Sunday, December 10, 2023

The music of love in Plains

by Douglas Wilks Clark Fork Valley
| April 12, 2017 4:00 AM


KATHERINE CALCAMUGGIO Donner, mezzo-saprano, sings during a concert at the Plains United Methodist Church. (Douglas Wilks photos/Clark Fork Valley Press)

Love was the theme of much of the music that two very talented professional musicians brought to Plains on Wednesday, April 5. Katherine Calcamuggio Donner, who is a mezzo-soprano and Nicolas Shaneyfelt, on the piano performed for over an hour at the Plains United Methodist Church to about thirty people. The music and vocals were from German, Italian, Spanish, and American composers. They performed a total of 16 pieces of music, with both musicians giving some background information about the music, lyrics, the composers, as well as their own journey into the music profession.

The musicians are on tour with The Piatigorsky Foundation, which is a non-profit organization began in 1990 that brings classical music and the artists into small towns.

“Italians love to be in love. Italians also like to wine and gripe about love,” Donner said. “Being an Italian myself and gone through the loves and losses I can relate well to the music and lyrics.”

Donner gave translations to some of the Itaian titles and a few of the words that the audience may not be familiar with or have heard. One piece of music was in Italian and the title was “Sogno,” which means dream. Another song tiled “Ma rendi pur contento.” She indicated the word Ma in Italian means “but” and then discussed how the song mentions the good things about love and the very expressive use of Ma in the song in a couple of places. she sang three songs in Italian. Her voice, body language, and face all reflected the mood of each of the songs.

Shaneyfelt discussed the difference between the terms accompanist and collaborative pianist.

“I see it as a collaboration with the other musician,” he said. “We may be breathing in a way that helps each other during the performance.”

He went on to discuss the American composer George Gershwin and how his nephews wanted to make sure one of the three surviving pianos once owned by the composer was restored and for use by the students at the University of Michigan. The other two pianos owned by Gershwin are in the Smithsonian in Washington D.C, and in a warehouse in Los Angeles.

Both Donner and Shaneyfelt are involved with music education. They met at the University of Michigan while working on their doctoral college degrees. Donner is an Assistant Professor at the University of Louisville. Shaneyfelt is a Visiting Professor at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. Both talked about how teachers have inspired them in their youth and how they strive to inspire their current students.

“How well your students practiced will determine how well they will perform. There may be someone who comes to a concert whose heart is weary and the performance may lift them up.” Donner stated about one of her favorite quotes from someone at Boston College.

“Again it is all about those teachers who inspire you.” Shaneyfelt said.

Reporter Douglas Wilks can be reached at or 406-826-3402.

Recent Headlines