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Society capitalizes on campus resource

The Binghamton Bel Canto Society holds monthly soirees featuring recordings from the Universitys Frances R. Conole Archive.

“The aim is to bring to the public the best voices that history has given us,” said Tom MacDonald, a retired voice teacher who is the groups president.

Each month, he looks online at a list of recordings available from the archive and requests materials around a certain theme. Theyre brought from special storage in Conklin and MacDonald chooses about 45 minutes of material for use in his presentation.

“For me, its an exploration of a treasure trove,” MacDonald said. “Theres discovery on my part, too. Its an adventure.”

This “treasure trove,” which emphasizes opera singers from 1900-1960, is a collection of more than 50,000 vocal performances. More than 3,000 singers are represented in the collection, donated in 1982 by Philip Conole, a former member of the library staff. Herbert Poetzl, curator of the archive, said its gratifying to see someone as know-ledgeable as MacDonald taking advantage of the collections resources.

“Hes doing a service to the University,” Poetzl said. “Its a natural way to reach out. But the materials are delicate, so we have to medi-ate their use in some way, and this seems an ideal way to do that.”

MacDonalds informal talks include infor-mation about performers and techniques of the past, including personal anecdotes from his career in Europe, the United States and Mexico. He hopes hearing these great re-cordings will encourage an appreciation for the performers technical mastery and inspire todays audiences to demand more from singers.

The Bel Canto Societys next meeting will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16, in FA-170. MacDonald has titled his presentation for the evening “The Passion of Mafalda.”

For more information about the society, call MacDonald at 724-8250. To search for materials in the Conole Archive, visit the Librarys online catalog at
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Last Updated: 10/14/08