Inside a small auditorium, Jason Nedecky sings a recipe for rabbit stew, accompanied by fellow music lecturer Che Anne Loewen, who hammers the fast-paced tune on a grand piano. “When the flame has gone out, thicken the sauce with a pound of butter and flour. Seeeerve,” he belts out to a large audience of mostly students and seniors. People can’t help but laugh. And because it’s lunch hour, stomachs begin to grumble.

Every Thursday, U of T’s Faculty of Music hosts a one-hour recital at Walter Hall, inside the Edward Johnson Building at 80 Queen’s Park Crescent. The series features performances by staff and, on special occasions, senior students. The free event, appropriately titled Thursdays at Noon, is open to the public and preserves the university’s long tradition of showcasing its faculty’s talents.

More than half a century ago, the Thursday series was a mandatory event for students. It was intended to provide an opportunity for them to learn about works beyond the scope of their courses. In 1965, the Faculty of Music Council reduced the attendance requirement to attending at least 80 per cent of the time, but students protested and invented ways to cheat the punch-card system. The dean got rid of the rule four years later. Nowadays, while students come out either for extra credit or to complete an assignment, many show up simply to support a teacher.

Last week’s concert was the first Thursdays at Noon for Michel Ross, a second-year Master’s student in collaborative piano. Intrigued by the collaborative element of the performance, he described the connection established between the pianist and singer like that of tuning into a different language.

“You learn things that you should do and things that you shouldn’t do,” said Ross. One thing he enjoyed was getting to sit in the audience while he watched a teacher perform. “It’s fun to poke at the little things that they would criticize you for.”

With the tables turned, it’s no wonder the performers feel that the pressure’s on. “Students are the hardest audience to perform for. Ever. Ever. Ever,” explained Loewen, a senior lecturer at the music faculty. “You ask so much of them. You’ve got to show them that you ask that much of yourself as well.”

Last Thursday featured a special music and poetry combo with vocalist Nedecky, Loewen on piano, and Eric Domville as a guest speaker. Domville, a Professor Emeritus in the English department, shared his interpretation of the two works played at the event. During the moody Calligrammes, Op. 140 by composer Francis Poulenc, the audience listened to French poems about war and women. The fatty recipes from La Bonne Cuisine by West Side Story composer Leonard Bernstein, however, added an extra ingredient to the mix.

“You can set anything to music if you feel like it,” Domville said.

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