Professor Alison Calhoun spearheaded the event series and recruited guest speakers and faculty members from both FRIT and the Jacobs School of Music to conduct a dialogue surrounding French music, language, and culture. “For many years, I’ve noticed our IU community has a great wealth of knowledge and interest in the 19th century French songs seen within the belle époque period, especially among vocalists and pianists at the university,” she explained. These 19th century French songs are usually poems set to music and performed by vocalists. Alison saw this shared interest as an opportunity to create an interdisciplinary workshop series where students from any area of study could learn about the history, culture, language, and literary traditions of the French art song.
The highlighted guest of the event series was Artist-Scholar François Le Roux. “He embodied the interdisciplinary aspect of the event that I was seeking to culminate. François was able to serve as the centerpiece of the event and bring the community together to talk about French art songs and different disciplinary approaches through a scholarly lens,” said Alison. “He was also able to help vocalist students in a live masterclass setting, which helped them get a better sense of the history and meaning of the French poems they were singing.”
Le Roux was able to provide expert knowledge on not only the voice technique and structural approach to performing the poems, but also analyze the historical context and literary significance of each piece. To fulfill the instrumental aspect of the workshops, Alison brought on pianist Jean-Louis Haguenauer from the Jacobs School of Music to discuss the important technical aspects of the art songs. Le Roux led each workshop alongside an IU professor, including Jean-Louis, Nicolas Valazza, Allan Armstrong, and Alison. Each masterclass session involved Le Roux working through French art songs with vocalists and analyzing his book “Le Chant Intime,” as well as corresponding discussions from the literary scholars.