Latest Disney film charms with breathtaking animation, originality

Disney has been wildly successful with their recent string of brilliantly innovative animated movies. Films such as Frozen and Zootopia have broken box office records, gained worldwide acclaim and produced heaps of merchandise. Their latest venture, Moana, is—or should be—no different than its successors. Set in ancient Polynesia, the film follows Moana Waialiki—voiced by newcomer Auli’i Cravalho—as she attempts to find the lost demi-god Maui, who stole the heart of the goddess Te Fiti 1,000 years ago. Her goal is to bring Maui—voiced by Dwayne Johnson—and the heart back home to the island of Motunui in order to restore its vegetation, despite her father’s fear of what lays beyond the reef.

Moana may be creating a great deal of buzz, but not for its storyline. The movie has a generally linear and typical plot: the heroine sets out on an expedition to save her family and her home, along with a comedic sidekick—in this case Heihei, the corky chicken—to test her worth, despite a parent’s possible disapproval. This standard storyline prohibits the film from getting off the ground until Moana sets out on her journey.

But this slow start does not lessen the cinematic experience. Although we may predict the ending of Moana because of its common formula, what really matters about this film experience is the journey.

In typical Disney fashion, the animation is incredible. Whether set on Moana’s home island of Motunui or in the middle of the ocean with Moana and Maui encountering Te Fiti as the fiery and brimstone goddess, the tropical Polynesian setting is an amazing and almost breathtaking choice compared to other Disney settings seen in films like Frozen or Tangled.

Since most of Moana and Maui’s journey takes place in the middle of the ocean, the film explores its various aspects. On its surface, a serene atmosphere and HeiHei’s comic relief comfort the audience. But underneath the ocean, we are exposed to the unique Realm of the Monsters, which serves as a parallel, underwater universe.

Additionally, what makes Moana special is its mixed structure of diverse components, as Moana is an individualistic heroine. Not only are the film’s characters Polynesian—a diverse representation of people, compared to recent Disney films—but also Moana has a distinct body shape. She is not your typical Disney princess with “perfect” features; instead, she’s unique and curvy, which is something refreshing to see in a film from a franchise that usually celebrates Barbie-like figures in its heroines.

With that being said, Moana is also one of the most admirable and interesting Disney princesses yet. She is incredibly beautiful, but strong, always willing to stand her ground—qualities other Disney princesses seem to share, but not to the same extent or authenticity as Moana.

Along with this diverse representation comes an incredible soundtrack written by Opetaia Foa’i, Mark Mancina and “Hamilton”’s Lin-Manuel Miranda. Miranda—riding high on his recent musical success—provides a fresh sound that is both classically Disney, yet also modern, making this soundtrack stand out from other franchise films.

The songs are enthusiastic and moving, providing the perfect emotional tone for the film. Some are sung in English, while others are in Tokelauan, which is a native Polynesian language.

All that’s really left is for Moana to get the credit it deserves from Disney fans and movie lovers alike. Moana is an exhilarating masterpiece amongst a throng of similar Disney princess stories, and should be appreciated for its authenticity and diversity.

Milne Library’s digital publishing manager helps students reach career goals

If you’re a student interested in editing and publishing, take some time to get to know Allison Brown, the digital publishing manager at Milne Library. A Rochester native, Brown has been a member of the Geneseo faculty since 2012. She was originally hired as the evening and weekend circulation supervisor for Milne, but within a year she was brought on to develop the library publishing tool kit.

“The college was starting publishing programs, and I had a background in InDesign and book production, so I was brought on board to do a research project on library publishing,” she said. “Then, I was kept on as the editor and production manager for the Open SUNY textbooks. I coordinated the publishing process for all of our Open textbooks.”

With technology rapidly advancing, Brown ensures that Milne’s services and books remain up-to-date and accessible for faculty and students.

“We’ve created Open SUNY textbooks, but we also want to provide services for the faculty and students who want to use other educational resources,” she said. “So we’re trying to work with other SUNY schools to band together to solve problems with textbook affordability and making all of those resources user-friendly for faculty.”

Beyond focusing on Open SUNY, Brown is also involved with other publications on campus.

“I support the publication and public access publications here on campus, including student publications like Gandy Dancer,” she said. “I also work for the proceedings of G.R.E.A.T. Day, supporting the training of students, interns and managing editors to learn the technology and walk them through the publication process.”

Brown enjoys working on collaborative projects like Gandy Dancer; she has been a wonderful resource for student editors to gain field experience here on campus.

“I paired up a student editor with a faculty author and gave that student some really good hands-on experience with editing and gave that faculty member some more editorial support where they may not have had access to that,” she said.

Brown has been fond of editing and publishing for a while, but grad school is what solidified this interest. While obtaining her master’s degree in fine arts at Emerson College, Brown took a handful of elective courses in electronic publishing and book design. Working as Milne’s digital publishing manager has helped Brown to hone her publishing and design skills further, becoming a master in her craft.

“I really like the graphic design book production part of it,” she said. “When I began working here, I started to really understand how electronic publications and websites and e-books are structured and how to design for both print and electronic formats.”

But Brown isn’t just tech savvy—she’s also a poet. She has had multiple poems published in various literary journals, including White Whale Review.

Every book lover has their own guilty pleasure books, and Brown is no exception. She prefers to read fiction, and shamelessly indulges in young adult fiction every now and then.

Even if editing and publishing don’t interest you, Brown is a delightful source with a wealth of knowledge to offer students of any major. As students, whether it’s textbooks or novels, we are all responsible for reading, and who better to consult than Geneseo’s own digital publishing manager?

Chamber singers join RCO for magnificent holiday tradition

The Geneseo Chamber Singers kicked off the holiday season with a special opportunity to perform with the prestigious Rochester Chamber Orchestra, as directed by Geneseo’s own professor of music Gerard Floriano. The group of talented singers, along with the Bach Children’s Chorus of Nazareth College, performed Handel’s “Messiah” at Hochstein Performance Hall on Sunday Dec. 4. As the “longest-running Messiah in the region,” this full-length performance took the audience back to the time of German composer George Frideric Handel, with favorites such as the famous “Hallelujah” chorus. The two and a half hour masterpiece tells the story of Jesus’ life, from Nativity to Resurrection, and is a gem in the history of music.

But taking part in such a historic and beautiful tradition isn’t easy. The especially difficult and ornate music of the “Messiah” proved to be a challenge. The student choir rose to the occasion, however, representing the talent of the Geneseo community.

Students spent a good portion of the semester practicing their parts after classes, and the rehearsal schedule leading up to the performance was rigorous. In addition to their weekly rehearsals, the choir made weekend trips to Rochester to rehearse with the RCO at Hochstein and to Nazareth College to rehearse with the children’s choir. The dedication of the students is what made this concert feasible, with, of course, the unwavering support of Floriano.

In addition to the Geneseo Chamber Singers and the Bach Children’s Chorus, the performance featured four professional soloists: Geneseo alumna soprano Laura Heimes ‘90, mezzo-soprano Luthien Brackett, tenor Daniel Curran and baritone Jesse Blumberg. There were also some familiar faces in the orchestra, with adjunct faculty of music Jim Tiller on timpani and adjunct professor of music Herbert Smith playing the trumpet.

Despite the length of this famous composition, time flew by for the audience. Seated in a church-turned-performance-hall complete with stained glass and a “sweeping balcony,” the audience cheered long and hard for the performers when they concluded with a huge, wonderful “Amen.”

The numerous voices blended together beautifully, accented by the youthful sound of the children’s choir and the accompanying string orchestra. The sound of the choir, the orchestra and the soloists together resonated through the hall, filling the space.

Credit must, naturally, be given to the amazingly dedicated Floriano. In addition to his duties here at Geneseo, Floriano serves as artistic director for the RCO. He had an eye on all elements of the performance, expertly guiding the soloists, children’s choir and chamber singers—a truly impressive feat.

If you couldn’t make it to Rochester for this performance, don’t worry. The Chamber Singers will be performing the “Messiah” a second time, this time in Geneseo at St. Michael’s Episcopal Church on Dec. 11 at 3 p.m. The orchestra will be made up of Geneseo students and staff, and all of the soloists will be members of the choir.

Don’t miss this opportunity to see a work of musical genius in a beautiful space, as performed by your talented peers and faculty––and admission is free!

Arts and Entertainment section writer Gretta Cavatassi also contributed to this article.

Faculty piano trio gifts community with powerful array of pieces

One of Geneseo’s newest musical groups, the Geneseo Piano Trio, treated the community to a concert on Sunday Dec. 4 at 3 p.m. in Doty Recital Hall. The Trio, who keeps the tradition of chamber-music-in-residence alive at the college, performed three multi-movement works by Mozart, Shostakovich and Debussy. Debuting in November 2015, this faculty group is comprised of visiting assistant professor of violin Andrew Bergevin on violin, lecturer of music James Kirkwood on cello and professor of music Jonathan Gonder on piano.

The performance was dedicated to music listening, as there were no external elements apart from some context that was provided in the program. For the concert, the performance included just three musicians on stage, doing what they do best.

This minimalism allowed the audience to interpret each piece individually, with some even choosing to close their eyes and bow their heads in order to focus on the sounds. Others, however, decided to never take their eyes off of the flying bows on stage.

First up was Mozart’s “Piano Trio in G major, KV 564,” which was a “generally sunny” and playful three-movement piece. Although the emphasis tended to fall on the piano’s melodies, there was an accenting synchronization of the violin and cello throughout.

The collaboration between these three musicians was so seamless that the audience could fall away from the present reality and perhaps imagine Elizabeth Bennet spurning Mr. Darcy at one of Austen’s famous social dances.

Then, in a complete change of tone, the Trio performed Shostakovich’s four-movement “Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Opus 67.” Immediately “chilling,” this piece began with a short cello solo of long, scratchy strokes.

A product of the Soviet Communist demand for nationalism and patriotism, Shostakovich’s piece reflects the destruction of World War II with impressive piano octaves, string plucking and staccato notes. With its powerful urgency and quiet foreboding, this piece conjures up visions of winter blizzards and dangerous conflict.

The Trio finished the concert with Debussy’s “Trio in G major, L.3.” The four movements in this piece seemingly combined the previous two works, as it follows Shostakovich’s power and Mozart’s playfulness. One of Debussy’s earlier efforts, this piece is almost unrecognizable as the composer’s own, although—as Bergevin pointed out—bits of Debussy’s usual “elfin lightness” can still be detected.

The final movement of this piece lived up to its name, “Appassionato,” as it served as a wonderful finale of the entire performance. After tugging between intensity and gentleness, the piece seems to finally decide upon a powerful passion. It brought together the lighthearted dance of the first piece and the urgent storm of the second.

But it doesn’t matter how you individually interpreted these pieces, as one thing is for certain—the Geneseo community is lucky to have such brilliantly talented musicians to comfort us on dreary Sunday afternoons.

Musical mixtape serves as social commentary

The Hamilton Mixtape premiered on Friday Dec. 2 to great anticipation and fanfare. The album consists of songs from the Broadway phenomenon “Hamilton,” as written by the show’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, but sung by our favorite musical artists. Miranda began the mixtape that eventually led to the creation of his famous musical in 2009. The album features 22 songs from the original score, featuring artists including Usher, Sia, Alicia Keys, Jimmy Fallon, Kelly Clarkson, Chance the Rapper, Andra Day, John Legend, Ashanti, The Roots and many more. Miranda has suggested that this is only Volume I, with a second volume expected to release shortly afterward.

The album’s songs are similar in style to the original score, which drew a widely positive reception from both critics and audiences for its unprecedented and unique portrayal of a common historical narrative. The experience of The Hamilton Mixtape does not just come with the music itself, however; with it also comes its place in the current political and social atmosphere of the country.

While most of the album is composed of covers, there are also a few uncut versions of songs that are not featured in the musical. This includes “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done),” which is performed by a diverse group of artists, comprising of Somali-Canadian rapper K’NAAN, Mexican-American singer Snow Tha Product, British-Pakistani actor and rapper Riz Ahmed and Puerto Rican rapper Residente. This song deviates from the rest by rooting itself in the present, referencing the current status of immigrants in the United States.

“It’s really astonishing that in a country founded by immigrants, ‘immigrant’ has somehow become a bad word,” the song says.

The song also tackles issues of border security, discussing the contributions immigrants have made to this country: “We’re America’s ghost writers, the credit’s only borrowed.”

The foundation of “Hamilton” itself lies in its ability to redefine the role of immigrants and minorities in the whitewashed landscape of American history. The story of Alexander Hamilton is told using a fusion of various musical styles popularized by minority groups, including R&B, rap and other combinations of hip-hop with ballads and show tunes.

The cast is also made up of many diverse performers. With members of the LGBTQ+ community, African Americans, Hispanics and Asians—in combination with the musical’s current role in pop culture—reassurance is provided to marginalized people living in fear of the current issues surrounding society. This includes everything from police brutality to hate crimes.

In terms of the lyrical content, Miranda’s creative genius shines through with the inclusion of his early demo songs, “Wait For It,” featuring Usher, and the new take on “Satisfied” with Queen Latifah, Sia and Miranda himself.

Miranda’s combination of modern American musical sound with a retelling of the classic white dominated story of this country’s origins sends an important message about the changes that have since transformed the face of this country. The new face of America is a diverse melting pot of brown, black and white faces that embody the true American values of freedom and liberty.

The Hamilton Mixtape serves to show that our history and our present don’t have to be mutually exclusive; rather, the two serve as two pieces of a puzzle that complete each other and paint a bigger, more important picture. The Hamilton Mixtape embraces change and addresses the diverse America, establishing its connection with the past and its continued presence in the future.