Director's Corner

Rick Davis, Dean and Executive Director.

It’s a grand month for singing

Spring at the Hylton Center is alive again with music, dance, theater, art, and community – but this particular April it seems to have really found its voice (excuse the pun). Beginning with the eagerly awaited return of Virginia Opera to our Matinee Idylls series on April 5 and culminating in a grand performance by one of Broadway’s biggest stars, Leslie Odom, Jr., on April 30, these spring days are filled with song. Between these bookends we have two other delightful opportunities to share in the glories of the human voice. The Mason Broadway Chorale Showcase fills the stage on April 9 with their energetic ensemble and terrific soloists from our Dewberry School of Music, conducted by Dr. Lisa Billingham. And on April 14th, we play host to an international sensation, the Peruvian singer-songwriter, three-time Latin Grammy winner Gian Marco, for his “Acoustic Tour USA.” Four performances, all different, all amazing, all singing!

The sound of song is part of every season at the Hylton, of course, whether from our Arts Partners like the Manassas Chorale and Prince William Little Theatre, our collaborations with the Washington National Opera’s Cafritz Young Artists program, visiting performers in our various series like Hylton Presents, Matinee Idylls, American Roots Series, and Hylton Family Series, the Dewberry School of Music, local and regional school and community choirs, the list is long and rich (like this sentence!).

And that’s no accident. One of the reasons there’s always a song in the air at the Hylton Center is that it is, quite simply, one of the best places to sing anywhere around. And by that, I mean anywhere. The acoustics of our performance spaces were designed to be friendly to the unamplified human voice (and capable of being adjusted to handle big noises too!). Stand on the stage of Merchant Hall and sing a note or two. Or if you’re shy about that, clap your hands. You hear a crystalline reflection of your sound coming back to you from all over the hall – not a big reverberating echo, like in a Gothic Cathedral (that can be glorious, but poses its own unique challenges for musicians) but a pure sense of the life of the sound that surrounds you and resonates in the room. 

Does that seem a little mystical? It is, but there’s sound science (excuse the pun again) behind it too. Acoustic design is always a blend of ancient knowledge gained from experience, modern insight gleaned from research with fancy instruments, and a healthy dose of instinct, artistry, and luck. Fortunately, our architects and acousticians were solid on all fronts. The Gregory Family Theater, our lovely “black box” that is neither black nor a box, and the new Jacquemin Family Foundation Rehearsal Hall, which is turning into one of our favorite recital spaces, are both beautiful places to sing – and, more importantly from out in the seats, to hear beautiful singing. 

So come on out this April to celebrate the purest kind of music-making – in this grand month for singing at the Hylton Center. And stay tuned for May, when more glorious voices take the stage!

Rick Davis
Dean and Executive Director