By: Hannah Hawkins
Jacksonville native, Ryan Kuster joined the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, October 8th in Illinois College’s Rammelkamp Chapel to share his voice with the patrons and music lovers. The concert was a “dedication” of the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. Most of the music of the evening consisted of pieces of music based off of some of Shakespeare’s more famous works such as Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, and the musical based on a Shakespearian work,, Kiss Me, Kate.
The concert started out with an introduction by one of the members of the Jacksonville Symphony Society explaining what the night’s program would entail. The program was entitled, “Celebrate the Bard.” Kuster sang a solo from all of the Shakespearean pieces with his booming bass/baritone vocals echoing in the chapel. Many students and other patrons gathered at the top of the Hilltop to celebrate the Symphony and to hear Ryan sing with the Symphony. There was a “Before the Baton” event before the concert began to explain to other patrons and listeners what the Jacksonville Symphony is and what the concert would be.
Kuster sang the part of Friar Laurence in the piece inspired by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. This song dealt with Laurence giving Juliet the poison to “kill herself” when she was to meet Romeo. In Macbeth, Kuster sang the part of Banquo, whom, if you haven’t read the story, is about to be killed by Macbeth. This song is Banquo telling his son to be strong after he dies. For the final song in the program, Kuster sang a song called “Where is the Life That Late I Led?” from the musical Kiss Me Kate which is based off of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew.
In the song “Bottom’s Dream” from the A Midsummer’s Night Dream piece, Ryan portrayed Bottom and his waking up to discover that he has been turned into a donkey. This was definitely a crowd favorite. Kuster began the piece by entering the chapel with his jacket off, his bowtie undone, and part of his shirt untucked and proceeded to lay down onstage. When the music began, he started to yawn loudly and roll over as if he was asleep. When he “awoke,” he began to sing the solo beautifully, and because he was portraying a man turning into a donkey, he would strategically bray as a donkey would, making the crowd laugh.
After the Symphony finished all of the songs in the program, Dr. Garrett Allman and Ryan took their bows and walked off stage to await the applause for the night. Kuster sang an encore from Stephen Sondheim’s South Pacific, “Some Enchanted Evening.” This brought another rousing applause from the crowd and earned the Symphony and Kuster a second standing ovation.
After the concert, there was an event held in the Kirby rotunda with refreshments and snacks provided. This brought a chance for symphony goers and even Symphony members to mingle and congratulate the concert. This was a very fitting end to a wonderful performance. For more information about the Jacksonville Symphony Society, you can check out their website at www.jaxsym.com.
Hannah Hawkins, from Illiopolis, Illinois is a Junior here at Illinois College and is majoring in Communication and Rhetorical Studies and minoring in Theatre. She is a Contributing Writer and the Web Designer for the Illinois College Newspaper, The Rambler. Hannah is a very active member in the theatre department and loves her dog more than most people.