Robbie Wilson’s The Forest is Full of Color brought the natural world to the city of Worcester


Robbie Wilson’s The Forest Is Full of Color was a series of three performances highlighting nature, and more specifically, the human connection to the natural world around us. Wilson’s inspiration is rooted in their upbringing in rural Massachusetts and their subsequent love of the natural world, but also in their identity as a queer POC. They acknowledge that many others identifying as queer and/or people of color do not feel welcome or secure in more rural environments.

 It is important that people know the story of the project, and within the program, Robbie writes, “Through my compositions, I want to emphasize that nature is a space for everyone by creating a sense of familiarity and representation with these cultures and identities while pursuing a romantic ideal of the environment. I’ll be doing this through two major works: a string quartet and a song cycle. The string quartet contains styles, melodies, and themes inspired by different cultures with an overarching sense of pastoralism and the song cycle is a musical setting of poems by Emily Dickinson, a noted queer poet and Massachusetts native”. 

The title, Through the Window, was chosen for this section because of Dickinson’s reputation as a recluse, as over the course of her life, she retreated more and more into the solitude of her bedroom where she wrote and watched the world from her window. Wilson relates this to the feeling many queer people have of “watching life through a window”, not experiencing the stereotypical ‘first love’ in high school, and for many, not even living as their authentic selves until later in life. 

The arrangement of Emily Dickinson poems for Through the Window was composed by Robbie Wilson and performed on piano by Ulysses Loken, a member of the Tufts University and College of The Holy Cross faculty. He has collaborated with members of multiple major orchestras and played at many events and festivals such as the Oregon Bach Festival and the Old First Concert Series. 

The poems were sung by Zoe Marinakos, a current Clark undergraduate student studying vocal performance as a soprano. She has been involved in music performance for the majority of her life in theatre, a cappella, and choral groups. In high school, she realized she wanted to be an opera singer and today she is chasing her dreams.

The poems chosen were, If I can Stop one Heart from Breaking, Will there really be a Morning, Hope is a thing with Feathers, The Heart asks Pleasure First, I Had no Cause to be Awake, and Afraid? Of Whom am I Afraid? These poems fit together as the speaker looking to nature for solace and solitude, and feeling at peace in nature, achieving a sort of symbiosis with the natural world. Robbie Wilson’s ordering of the poems takes the speaker from seeking this connection out of sorrow or fear and ending on the speaker confident and at home within nature, brilliantly realizing their intention as a composer and conveying a narrative through music. 

The New England Spring Quartet, Wilson String Quartet No. 1 in F major, consisted of four movements played by four instruments; two violins, one viola, and one cello which created a gorgeous and layered sound that reverberated through Razzo Hall. Wilson used their own experiences and a wide variety of inspirations to compose a piece which invoked a yearn for the earth and the lushness of the world around us. 

The four movements are titled Pastorale, Le Spirituale, Minuet & Trio, and Finale. Pastorale is meant to paint a picture of the environment Robbie grew up in, including a local bar they played in as a child. Then the second movement uses different re-harmonizations and heavy gospel to evoke a sense of beauty and enlightenment within a struggle, and that is definitely the feeling I had when I listened to this performance. The third movement is described as a pastiche of the classical Minuet & Trio dance form but with little other conventions to create a sense of familiarity with different cultural song and dance styles. The final movement mirrors the first, returning to nature but this time with the incorporation of cultural influences as it moves forward.

Sarah K. Kane was one of the violinists. They are a current senior here at Clark studying Violin Performance and Music Technology, they specialize in recording and mixing engineering. This was their first time debuting a composer’s work.

Marco Marvin was the other violinist. He is a sophomore studying Philosophy and is involved in the Clark music program; before Clark, he played under Frank Lu and was Concertmaster for the Chiawana Chamber Orchestra as well as second violinist with the YMA youth symphony. 

The viola was played by Gerdlie Jean Louis, a Clark sophomore studying Viola Performance and a current member of Kids 4 Harmony as both a student and teaching assistant and a member of the El Sistema program Neighborhood Strings as a teaching assistant. They have participated in several orchestras and music programs, some being the YOLA National Festival, the YOLA National Institute, and the Empire State Youth Orchestra.

The cellist was Joseph Cracolici, Brooks Scholar of Music for the 2023 class at the College of the Holy Cross. He is an accomplished chamber, orchestral, and solo musician and current Principal Cellist of the Holy Cross Chamber Orchestra and Stockbridge Sinfonia. He currently teaches at the El Sistema-inspired music programs, Kids 4 Harmony and Neighborhood strings in Pittsfield, MA and Worcester, respectively. 

Robbie Wilson is the mind behind The Forest is Full of Color. Currently, they are a senior here at Clark University studying music and concentrations in honors music composition, honors music technology, and cello performance. They have always been extremely ambitious, playing guitar in local bars in Worcester and Brookfield after hours of intense practice. On campus, they are involved as co-president and player in the Clark Sinfonia string ensemble as well as the arts director and cellist of the Goddard Quartet. Wilson is also a mentor for Neighborhood Strings as well as a captain of the swim and dive team. The Forest is Full of Color was one of their capstone projects, and there are two more in the works with a recital on Sunday, April 23rd.