The Andrews University Wind Symphony vespers concert, directed by Byron Graves, was spectacular. Byron Graves is a music education teacher at Andrews University and previously taught at several Adventist schools. He has traveled extensively around the US with various ensembles and won awards for their performances. For this vespers, all the songs were spiritual, but "not your typical gospel tunes," Graves noted. He gave a short introduction to each song throughout the concert.
The concert began with “Hallelujah Fantasy” by Walter Hartley, which had a fun, lilting melody and a strong finish. The second piece was a folk spiritual, “Wayfaring Stranger,” directed by graduate conductor Kleberson Calanca. With its mournful opening, the song seems to tell a woeful story of a traveler. The notes of the xylophone were clearly executed and added emotion to the moving piece. The song crescendoed into a stirring height, and ended softly.
“They Hung Their Harps in the Willows,” composed by W. Francis McBeth, led with a dramatic beginning, slow middle, and had drastic dynamics throughout. It was a sobering piece, but one full of emotion. The crescendos were strong and the seeming urgency could literally be felt in the seats by the force of the timpani, percussion and the tones resonating through the hall.
The next song, “Pacem” (Latin for peace), was full and satisfying. “Robert Spittal wrote [this song] to portray the idea of peace. It ranges from introspective to truly epic themes and reflects on the persistent and extraordinary struggle of the world for peace," Graves explained.
The cymbals added vigor and emotion and the chimes added to the introspective feeling. One couldn’t help but feel their soul soaring with the music as they listened to this song of peace.
“No Shadow of Turning,” after which this concert was named, is an arrangement of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” by David Gillingham. The song featured members of the Andrews Academy Resound Bell Choir with their director, Elsy Gallardo Diaz. The audience was encouraged to reflect on God’s unchanging faithfulness in their lives as the song ranged from peaceful, to strong and animated, and then back to peaceful and soothing. The bells added a contemplative aspect and pure sound.
The next piece, “Lied ohne Worte,” by Rolf Rudin, literally means "song without words.” It was emotive and communicated with the audience “without words,” as is often required of song. The piece was smooth and serene with the occasional swell.
The last selection was “American Hymnsong Suite” by Dwayne Milburn. It was comprised of four hymn melodies, including “Wondrous Love,” “Balm in Gilead,” “Come Thou Fount,” and “When We All Get To Heaven,” which brought a unique marching band feel. The four movements were brimming with brooding emotion, consolatory tones and dynamic energy.
I found “Pacem” and “They Hung Their Harps in the Willows” to be the most moving, with plenty of dynamic shifts to keep interest. The Wind Symphony once again succeeded in presenting a well-organized program with sensational, high quality music.