Stuck in the Middle With You

While elsewhere on campus this past Saturday evening, students pre-gamed and primped, one first-year foursome celebrated Bach and Batman, Mozart and the Mario Brothers.

James P. Ferus ’07 arrived on campus knowing that all of his roommates, himself included, were musicians. On the first Saturday of the term, once he and his fellow occupants of Grays Middle 54 had settled in, Ferus decided to rally his roommates for a performance. On a whim he left a message on all the doors in his entryway announcing a recital to take place at 7 p.m.

Peter T. D’Elia ’07, Robert E. Furrow ’07 and Matthew L. Tobey ’07 rose to the occasion and joined Ferus in performing a hastily assembled program of solos and ensembles for a handful of their classmates. Their first recital, despite its somewhat off-the-cuff character, generated enough buzz to warrant the establishment of a tradition.

This past Saturday, at a few minutes to seven, a dozen or so first-years arranged themselves on and around the couch and desk chairs in M-54, settling in and preparing to enjoy a post-dinner, pre-Saturday-night-bash musical interlude.

There were snacks and drinks, refreshments made possible by donations from previous recitals. The atmosphere was that of your run-of-the-mill dorm room except that Ferus tuned his violin to an A provided by D’Elia from one end of the keyboard, while on the other end, Tobey echoed the digital tones coming from a cell phone in the room as someone tested out various melodic rings.

The chattering died down as Tobey, the evening’s emcee rose from the keyboard bench. “It’s time to get serious,” he said, welcoming his friends and fans to the fourth Saturday night recital.

One audience member asked whether the band had a name yet. “We’re not a band,” Tobey said, “just a collection of misfits. We’ve been called the Middlers though.”

Tobey, an accomplished pianist, opened with Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C. Next, Ferus, a violinist of 14 years and a member of Harvard’s Bach Society orchestra, played Mozart’s violin concerto no. 5, accompanied by D’Elia on the keyboard.

The program progressed chronologically, including an original jazz composition by Tobey entitled “Midlothian Rhapsody” and Furrow’s tender vocal rendition of Seymour Simons and Gerald Marks’ “All of Me.” Furrow, who has played the trumpet at previous recitals, made his debut on the piano with the Mario Brothers theme song taught to him by his roommates.

The evening’s grand finale, the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey was the group’s response to a request from the week before. “Here’s the best we can do with a few people and a keyboard,” said Tobey. Their answer to the challenge included Furrow’s acting as the timpani, providing the necessary “bom, bom, bom, bom”s with his vocal chords. Crowd favorites at past recitals have included the theme from Love Story and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”