Homecoming Gala Concert: Storytelling Across Generations
The Howard Performing Arts Center welcomed Andrews Alumni back to campus with a glorious concert showcasing both the AU Wind Symphony and Symphony Orchestra. Byron Graves (Assistant Professor of Music, Band; Conductor, Wind Symphony; Music Education Area Coordinator), and alumnus of AU himself, has conducted extensively throughout the United States, won awards, served as a clinician and guest conductor, and is currently completing his dissertation. Dr. Claudio Gonzalez (Professor of Music; Conductor, University Orchestra and Sinfonietta) has studied music all over the world, from his native Venezuela to London. He has multiple degrees in violin and conducting and has organized the International Adventist Youth Music Festival twice, once in the Philippines and again in Costa Rica.
The concert opened with a powerful rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner,” with everyone in attendance rising to their feet in respect for the national anthem. A lively march, “Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite,” by Karl L. King, came next. The third selection, “As Summer Was Just Beginning,” by Larry Daehn was written for James Dean, the young star of “Rebel Without a Cause” who died at age 24.
Byron Graves said, “This song was written as a memorial to all young people taken from us too early.”
The piece was somber and wistful carrying a delicate sound to the song that evokes a feeling of nostalgia that you may not even be aware you possess. Powerful, deep notes from the brass accompanied the light tones.
“Summer Dances,” by Brian Balmages, truly awakened the soul with a strong start, low, quiet notes in the middle almost like a mid-summer slump, and a strong, full finish. A piece written by Frank Ticheli, “Nitro” was inspired by explosive, life giving nitrogen.
“Listen for the musical bubbling and imagine the explosive creative power of God as he created our world,” advised Byron Graves before turning to conduct the piece.
Cacophonous at first, the song truly did sound like musical bubbling. I could see in my mind's eye God having fun creating and putting things into motion as our world came to life.
Following a short intermission, the Symphony Orchestra was directed by Dr. Claudio Gonzalez. Two pieces were played, both by Beethoven. The final song showcased a piano solo by Wen-Ting Ong (AU alumna). She started playing piano at seven years old, has won awards and grants, and became a resident fellow in Italy in 2016. She is currently a ballet accompanist at two dance centers. Wen-Ting Ong had a beautiful light touch and the long, technical piece she played was completely memorized. The orchestra alternated through forte and pianissimo moments, every transition smooth and graceful. The end of the concert was met with thundering applause.
Skyler Schell (Junior, biochemistry), succinctly summarized the event, saying it was “Positively exhilarating.”