On Tuesday, March 14, vocalist Keven Washburn gave a performance in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall. Majoring in music and studying voice, Washburn is the tenor section leader of SVSU’s Concert Choir.
As the performance began, Washburn’s voice was echoed by pianist Amanda Stamper. Together, they balanced melodies and harmonies while never pushing the tempo behind or ahead. They began together before and after rests, a task that was made harder given they were facing opposite directions and could not rely on physical cues.
The first half of the performance featured more intense, dramatic pieces. Throughout those pieces, Washburn kept still and solid, making sure his demeanor reflected the serious and sad tones of the pieces he was singing.
The concert began with selections from “The Messiah” that contrasted a jubilant tone with the more solemn and melancholy selections from Gerald Finzi.
The Finzi selections were much more subdued but no less accurate or emotional. By these selections, Washburn had established the volumes for his fortes and pianos while consistently keeping to these chosen levels, a hard task to complete.
Washburn also used the more intimate audience size to his advantage, especially during emotionally intense pieces. In the Finzi selections, Washburn maintained eye contact with each audience member as he sang. This action facilitated the audience’s ability to connect with the music.
Of particular note was the Giuseppe Verdi piece. Washburn’s voice was clear but pained. He even cried at one point, though his intense emotion did not disrupt his notes or rhythms. From that moment on, the audience remained captivated and moved by his performance. In fact, several students thought this was his best song.
“He showed emotion,” SVSU senior Tia Sova said. “He was even crying during it. That got me tearing up, too.”
After intermission, the mood lightened with songs from musicals that were rather comedic. David Shire’s “What Am I Doin’” especially offered a much-needed relief from the tensions of the first half. During this performance, Washburn took a more casual stance. He half-sang some lines, as common with musicals, and even changed the pitch and tone of his voice to reflect the different people in the song.
The song from Shrek the Musical, “When Words Fail,” also carried out a more relaxed and relatable theme for the audience. Washburn, playing Shrek, sang a tentative yet loving ballad as he tried to profess his love. He stumbled over words, walked around nervously and started over several times.
Nonetheless, he and the pianist stayed together, pausing and starting at the same time and staying perfectly in-sync. The song was both comical and cute, eliciting “awes” and laughter from the audience throughout the entire performance.
However, none of that was surprising coming from Washburn. Several students in the audience have seen many of his performances both in and outside of SVSU.
“Just this past year, his voice has grown so much,” SVSU alumna Melissa Morris said, knowing that he will only continue to grow and improve.
“Kevin’s always amazing,” Sova said. “All of his concerts that I’ve gone to have been great.”
While those students’ time at SVSU may be coming to an end, Washburn will continue to perform and impress at SVSU.