Notes@Noon to feature a capella students, Renaissance-literature professors

When envisioning the Adele Coryell Hall Learning Commons in Love Library, most students think of a relatively quiet atmosphere, though visitors to the popular Dunkin’ and the Digital Learning Center Exam Commons cause commotion throughout each day. When Anita Breckbill, music librarian at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, thinks of the Adele Learning Commons, she sees a space full of potential for student engagement.

That vision turned into “Notes@Noon,” a concert series at the Learning Commons that has been running since 2016. The next concert will be held on February 27, featuring The Red Keys and Sweet Will and the Saucy Jacks.

“When [the Adele Learning Commons] opened a few years ago, I noticed how gorgeous the space is and how many people come in there,” Breckbill said. “Part of the mission of that space is to do academic programming. So, I thought it would be nice to find a way to bring live music to people who don’t necessarily seek it out.”

The Red Keys, one of several a cappella groups on UNL’s campus, will open the concert and sing for the first half of the 45-minute-long show. Carlyn Bretey, a freshman international business and marketing major and alto in the group, said the Red Keys specialize in pop music and will most likely perform a Queen medley and NEEDTOBREATHE’s “Brother” at the concert, among other selections.

According to Bretey, fellow Red Keys member Eli Bryan found Breckbill’s contact information on a poster last semester and emailed her to express the group’s interest in performing at Notes@Noon. Bretey said she is excited to share the group’s music with students and passersby in the Learning Commons and hopes people will enjoy the performance.

“They can expect a fun break from their studying and a way to shake up their day that they weren’t expecting,” she said. “It should be a really fun atmosphere.”

Besides the catchy pop songs of The Red Keys, students will be treated to something a little more unusual from the band Sweet Will and the Saucy Jacks. Stephen Buhler and Kelly Stage, UNL English professors and two-thirds of an active band called Tupelo Springfield, will sing original songs adapted from the sonnets of Early Modern English writers and poets.

Buhler said he has been involved with the Sweet Will project for about 30 years. While teaching the introductory Shakespeare class at the university –– a class he still teaches today –– he found that he could help students remember and relate to these early works by setting them to existing songs.

“I realized that one of the ways of demystifying early literature is to have fun with it, oftentimes without changing a word, just by delivering those words in unexpected formats,” he said. “For example, [a] great medieval ballad. ‘Sir Patrick Spens,’ I realized could be sung perfectly to then-current hit by The Cars, ‘Just What I Needed,’ and you could kind of see minds being blown in the classroom.”

But, the idea behind Sweet Will and the Saucy Jacks has changed over the years. While originally used as a tool to educate in the classroom, it has turned into a group that Buhler and a rotating cast of colleagues and fellow musicians perform in. Buhler was recruited to perform in Notes@Noon by Breckbill, who remembered hearing some Sweet Will sonnets back in the ‘90s.

For Wednesday’s concert, Buhler and Stage will play original songs and parody tunes based on the works of Sir Thomas Wyatt, William Shakespeare and John Milton.

“[Stage and I] know and love this material, and we’re delighted to share it,” Buhler said. “I’m delighted to see how this will work while people are visiting Dunkin’ Donuts and having their lunch hour. Hopefully I won’t spoil it.”