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Debbi Wyse and Kristi Gautsche’s per­formed their 35th annual piano concert, “The Allure of the Obscure.” Ashley Kaitz | Col­legian

Markel Audi­torium was a blur of color, sound, and obscure facts this weekend. 

Debbi Wyse and Kristi Gautsche’s 35th annual piano concert, “The Allure of the Obscure”, fea­tured music from little-known artists, trivia about their lives, and cus­tomized lighting that reflected the mood of each piece. 

Gautsche said that she and Wyse, an Artist-Teacher at Hillsdale, first met at a Bible study but came up with the idea for their duo per­for­mances after going to a concert together. Their first per­for­mance was in 1985 in Phillips Audi­torium, where Plaster Audi­torium now stands. 

According to Gautsche, the duo strives to make each per­for­mance a fun, inter­esting, and relaxing expe­rience for the audience. Last year, for their concert “Child’s Play,” they per­formed Mozart’s Sym­phony No.40 on tiny toy pianos. Wyse said that during another per­for­mance, they turned their pianos into stringed instru­ments through an unusual tech­nique. 

“Donald Fox, our scenic design guy, made tube socks with sand in them,” Wyse said. “We laid them across the strings and the piano was made to sound like playing pizzicato on stringed instru­ments.”

Gautsche said that they came up with the theme for this year’s per­for­mance while trying to find music that they hadn’t already played. 

“We started looking at works that we haven’t done and I was like ‘Well, that guy’s name is really funny,’” Gautsche said. “That gave us the momentum to look for obscure com­posers, and as we looked into them, we found cutesy little stories and inter­esting facts.”

These “cutesy little stories” were pre­sented by Debbi Wyse’s husband, Ned Wyse, and Hillsdale alumna Gianna Marchese. Between songs, the pair revealed that Russian com­poser Alexander Borodin has an asteroid named after him, American com­poser Ned Rorem accepted cookies as payment from his stu­dents, French com­poser Louis Aubert had an osten­ta­tious mous­tache — and much more. 

The concert’s lighting was designed by Hillsdale Junior Tyler Sechrist, the mind behind the lighting for several Hillsdale shows, including “Arsenic and Old Lace” last semester. He said that his favorite look from “The Allure of the Obscure” was the col­orful design that appeared onstage at the beginning, inter­mission, and end of the concert.

“It was really an attempt to com­mu­nicate a cohesive vibe between the program for the show and the initial look at the show that people got when they walked in the door and were finding their seats,” he said. “The look tries to capture the idea of the obscure in a col­orful and exciting way.”

According to Gautsche and Wyse, Sechrist worked with them to design lighting that cap­tured the essence of the music. 

“We gave him sug­ges­tions and he ran with it,” Wyse said. “For the Mid­night Jazz Suite, we told him that we wanted some­thing dark blue, maybe with a moon or stars, and he had it all set up.”

The selection of music itself was diverse and fea­tured artists from all over the world, including famed Tango com­poser Astor Piaz­zolla and Argen­tinian com­poser Carlos Guas­tavino, known as “the Schubert of the Pampas.” Liecht­en­steiner com­poser Josef Rhein­berger, quoted by Ned Wyse, left the audience with food for thought: 

“Music is above words; it begins where words no longer suffice.”