Voice recital honors JFK memory

Dr. Joy Ratliff and her applied music students honored the memory of the late, former president John F. Kennedy during the first ever voice studio recital. Through their music selection of 18th, 19th and 20th century opera, Ratliff’s students sang their hearts out on Pottle Music Auditorium’s stage on the same day one of America’s most popular presidents was being honored nationwide on the anniversary of his untimely death.
“I don’t think it would have been in me to not commemorate it in some way,” Ratliff said. “The fact that this program fell on this fiftieth anniversary, which I remember, it was kind of fate.”
Ratliff was a freshman at Southeastern (then Southeastern Louisiana College) in 1963, her first semester of college, when she found out about the assassination of President Kennedy. As she was walking through campus, she made a stop inside the Student Union (then located where the Contemporary Art Gallery is now) and saw the news on the television.
“I remember feeling devastation,” said Ratliff. “It was the beginning of the loss of innocence, I feel.”
During the start of the television age in the early 1960s, this was the primary way to receive news. There was no social media or cell phones as there is today.
“That was a big deal then, there was no internet, no nothing,” Ratliff said. “No email, cell phones.”
For the recital, nine pieces were performed from the likes of Johann Sebastian Bach, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Gioacchino Rossini. Voice recitals are uncommon in the Department of Fine and Performing Arts, but this one was “such a wonderful group,” said Ratliff, who put hours of extra work into preparing.
The music had no specific connection to President Kennedy, but because he was such a lover of the arts the connection was already there.
“There is [a connection] in my heart because JFK was a president, and person and man who was well versed in the arts,” Ratliff said. “He was, and still is, the most popular president.”
Kalee Broussard, a senior vocal performance major, says dedicating the recital to the memory of President Kennedy was meant to bring home to the audience just how impactful his death in Dallas, Texas really was.
“So much is going on in life today that people should recognize the people that have fallen, and JFK was such a great president to,” Broussard said. “What she mainly wanted to get across is that the age of innocence was robbed.”
Broussard and junior vocal performance major Charlotte Anne Barbour performed a duet together, “Cat Duet,” composed by Italian composer Gioacchino Rossini. The two wore cat ear headbands with little black dresses and sang one word in many different octaves: meow. Barbour got the inspiration from watching her cats at home, plus practicing the song was also great for vocal exercises too.
“We just pretended to be a cat,” said Barbour. “It was a lot of fun. The word ‘meow’ is very good to practice on because the ‘me’ helps to focus the sound. As anybody in the choir room could tell you our favorite vowels to practice on are ‘me,’ ‘mae,’ ‘maw,’ ‘mo,’ ‘mu.'”
This first ever voice recital is something Ratliff hopes will catch on with her colleagues and students. The recital showcased students who go above and beyond what is expected of them, whom Ratliff says are so very talented.
“Its extra work on [the student’s] part,” Ratliff says.