Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Come Down Heavy: a Valentine's Day recital

Thursday, February 18, 2021
Assistant Professor of Upper Strings and Concertmaster at Southeast Missouri State University Dr. Sophia Han (left), Director of Choral Activities Dr. Barb Lamont (middle) and Assistant Professor of Saxophone Dr. Zach Stern perform a piece from their Valentine’s Day recital.
Photo by Amari Bell

On Feb. 14, Assistant Professor of Upper Strings Sophia Han, Adjunct Professor and Alto Saxophonist with the Sinta Quartet Zach Stern and Director of Choral Activities Barb Lamont performed together in a “recital of star-crossed lovers of the musical world,” which promised to be “a romantic afternoon,” according to a description on

Audience members gathered in Shuck Recital Hall at the River Campus, immersed in two contrasting sounds — violin and saxophone, played by Han and Stern respectively — which were joined together by Lamont on the piano.

The trio began the recital with the three-part piece “Konzertstück No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 114,” which accentuated each performer’s individual talents while fusing the unique sounds of the instruments together.

Following the first piece, Han took a moment to speak to the audience about the recital, revealing a surprise to those who were unacquainted with the members of the trio: performers Han and Stern are a real-life, married couple. Han jested that Lamont was her “work wife;” this relationship between the trio was instrumental in creating the atmosphere of their Valentine’s show.

As the concert continued, the audience heard renditions of musical selections including “Flower Duet,” “Tornami a dir che m’ami,” “Come Down Heavy,” “String Quartet No. 2,” “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” and “Con te partirò.” The audience cheered for an encore after the trio finished their selection, so the performers finished the rectial with the final song, “Por una cabeza.”

The third song, “Come Down Heavy,” was the title piece of the rectial. Han said this song is about the intense love of a father for his child. The composer alludes to the father’s work on the railroad in the first movement. After the recital, Stern noted there are hints of American folk songs in the piece about fatherly love. This was the only song played at the recital specifically created for the unique pairing of violin and saxophone.

After the recital, Stern revealed the intimate importance of this song to himself and his wife.

“We both met at the University of Michigan; [the composer] teaches there,” Stern said. “The first time Sophia and I ever played together was for that piece and its entirety.”

Han joked about the couple’s chemistry when they played “Can You Feel The Love Tonight.”

“He made me blush a couple times when he was playing the melody in ‘The Lion King,’” Han said.

Han is the associate concertmaster of the Paducah Symphony Orchestra, a leader of the violin section. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the orchestra finds less conventional ways to keep performing and to continue bringing in revenue.

Recently, the orchestra created a Valentine’s Day concert and dinner event, where audience members could purchase a table, treating themselves to a romantic dinner and show. After a video performance by the pair in December, the orchestra asked Han and Stern to play for their special event. Stern arranged the pieces for this recital, bringing in Lamont to give life to the music. Due to the success of this show, the trio decided to use the same arrangement for their faculty Valentine’s Day recital at Shuck Hall this past Sunday.

With COVID-19 restrictions, the performers were both surprised and impressed by the turnout of the sold-out show.

“We would love to keep having them come to concerts,” Han said. “With COVID being so weird, it was really nice this year to still be able to give live performances, even with the reduced audience.”

The River Campus and Holland College are taking extra precautions to maintain COVID-19 guidelines to protect the community and the arts, as well.

“I am hoping this experience actually helped people realize the arts is something fundamental in keeping the human spirit going through difficult times,” Han said. “I am hoping that this helps people realize that the arts might not be essential like food and water, but it is essential to feed the soul.”

While the trio has no set schedule for a recital together in the future, Stern will perform “Not That Same Old Song & Dance” on March 11, and Han will perform “The Lark Ascending” at the River Campus on April 26 and 27. To purchase tickets, visit