Vetrans' Day Concert Review
The Howard Performing Arts Center hummed with energy on Saturday evening as an audience filled the concert hall for “Gratitude, Honor, Praise: A Salute to the Men and Women of the Armed Services.” The Veterans Day tribute concert was a joint effort of multiple groups representing Andrews University and the Berrien Springs community. It featured the Andrews University Singers and Chorale groups, primarily directed by Stephen Zork, Berrien Springs High School’s Bell Canto and Concert Choir directed by Carrie VanDenburgh, and The Three Divas (Katherine Rohwer, Rebecca Selvedge and Carrie VanDenburgh). The Three Divas are all music educators in local public schools with backgrounds in music performance.
A brief preamble to the concert acknowledged veterans in attendance and thanked them for their service, after which the University Singers filed onstage to begin the program with “A Sentimental Journey Through the 40s,” arranged by Hawley Ades. This piece was a medley of several popular songs from the WWII. Ranging from the swinging optimism of “It’s a Big Wide Wonderful World” to the homesickness of “Sentimental Journey,” the arrangement was a reminder of the complexity involved in conflict. The University Singers went on to perform several more pieces, covering themes such as the joy of music itself and finding hope in God. The audience was invited to join the final verse of an exultant rendition of “When The Saints Go Marching In,” arranged by John Rutter, which was followed by resounding applause as the Singers exited the stage.
Next, Berrien Springs High School’s all-girl Bel Canto group graced the stage with “Lineage,” in homage to the strength of the grandmothers and resilient women who have come before us. Next they sang “Banjo Pickin’ Girl”, during which the group seemed to internalize the message of independence they were proclaiming. They ended their performance with a collective and emphatic hair flip, and walked back to their seats.
The Three Divas took the stage in vibrant coordinating dresses for a trio of exuberant songs focusing on the uplifting aspect of music and the warmth of being in love. They were followed by the Berrien Springs High School Concert Choir, whose selections brought a more serious mood to the auditorium. Next, the Andrews University Chorale presented a group of songs about camaraderie and reunion.
During a break between songs, Stephen Zork addressed a theme that really tied the evening together. He discussed an aspect of music performance which separates live music from recordings. When you are able to see music performed live, you also see the people making it, and see how they as people affect and are affected by it. Bell Canto and The Three Divas especially showed an emotional connection among their groups and with their conductor. This was visible in their expressions as they sang, when they made affirming eye contact with each other, and with the enthusiasm of their gestures.
The last song, “Homeland,” brought all of the choirs together for one last resounding musical salute and a visible message of unity. As Zork said, live performance is concerned with “your experience making music together and accepting each other where you’re at.” It was apparent that though the concert’s performers were of different ages and didn’t even attend the same schools, they were able to work together to create a meaningful and compelling Veterans Day tribute concert.