Singer Alicia Hall Moran and musician Jason Moran graced the UH Moores School of Music on the evening of Sept. 16 for the annual Mitchell Art Lecture.
Both bursting with character and chemistry, the duo shared insights and samples through their performance art.
Jason is a jazz musician and has recently served as score composer for the critically acclaimed “Selma.” Alicia is a mezzo-soprano singer, once portraying Bess on the U.S. tour of “Porgy and Bess.”
Living life as married collaborative artists means “the kitchen is the meeting room, our children are characters of a play,” according to the Morans.
They opened on a high note, namely on a performance of “Milestone,” and while Jason spoke, Alicia strolled around to the beat of his words while vocalizing, as if building momentum to his words. He played the piano when she shared a story. Her voice was the soundtrack to his musings, and his piano playing was the score to her reminiscing.
They showed a sample of the short film, “Breakdown.” It features Alicia venting, “I dooooon’t want to go to the baaaaall game” through powerful, operatic vocals. While the clip induced chuckles, there was also an anguished poignancy to the breakdown in the film.
As Alicia watched herself wail on screen, she called out, “How does one sing in the face of adversity?”
Both artists acknowledged how easily lectures can fall into monotony. Jason joked about hearing “crickets” in the audience. Alicia continued his quip by musing that a play starring Jason accompanied by cricket noises would make a substantial production.
Cameron Doby, UH alumnus and painter, tried to wrap his mind around the unconventional structure of their act.
“I was tricking myself into thinking (their lecture/act) was planned. But it seemed they were going off-script at the same time,” Doby said.
The Morans rotated from piano pieces and songs, to video samples and married-couple bantering.
Electrical engineering sophomore Moriah Anders understood the uniqueness of the Morans’ presentation.
“In so many artist lectures, there’s no visual representation of the art. It was really nice they took the time to break down the background and context to their composition,” Anders said.
The crowd that gave them a standing ovation might agree as well. Maybe they expected a “lecture,” as the brochures and programs promised. Instead, the Morans exceeded expectations.
Anders remembers the lecture as an “intimate and dynamic experience.”