Student reflects on World Premiere Concert

Commentary by

Jack Vander Laan

After April 29, another concert in the Houlihan-McLean Center came and went. Since the beginning of the semester, the band and choir of The University worked hard every week to learn the music. From the rhythm and tune down to the finer points like dynamics and articulation, every part was learned diligently.

It was not just the notes of the songs that we learned, but the origin. By learning why the songs were written, the performers in the ensembles learned the emotion and meaning of the pieces, furthering their ability to perform them. “A Hymn for the Lost and the Living” by Eric Ewazen was written in memorial of 9/11. “An American Elegy,” by Frank Ticheli, honors the Columbine Massacre; a short segment of the piece has a rendition of the Columbine alma mater. “Epitaph for a Soldier,” sung by the Choir, is a vocal rendition of some of Walt Whitman’s writing. With these backgrounds in mind, the performers were capable of bringing them to life through music during the concert.

Other concert band songs included, “Hymn for the Innocent” by Julie Giroux, “Of Honor and Valour Eternal” by Ayatey Shabazz, an arrangement of “Hymn to the Fallen” from the film Saving Private Ryan. The choir songs included “I Dream a World” by Andre J. Thomas, “Selena 1965: Let My People Go,” based upon a traditional song and “Sing Me to Heaven” by Dan Gawthrop.

This concert was the annual World Premiere concert, where musical pieces are commissioned by composers for the school to showcase. This year brought forth two unique works by Erica von Kleist. She wrote the two songs in response to injustices seen throughout America and the world in our modern age. Her first piece, “A Silent March,” was sung by the choir. It felt solemn like the other songs performed beforehand, but somehow calming. Her song for band, titled “Woke” after the contemporary slang, had a much different feel from the rest of the concert. It felt very sporadic, and something of an adventure to play.

While there were some repetitive parts, they never overstayed their welcome or got boring. As a trombone player I was thankful for this practical composition choice, as we frequently have many repetitious parts in other songs. The most powerful part of “Woke” was the solo section. Various members from each section chimed in, making it sound like a wild conversation. As she was the one who wrote the songs, Erica was also the one who conducted both of her works.

Cheryl Boga’s direction and the diligence of both ensembles made for a wonderful concert performed that night. The collections of war hymns and memorial songs made for a solemn yet triumphant melody. It was a pleasure for the band and choir to work with Erica during the rehearsals beforehand, and I am certain she was proud to see her work come to life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *