The Andrews University Wind Symphony and the University Singers presented a Vespers Concert on Friday, March 3 at the Howard Performing Arts Center. The symphony was joined by guest trumpet soloist William Camp during the song “When Speaks the Trumpet,” composed by Donald Gillingham. William Camp plays for the Northwest Indiana Symphony, Chicago Pops Orchestra and Chicago Classic Brass, among other groups. Both the Wind Symphony and University Singers performed a few pieces independently and then all musicians participated in the final song, “The Promise of Living,” from The Tender Land by Aaron Copland and Thomas Duffy. This song was directed by a guest conductor, Colonel Bryan Shelburne who filled in for the ensemble’s regular director, Alan Mitchell. Shelburne has previously led the U.S. Army Band and the U.S. Military Academy band at West Point, among others.
The program began with Mozart’s “Allegro from Serenade in C Minor,” performed by the Chamber Winds. Then the rest of the Symphony, along with soloist William Camp, took their places on stage for “When Speaks the Trumpet,” by Donald Gillingham. The three movements of this piece adopted a military tone, combining a muted, foreboding introductory solo, reverberating tympani beats layered over the symphony’s turbulent background, and reflective call and response sections which, according to the program, seek to emulate a part of the experience of the G.I.
Next, the University Singers, directed by Stephen Zork, sang “Oh Clap Your Hands,” by Ralph Vaughan Williams and “Cornerstone,” by Shawn Kirchner, two decidedly upbeat arrangements. Both songs communicated verbally concise messages over rolling, multilayered vocals. Following the Singers, the Symphony returned to play Brian Balmages’ “Grace”. This song began with a quiet ringing from the percussion that sounded like church bells in the distance, before swelling into a fuller, more triumphant sound. Throughout the piece, the music repeatedly built up before being cut off by the crash of a cymbal, followed by a mellow, reflective passage before repeating the cycle. Eventually, “Grace” melted away, and was followed by Masanori Taruya’s “Archangel Raphael from the House of Tobias,” whose nervous and aggressive energy provided a sharp and uncomfortable contrast to the moods of the previous pieces.
Finally, both the University Singers and Wind Symphony, directed by guest Colonel Bryan Shelburne, filled the stage to combine for “The Promise of Living” from The Tender Land. The piece began with the flute carrying the melody before being overshadowed by the bubbly though indiscernible voices of the choir. The program, which began independent of introduction, concluded with applause as the musicians left the stage.
The music was very well prepared and the vespers moved swiftly. I especially appreciated the cinematic feeling of “Grace,” which seemed like it should be played over an adventure montage. The program also included very useful interpretive material about several of the songs, shedding some light towards understanding the background and composers’ intent for the more abstract, lyricless pieces. To those who missed out on the opportunity to hear the Wind Symphony, I would recommend attending their Spring Concert on Sunday, April 23.