On Sunday, Aug 16 at 4 pm, Concerts in the Park will go virtual with a live-streamed concert by the Knific Quartet with guest vocalist Rhea Olivaccé. The Knific Quartet features Tom Knific, bassist and professor emeritus of Western Michigan University, Renata Knific, violinist and professor emerita of WMU, Gene Knific, pianist/arranger (Tom and Renata are Gene's parents) and Brad Crossland, drums. The livestream will be hosted by the Arts Council website.
In an interview with Cara Lieurance, Knific and Olivaccé say they met as colleagues in the School of Music when Olivaccé joined the voice faculty. Their friendship grew during a 2015 tour to Dominíca, Olivaccé's country of birth. Olivaccé says she's excited to present three popular songs from her childhood, made famous by internationally-known singer Ophelia Marie, Olivaccé's aunt. Other new arrangements will include opera arias, Gershwin's "Summertime," and Latin American jazz selections.
Knific says that although he retired over a year ago, he's still mentoring and supporting former students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Olivaccé says she and her School of Music colleagues are putting a lot of work into preparing for students to return this fall. She says it has been a deeply emotional time to be a Black artist, personally and in empathy with people of color, as the pandemic exposes further systemic inequities, and the experience of seeing George Floyd's death at the hands of police re-traumatizes communities of color.