At last weekend’s concert, the music department showcased a wide variety of pieces in celebration of the alumni returning to Albion for Homecoming.
The concert featured the Briton Singers, Concert Choir, Symphony Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble and various solo student performances. This performance is one of the few times each school year when different musical groups perform in one concert at Albion College.
“I really love the Homecoming Concert. It’s one of my favorite concerts because it is one of the only concerts that portrays all of our music ensembles,” said Sunny Kim, a sophomore from Midland, Michigan, and violinist in the Symphony Orchestra. “It’s normally just each of our own little concerts. I think it’s also cool that alumni who have been a part of this music department can come back and see how much we have improved and how we are doing as student musicians. It’s really nice that we can look out and see our alumni and know that these are people who have sat in our own seats.”
The performance began with the Concert Choir, directed by Dr. Parr, performing six pieces that they have been working on, including the somber “This We Know,” by David Brunner, and the cluttered but exciting “Circus Band,” by Charles Ives.
Joshua McGarry, a pianist and junior from Macomb, Michigan, soloed a dynamic piece by Franz Liszt, fingers flying across the keyboard, alternately loud and gentle.
“Being able to play for the Homecoming Concert was a very special experience for me,” said McGarry. “It was so cool to be able to perform at such a big event and in front of so many friends.”
Next came the Jazz Ensemble, performing several snazzy pieces including two accompanied by vocalists Kailey Henderson, a senior from Chicago, and Miya Dunham, a junior from Albion. Kailey performed a crooning “At Last,” belting out the notes. Miya’s upbeat “Knock on Wood,” was a pleasing turn from the chamber music performed before the jazz ensemble.
Ryan Powell, a saxophonist and senior from Ann Arbor, played a long solo during the piece “Knock on Wood.” He said that it was his favorite song of the concert.
“It’s relatively simple, chord-wise. So I just hit the changes and I made it one big hill. I ended it really high and loud. It was just a lot of fun — it’s a really rockin’ song. A lot of people showed up, and it was nice to see the choir and the orchestra play also. It felt like a real concert. It was nice to be able to dress up and give it my all.”
After a 20-minute intermission, the Briton Singers took the stage in a more relaxed performance than the Concert Choir. Dr. Parr sang with the seven members on several pieces, including a Georgian folk song that he excitedly prefaced with a translation. He explained that the song was about someone who went to a goldsmith, asking to use the iron from a bird’s shoe for a spade, an ax and a knife. Dr. Parr explained that this song was meant as a joke in the country of Georgia. Translations were provided for several of the songs in the programs handed out before the concert began.
Anna Miller, a senior flutist, performed “The Great Train Race,” by Ian Clarke. Her piece completely mimicked the sounds of an actual train and was a delight to listen to.
The Symphony Orchestra then played a heartstopping “Night on Bald Mountain,” accompanied by several alumni instrumentalists. The concert ended with “Albion, Dear Albion,” where alumni in the audience came up to perform with the choir.
Dr. James Ball, music director and conductor of orchestra and jazz band, explained that the Homecoming concert is an event that has been going on before he started at Albion College.
Dr. Ball explained that the Homecoming Concert used to be on Sundays, and was limited to the orchestra and the choir. The concert was moved to Saturday about six years ago, to accommodate returning alums, and some of the other music ensembles were included.
He explained that the concert was also a chance to give top music majors a chance to shine.
“Soloists perform music that they have been working on,” said Ball. “Anna Miller’s piece was from her recital a few weeks ago. Music majors are always preparing pieces to be performed. As far as the ensembles go, we prepare music from day one and decide what we would like to perform, what would go well together, that the audience would like.”
Dr. Ball also mentioned that there were several alums and members of the community playing in the orchestra. Due to the lack of enrollment a few years ago, alumni and community members were invited to play alongside the current orchestra, which they have continued to do even now that enrollment is back up.
“Our orchestra is a combined college and community group, and several of them are alums,” said Ball. “One of our members, an alum of 35 years, played at the concert.”
Dr. Ball went on to talk about the many performances the Jazz Band and Orchestra have coming up. Jazz Band performs at Relli’s once a month, and the orchestra has a concert on Sunday, October 29. The Orchestra also performing a concert Friday, October 27 for elementary schools coming in to watch it.
Photos by Sunny Kim