Sydney Brummel — Staff Writer
The realities of social distancing have changed many aspects of day-to-day life. Dordt music students, who often host recitals towards the end of each semester, face the unique experience of performing to an online audience.
On April 15, 2020, Amy Van Fossen, a senior art major with a minor in music performance, performed her piano recital via Facebook from Asbury United Method Church in Bettendorf, IA. Originally planning on giving her recital on April 4 in the B.J. Haan Auditorium, the changed setting and online audience presented new challenges and opportunities.
“Unfortunately, I could not play the first song, the ‘Prelude by Bach,’ on a harpsichord as planned,” Van Fossen said. “Also, the dynamic contrast of the second song, the ‘Sonata by Beethoven,’ did not come across as successfully because of the limitations of the recording technology.”
Still, Van Fossen enjoyed the benefits of having her recital closer to home and a little later in the semester. With more practice time, she was able to master her pieces even further.
“I played on a Pleyel Double Grand piano in the Quad Cities…being able to perform on the Pleyel was a great opportunity!” Van Fossen said. “Also, because of the time spent at home, I think the duet, Scaramouche, came together better than I ever could have expected… [My mom and I] could really play ‘as one voice’ on one instrument. This would not have been possible if I were at school.”
While the church was technically closed, they allowed Van Fossen to rent the space and provided the livestream with their own equipment. Her brother and father helped with other set-up.
Overall, Van Fossen felt that her senior recital went well, even though the circumstances were far different than she could have expected.
“I was really grateful for the support of my family and especially my piano teacher, Mrs. Wielenga,” Van Fossen said.
Sisters Maggie and Hannah Burgsma also performed an online recital together. Maggie, a senior business major with a music performance minor, played her harp while Hannah, a sophomore nursing major with a music minor, performed on both harp and piano. The two first scheduled their recital to take place on April 24 in the B.J. Haan, and they decided to keep that date, despite the drastic change in location and circumstance.
After returning to their home in Ontario, Canada, the sisters initially planned to livestream their pieces in their music room in their house. But due to technical and sound issues they began to look for other venue options.
“We contacted a few other churches and people for options,” Hannah said, “but a week before our recital, we still weren’t sure if we were going to be able to even still pull it off,”
Eventually, the two found a venue at the church their aunt and uncle attended.
“It was such a blessing and relief when our uncle responded…saying their church was willing to help us out and that he would take care of all the tech for us,” Hannah said.
Their teachers, Anna Vorhes and Mary Lou Wielinga, other professors, and family members assisted by either setting up the venue or planning the logistics of the evening.
The Burgsma sisters also experienced several advantages and disadvantages to an online performance. They found it difficult to find someone to run the tech for their recital, but having it online allowed them to reach a wider audience.
“People we knew in nursing homes were able to livestream it, one family used it as background music for their supper, and our aunt and uncle who helped us out with the tech used it as their first date night in a while!” Hannah said.
After carefully arranging the evening of their recital, the two sisters skillfully performed a beautiful repertoire with their two instruments.
“Time literally flew by, and we were actually enjoying the whole experience so much of just being able to perform our pieces and the opportunity to create beauty in the middle of what our world is going through,” Hannah said. The sisters expressed deep appreciation for all the support and encouragement they received from both their home and Dordt communities.
Although neither of these recitals were performed in Dordt’s B.J. Haan, the students played music still heard and applauded by an appreciative audience.
“The night of our recital was another opportunity to reflect on how much of an honor and how humbling it is that the creator of the universe allows us to reflect his perfect beauty in a small way through the gift of music,” Hannah said.
“I thank God for giving us music, and for all of the precious people he has brought into my life.” Van Fossen said. “I am also so thankful that we can sing in our hearts to him, and he surely hears us.”