October 30, 2020
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Honors Festival showcases high school talent

By Julia Duggan
Staff Writer

It was a busy night at Kendall and Mayo Concert Hall for the College’s music department, as 250 high school students arrived and were split into two concerts that both performed at 8 p.m. 

The performances marked the conclusion to the Honors Festival, a program where the music department invites high school students to work with its professors and showcase their talent.

“Music-making is collaborative at its core,” said Eric Laprade, an assistant professor of music and director of bands. “It’s a collaborative art form at least in large ensembles. Ensemble music-making is dependent on a group of people coming together and working towards a goal that is far greater than what any of them can achieve on their own.”

Uli Speth, director of the College Orchestra, coordinator of strings and a violin professor, explained that the high school students’ music teachers recommended them as a way of enhancing their skills.

“The playing abilities are really quite high,” Speth said.

The orchestra performed first starting with “From Holberg’s Time, Op. 40 (Suite in Olden Style)” by Edvard Grieg. The students performed all five movements of this piece, which took about 20 minutes, and the students showed no signs of fatigue. The other piece that the orchestra played was “Pavane, Op. 50” by Gabriel Faure, where the choir joined the musicians on stage. 

“It is a funny piece it is with an optional choir, (Faure) wrote the orchestra piece first and then wove in the choir later. But it works very well,” Speth said. 

The choir and orchestra blended well together, and the sound echoed beautifully throughout the hall. Due to spacing, the choir sang from the balcony, which enhanced the beauty of the music.

The choir performed for the next song, where music professors John P. Leonard and Nicholas McBride conducted the group. 

The performance began with “Let the River Run,” which was originally by Carly Simon and was later arranged by Craig Hella Johnson. The choir followed with “Modimo,” arranged by Michael Barrett, and then “The Gound from Sunrise Mass” by Ola Gjeilo.

The final piece of the night was “I Sing Because I’m Happy” arranged by Rollo Dilworth, where Jacob Ford – a sophomore music education major – performed on the congas and Shrish Jawadiwar – a junior double major in political science and music – played on double bass. Near the end of the song, the choir had the audience join in clapping to the music, while others began singing along.

In Kendall Hall, Gold and Blue Wind Ensembles performed, while the Alumni Trombone Octet kicked off the night. There were seven trombones and one tuba, which consisted of a combination of College alumni and current students. 

The group played “Shimmering Under the Sunlight from Grand Lakes Octet” by Eric Ewazen, Franz Biebl’s “Ave Maria,” arranged by Sean Ferguson, and John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” arranged by Christopher Bill, during which audience members could be heard singing along to the music.

The Gold Wind Ensemble took the stage next, where Laprade and music professor Colleen Sears conducted the group. The ensemble performed “Tricycle” by Andrew Boysen Jr., “Neys from Lake Superior Suite” by Cait Nishimura, “Songs of Old Kentucky movement one John Giley (with Wayfaring Stranger) and movement two Barn Dance” by Brant Karrick. 

Students perform a variety of instruments at the concert (Juila Meehan/Staff Photographer).

Audience members could be seen clapping along and swaying to “Songs of Old Kentucky.” For the final piece,“March from English Fold Song Suite” by Ralph Vaughan Williams, the group was well balanced and the audience thoroughly enjoyed the performance.

The Blue Ensemble performed next, where both conductors walked out on stage to introduce a piece of music to the audience. To fit the concert’s theme, students in the ensemble were tasked with recording sounds that reminded them of home, which the conductors then took and arranged into a piece of music for the audience. 

To close the night, the group then performed “Resonances I” by Rob Nelson, “Rippling Watercolors” by Brian Balmages, “Night Dances” by Bruce Yurko and Leonard Bernstein’s “Mambo from West Side Story,” arranged by Michael Sweeney. The audience was very excited for “Mambo,” as several members could be heard clapping for solos and screaming the song’s title along with the band.

“It’s always a pleasure getting to hear the final product of what is just over a day’s worth of rehearsals together,” said Kimberly Cook, a senior elementary education iSTEM major.

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