Marsh Coffee Haus II Spotlights Diverse Artistic Expression
Issue   |   Wed, 10/04/2017 - 00:02
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The Marsh Coffee Haus II invited student artists from all genres to express their art, whether it was a poetry reading or original music performance.

This Friday night, Marsh Coffee Haus II took place in Marsh House from 8 to 10 p.m.. Throughout the night, various artists performed acts of different genres, including poetry, prose, acoustic covers of songs, self-written songs, jazz, comedy and interpretive dance. The night was a relaxing event that provided the various talented artists on campus a platform to share their work with the community.

The room where the event took place spacious with hardwood floors. There were small, twinkling lights twisted around the two main pillars in the room, the drum set and more draped over the fireplace behind the performers. A soft spotlight shone on the performers and sectioned off that space of the room with another string of lights. The audience sat on the floor or tall chairs, and a number of people stood around tall tables or towards the back of the room.

My friends and I walked in during a cover of “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse. One person sang, and the other played guitar, sometimes echoing back parts of the song. Some in the crowd would join him.

After “Valerie,” there was a small break and of the organizers told little jokes and stories to pass the time while the next performer got ready. They asked the audience for suggestions of fall things to ruin and laughed as we found new ways to complain about lovely aspects of the season.

Some people read poems written by others, and some read poems they wrote themselves. A performer played acoustic versions of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cindy Lauper and “Feeling Whitney” by Post Malone.

One of my favorite parts of the evening was hearing from people I know from my floor, classes or around campus and seeing how talented they are. We were also lucky enough to hear someone sing a self-written song on the piano.

One of the organizers characterized the Marsh Coffee Haus as showcasing “arts across different genres and traditions and encouraging collaboration between artists.” One such interdisciplinary performance was a combination of interpretive dance with string accompaniment on a violin and cello. Despite knowing little about interpretive dance and stringed instruments, I was able to connect to the performance and learn more about those art forms in a relaxed, fun way.

Often, in classes and elsewhere, one kind of art usually gets most of the attention with little focus on interdisciplinary collaboration. However, at the Marsh Haus, while some art forms such as singing fit better with the evening and venue, there was still a wide range of genres.

One new kind of art I discovered was improvisational drumming. An organizer and facilitator of the event asked the audience for three volunteers, then asked each volunteer for a word to inspire his drumming. The three words were “pain,” “feast,” and “sadness.” He then performed a drum solo which incorporated ideas and feelings from those words. I was impressed by the sheer power of the sound from the drums and loved learning about a new kind of improvisation. The same drummer also performed in a band including a guitarist, singer, bassist and a saxophonist.

Artists read more self-written prose and poetry. Some read prose which reflected on various life experiences. The poems and prose expressed a range from the abstract and metaphorical to a more straightforward description of some aspect of their life. Another person performed a stand-up comedy routine which poked fun at various aspects of Amherst life.
One of my personal favorite poems was “The Physics of Poetry.” It cleverly critiqued the overemphasis of STEM majors and careers at our school and in our culture. Some of the other writing was personal, and everyone in the audience supported those performing with hearty clapping when the performance finished as well as cheers of support whenever someone admitted to having nerves about performing.

The last performance that I saw was a jazz band called “Jazz Panic.” By this point, people were relaxed after a night of listening to various artists. Before they played, the musicians said that people often dance during this sort of performance. Some audience members started to dance, while others simply listened to the music. This summed up the night and the event perfectly: low pressure and fun.

Whether you are an artist yourself, enjoy the arts, or really know nothing about them, I would recommend attending the next Marsh Coffee Haus event. In a college where traditional academics and athletics are greatly emphasized, spaces like Marsh Coffee Haus are essential to give the arts a platform and to support our talented fellow classmates who deserve to be heard and have their hard work enjoyed by the community.

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