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A musical collaboration between Whitney Vandell and William Stewart gave the nostalgic piece One Girl Symphony that was performed at the Alliance Françoise.
Stewart, who was accepted to Juilliard (a private conservatory offering programs through the Divisions of Dance, Drama, and Music from its campus at Lincoln Center in New York City) at the age of 14, spent more than three years playing in an orchestra. Then he decided to end his violin playing career and retired at the age of 21. At least, until he was introduced to Whitney Vandell.
After almost four decades, William picked up his violin again, to help Whitney complete her autobiography written as a symphony. Bouncing tracks between them over the course of two years, the result is a unique style of music, defying categorization into any genre yet seemingly combining them all, from classical, rock, hip-hop, and folk music, to the blues.
A concert as well as a screening of a film based on this musical story was held at the Alliance Françoise on Friday November 27, 2015. The album received very positive reviews from different publications and critics.
Vandell’s debut album is broken into four autobiographical sections of three songs each: Teenage Turbulence, The Formative Years, Return to Innocence & Hope, and Empty Promises to Broken Hearts.
The songs in the Teenage Turbulence section convey elements of experimentalism and confusion, staying true to the title. Vandell seems to beautifully capture each stage of not only her own life, but stages that certainly are not foreign to the rest of us, critics have said.
The underpinning tone in the section The Formative Years is a graceful capturing of radical changes. With brief vocal pieces mingled amidst the tunes, the songs seem to lean towards rock and roll. The haunting tracks mixes rock orchestration with soft, meaningful touch. Vandell also shows off her way with the guitar.
The introduction to Return to Innocence & Hope feels primarily classical. The rock and roll influences have subsided for beautiful string harmonies elegantly accented with piano.
Empty Promises to Broken Hearts, the final section of the album, has some similar themes to its predecessor in that it feels organized and provocative. It seem to orchestrate Vandell’s reminiscing of the past and hope for the future.
“This album is surprising not only in its articulate design and composition, but in its performance. Vandell truly is a ‘one-girl symphony’ and the sounds capes she’s creating on her own rival those created by actual symphonies. Each song seems to spotlight a different element of her talent, such as the closing to the second movement, Baby I Love You, which toys with piano and organ lead to significant success….It’s not a perfect album, but it’s about as close as anyone is going to get for their first time out the door,” one of the album’s reviews had thumbs up for Vandell.