Manchester University
Oak Leaves

October 18, 2019

Band, Choir Perform for Homecoming Weekend 

Carly Greaves


Captivating music and passionate performers filled the Cordier Auditorium on Oct. 11 as the annual Homecoming Concert kicked off the weekend of festivities.

The stage was brightly lit as the musicians prepared themselves before the concert. All the curtains had been drawn back, leaving enough space for the many chairs and easels needed for the three bands performing that evening--the Jazz Ensemble, A Cappella Choir, and Symphonic Band. Dressed in black, the performers bustled across the stage, carrying choir folders and gleaming instruments. Manchester alumni, invited to perform once again for Homecoming, found their positions. Monitoring these movements were the two conductors for the event: Dr. Scott Humphries, assistant professor of music, and Dr. Debra J. Lynn, professor of music.

The diligence of the performers and the vigilance of their supervisors was understandable, given the unique time and nature of this concert. “It’s our first concert of the year for all the groups and a chance to reconnect with our alumni,” Humphries said.

Once everyone was in place, the lights dimmed and the concert began. The first band to perform was the Jazz Ensemble, a relatively small but enthusiastic group. They began with Paul Baker’s “Arnge Drank” and Bret Zvacek’s “Back to the Basement,” songs that were as smooth as they were spunky, leading several of the performers to swing along to the beat. Next came Mike Tomaro’s “Theme for Bill,” a much slower tune with an almost wistful melody, highlighted by the piano’s gentle, lilting notes.

The Jazz Ensemble finished their act with composer Toby Fox’s and arranger Paul Murtha’s “Megalovania,” an exciting, fast-paced song adapted from the popular video game “Undertale.” The next group on stage was the A Cappella Choir, accompanied by several alumni performers. The talented group sang a musically and culturally diverse array of melodies, including “Mairi’s Wedding,” a joyful Scottish folk song arranged by Hugh S. Roberton, and “Sakura,” a soft but beautiful Japanese folk song arranged by Michael Scott.

Perhaps the most powerful song performed was Daniel Moe’s “Stranger, Share Our Fire.” The gentle but strong piece told the story of discriminated and displaced individuals helping each other through rough times. “It definitely speaks to the Manchester mission,” Lynn said. “It’s about giving everything you have to help people.” 

After they finished, the choir members sat down as the Symphonic Band took the stage. The instrumentalists proceeded to play several awe-inspiring pieces of music. Three selections from “The Danserye,” a piece composed by Tielman Susato and arranged by Patrick Dunnigan, were featured. This Renaissance melody featured booming, rhythmic notes, sounding almost like a marching army. Another song that was played was Anthony O’Toole’s “Hung Aloft the Night.” The piece, with soft notes and rising crescendos, gave off a sense of wide-eyed wonder and untold mystery. “You’re almost supposed to be hearing the ethereal quality of the night,” Humphries explained.

While the performances of these songs were impressive enough, the Symphonic Band was not finished yet. Teaming up with the A Cappella Choir, they proceeded to deliver the final composition of the concert: “My Fellow Americans.” Composed by Lynn, the lyrics of the song are taken from the second inaugural addresses of former Presidents Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. The patriotic words and powerful melody led to an inspiring finish for the concert.

Thunderous applause filled the auditorium as the bands and their conductors took a bow. As they stepped off the stage, the performers were beaming and happily congratulating peers on their success. It was an especially joyous time for the students who were new to this performance.

“This was my first concert at Manchester,” said Alexandra Blackwood, first-year student and flutist. “It was amazing--on a whole other level.”

The Homecoming Concert remains an important and beloved tradition for Manchester Homecoming that gives musicians young and old a chance to shine.