By Alejandro Serrano, news correspondent
The Berklee Performance Center (BPC) will celebrate its 100th year of operation this December. In honor of the centennial, the Berklee College of Music will present two student-produced shows.
The BPC opened as the Fenway Theater, a silent-film theater, in 1915 on Massachusetts Avenue. When Berklee bought the building in 1972, it was renovated to a 1,215-seat performance center with a larger stage and an acoustic ceiling. Since its grand reopening in the spring of 1976 at 136 Massachusetts Ave., the BPC has hosted an estimated 200 events annually, according to the BPC’s website.
The first show, on Dec. 3, will feature the annual “Singers Showcase,” setting the tone for the celebration with “100 Years of Popular Music.”
“I knew I wanted to have special performances to commemorate the anniversary and honor the venue,” Cathy Horn, BPC senior director of concert operations, said in an email to The News. “Our performance schedule is already jam-packed, so instead of creating additional events, I decided to approach the leaders of events that were already scheduled to see if they would tailor their shows to the anniversary theme.”
The showcase will contain popular songs dating back to 1920, covering artists from Ray Charles and Frank Sinatra to Rihanna and Michael Jackson.
“We are not performing the songs in chronological order, and some of the arrangements will be unusual and creative,” Ken Zambello, the performance’s producer and director, said in an email to The News.
The second show, on Dec. 16, will feature “100 Years of Musical Theater” — a performance of student-arranged compositions by the 23-member Musical Theater Ensemble and 18-member Musical Theater Orchestra. The performances will feature songs representing each decade of the last 100 years, according to Horn.
The musical theater performance will start with a Charlie Chaplin-style silent film about the history of the BPC.
The music in the musical theater performance was arranged by students in the spring of 2015, and the ensemble, orchestra and technical crew have all worked together on the show, according to orchestra and ensemble co-conductor Rene Pfister.
“I love working with students on collaborations because it is what we do in the real world to create new ideas,” Pfister said. “In as many ways as I can, I encourage our students to [collaborate]. I am looking forward to all of it…two of the last three songs will be contemporary pieces written by faculty, and we will end on a song from Rent, the musical.”
Horn has been working at the BPC for over two decades, so she feels a connection to the theater and the importance in its celebration.
“The venue is very important to me,” Horn said. “I’ve seen firsthand what a positive impact live performance can have on people… I think the 100-years theme is going to introduce the audience, and especially the student performers, to songs and genres they may not have experienced before.”
Photo by Scotty Schenck