NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The next concert by the Bethel College Wind Ensemble will recall an era in American history when band music was a major avenue to culture for ordinary listeners.
The Wind Ensemble will collaborate with the McPherson Community Brass Choir, under the direction of Jerry Toews, and baritone William Browning for a concert April 19 at 7 p.m. in Memorial Hall.
Chris David Westover, director of instrumental music at Bethel and Wind Ensemble conductor, said, “Our idea was to do something like what John Philip Sousa or Patrick Gilmore and their old-time professional concert bands would do when they toured the country in the latter half of the 19th century into the early 20th century.
“They were the radio of the day. For example, they would come to your community and play transcriptions for band of the latest opera arias, and that’s how people from Kansas knew what was [onstage in Europe].”
The idea of getting the Bethel College Wind Ensemble and the McPherson Community Brass Choir together resulted after Westover heard the McPherson group play as an “honors ensemble” at the Kansas Music Educators Association (KMEA) annual meeting.
“I had thought about, and then Jerry and I talked about, doing something together,” Westover said.
The addition of Browning to the program happened because he and Westover know each other from doctoral studies at the University of Oklahoma and because Browning taught voice at Bethel last fall while Soyoun Chun was on leave.
Browning lives and works on his family farm near Madison and has sung opera in New York City as well as with the Wichita Grand Opera.
“Sousa would always bring one famous opera singer with him on his tours,” Westover noted.
Browning will be featured with the Wind Ensemble and McPherson Brass Choir on “Largo al factotum” from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and “Te Deum” from Puccini’s Tosca.
The two bands will also play together on the “Overture” to Rossini’s William Tell; “La Virgen de la Macarena,” a famous “bull-fighting song” by Bernardino Bautista Monterde, arranged by Alfred Reed; Suite No. 2 in F major by Holst; and the Sousa march “The Thunderer.”
Another guest artist on the concert program is Nick Schroeder, doing the trumpet solo part of “La Virgen de la Macarena.” Schroeder is instructor of trumpet at Bethel College.
Issei Tsuji, Bethel junior from Chiba, Japan, will be featured as well, as the winner of a competition within Bethel’s instrumental music department. “This was open to anyone in band, with the approval and recommendation of the [instrument] instructor,” Westover said.
Tsuji will play the trombone solo for “Thoughts of Love” by Arthur Pryor – whom, Westover noted, was Sousa’s trombone player and a composer of famous virtuoso pieces.
There will be a short piece for cornet trio, “Three Kings” by Walter Smith, with Bethel junior Braden Unruh, Goessel, 2014 Bethel graduate Evan Koch, Newton, and Arlin Buller, North Newton.
The Wind Ensemble will also play a transcription used by Patrick Gilmore’s band of the first movement, “Adagio sostenuto,” of Beethoven’s Sonata No. 14 in C# minor “Moonlight.”
The McPherson Community Brass Choir’s two numbers on its own are “Celebration Fanfare” by James E. Clemens and “Thunder and Blazes (Entry of the Gladiators)” by James Fucik.
“We also have a humorous encore, ‘The Roosters Lay Eggs in Kansas,’” Westover said. “This was one of Sousa’s favorite encores, written by Mayhew L. Lake, a famous band transcriber who worked with Sousa.”
Bethel College Wind Ensemble personnel are: flutes, Neil Smucker (piccolo), North Newton, Makayla Epp, Marion, South Dakota, and Koki Lane, North Newton; oboes, Jocelyn Wilkinson and Alexandra Shoup, Newton; clarinets, Benjamin Wiens, Goessel, Valerie Klaassen (E-flat), Jacob Anderson, Newton, Juliana Drouhard, Hesston, and Michelle Unruh, Goessel; bass clarinets, Reece Hiebert (contra-alto), Walton, Paige Cooper, Hutchinson, and Kaitlyn Scribner, Delia; bassoons, Elizabeth Schrag, Newton, and Jessie Pohl, Moundridge; saxophones, Westen Gesell (soprano and alto), Winnipeg, Manitoba, Ryan Fritz (tenor), Salina, and Charles Ebeling (tenor and baritone), Hutchinson; French horns, Timothy Regier, Newton, Caroline Schrag, Marion, South Dakota, and Abby Phillips, Maple Hill; trumpets, Braden Unruh, Goessel, Arlin Buller, Andrew Ewy, Parlier, California, and Evan Koch; trombones, Andrew Thiesen, Newton, Issei Tsuji, Chiba, Japan, Benjamin Abel, Paola, Seth Larson, Wichita, and Joshua Janzen, Aurora, Nebraska; euphonium, Billie Selichnow, Wichita; tubas, Ben Carlson, Hurley, South Dakota, Shianne Defreese, Goessel, and Mark Lyles; percussion, Adam Voth, Derby, Riley King, Lawrence, Matthew Graber, Freeman, South Dakota, and Leah Towle, Lawrence.
Don Frederick, a retired professor from McPherson College, started the McPherson Community Brass Choir in 1973. It is the longest active McPherson musical organization that performs on a regular basis.
“The thing I really admire about this group is its diversity, both in age and profession.It really speaks to what music education is all about – music brings us all together.
“Some members have music degrees,” Toews noted, “and a few have played in military bands. Others played an instrument in grade school and high school and decided to pull it out of the closet, dust it off and play again as a hobby.
“None of the members have had a career in music.Professions represented include insurance, medical doctor, graphic design, banking, physical education teacher, computer programmer, photography, auto body repair, chemistry, lawyer and court administrator. Our youngest member is 29 and our oldest is 87.
“Regardless of our age or our interests, we get together once a week and have a bunch of fun making music, pushing our limits and abilities, encouraging each other and laughing.I find it very rewarding to be a part of something like that.”
Brass Choir personnel are: trumpets, Richard Guse, Sam Claassen, Darren Hendricks and John Duerksen; French horns, Winona Godfrey, Doris Coppock, Seth Schoming and Laurel Kenney Jr.; trombones, Fred Bohnenblust, Jerry Voth, Al Renner and Kelly Long; euphonium, Ty Kaufman; and tuba, Greg Nickel.
Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2014-15 Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States, and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2014-15. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.