Music in vocal performance from Bowling Green State University and a Bachelor of Arts, Music and Sociology, cum laude, from State University of New York at Plattsburgh.
In July 2017, the 12-song collection made its world premiere at Queens Hall, Trinidad and Tobago.
“I attended this premiere and immediately fell in love with the music,” said Pollonais.
She performed the international debut of the art song cycle in 2018 at Ball State.
“I was so thrilled to be able to not only perform this incredible song cycle that Le Gendre wrote but also lecture on it and teach the audience about my culture,’ said Pollonais. “This song cycle is unique as it follows the form of Western music aesthetic but uses elements of polyculturalism from the Caribbean region — our music, rhythms and poetry.”
The March 26 performance and lecture is part of the Values, Ideas and the Arts series at Manchester, designed to help students broaden their horizons.