St. Philip Alumna Abigail Mullis has a musical history with Battle Creek.
This Class of 2016 graduate started piano lessons here, played multiple recitals here, accompanied many student Masses here, even debuted her STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) kid concerts at St. Joseph School in 2017 here.
On April 12th, Ms. Mullis will headline a recital at Kellogg Community College at 7:30 p.m., fulfilling part of her Central Michigan University piano performance degree.
“It was always in the back of mind when I started studying music at CMU to bring it back to my city,” Ms. Mullis said. “When I found out about the solo recital, I knew I wanted to do one in Battle Creek.”
“Reviving a Tradition of the Past: An Interdisciplinary Piano Recital” is a free event and features visual art and fashion design work by other student artists.
The concept came to Ms. Mullis while pondering two questions: how to create a classical music concert experience for contemporary audiences, and how to collaborate with other artists to develop an interdisciplinary event.
“These questions are important because today, many art programs are struggling to survive, and classical music is gradually losing public support,” Ms. Mullis said. “It is my belief that the key to engaging new and younger audiences lies largely in encouraging interdisciplinary collaborations.”
And who better to collaborate with than friends?
Ms. Mullis reached out to fellow St. Philip alum Joseph Lin, Class of 2014, who is currently studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City.
“Joseph had asked me about playing music for one of his fashion shows, and I asked if he would be interested in designing an outfit for my show,” Ms. Mullis said.
Mr. Lin agreed, creating a piece specifically for Ms. Mullis’ performance of Béla Bartók’s “Allegro Barbaro”, which is part of his 2020 spring/summer collection.
Inspired by Leonardo DaVinci and Michelangelo, this structured white and black ensemble appears simple, but thanks to a plethora of pleats, every movement reveals a deeper story.
“The design is very special to me because it is one of my first custom works and I made it personal through the details,” Mr. Lin said.
Mr. Lin embroidered emblems inside the pleats, including part of the “Allegro Barbaro” score, the Hungarian flag representing Bartók’s homeland, an outline of Michigan representing Abby’s home state, a cross representing Catholic school where Mr. Lin met Abby, and a sunflower representing “Abby’s favorite flower”.
“Each special detail brings the artists together – Bartók, Abby, and me,” Mr. Lin said.
The third collaborating artist is Colleen Friar, a Western Michigan University fine arts major, and Ms. Mullis’ freshman year roommate.
“While Abby would practice her piano, I would paint and draw all the chords that flew into my ears,” Ms. Friar said. “During these practice and drawing sessions, we would talk about the idea of combining both audio and visual arts for a concert someday.”
Two years later, their idea became a reality.
Ms. Friar created “The Decay of Passion” specifically for Ms. Mullis’ performance of Johannes Brahms’ “Intermezzo in A major Op. 118, No. 2”, using watercolor, screen-printing, and oil paint.
“Throughout this piece I was able to explore my creative ability on a large scale for a collaborative project with a good friend,” Mrs. Friar said.