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Wind Ensemble end-of-year concert will honor MLK legacy

Bethel College Wind Ensemble members on the Green in front of the Ad Building

In a year when many are remembering the 50th anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King Jr., the Bethel College Wind Ensemble’s spring concert will pay tribute to the fallen civil rights leader.

The concert, titled “A Change is Gonna Come,” will be April 29 at 3 p.m. in Memorial Hall on the Bethel campus. It is free and open to the public, with a freewill offering taken to support instrumental music study and performance at Bethel.

The concert “is our homage to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the program will feature pieces by African-American composers,” said Wind Ensemble conductor Adam V. Fontana, Bethel director of instrumental music.

“Bethel students Akiyaa Hagen-Depusoir [sophomore from Salina] and Joshua Clay [senior from Escondido, California] will also be sharing the stage with us. Akiyaa will be presenting a recitation from Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and Joshua will be presenting an original work he composed for the upcoming issue of YAWP!, Bethel’s literary magazine.

“Juliana Drouhard [senior from Hesston] will be conducting Kerwin Young’s ‘Nebraska Plains.’ Young is a Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame inductee, as a member of Public Enemy, and a Grammy®-nominated producer who has worked with Mobb Deep, Ice Cube, 2 Live Crew and Busta Rhymes.”

The April 29 program begins with the first movement of William Grant Still’s Symphony No. 1 in A-flat, “Afro-American.”

This was the first symphony composed by an African American to be performed by a leading orchestra. The Rochester (New York) Philharmonic premiered it in 1931.

The rest of the first-half program includes Hagen-Depusoir’s recitation; an arrangement for wind ensemble of the organ piece “Adoration” by Florence Price; and “American Guernica” by Adolphus Hailstork.

Florence B. Price (1887-1953) was the first African-American woman recognized as a symphonic composer and the first to have one of her compositions played by a major orchestra (the Chicago Symphony, in 1933).

Hailstork  wrote “American Guernica” in remembrance of the Sept. 15, 1963, fire-bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The racially motivated attack killed four young girls (14-year-olds Carol Robertson, Addie Mae Collins and Cynthia Wesley, and Denise McNair, 11) and injured 22 others.

The work’s title refers to Picasso’s famous mural of the bombing of the Basque village of Guernica by Nazi German and Fascist Italian warplanes, April 26, 1937, which killed mainly women and children.

The second half of the program features mostly modern compositions: “Elegy” by Kevin Puts, a 2005 composition; a band arrangement of the Bob Dylan tune “Blowin’ in the Wind”; Clay’s performance of his piece “Murderer in Heaven”; and Kerwin Young’s “Nebraska Plains,” which he wrote in 2011 and revised in 2016.

The concert will conclude with an arrangement of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” by William Steffe.

Steffe is credited with collecting and editing, in about 1856, the tune for a camp-meeting song with the traditional “Glory Hallelujah” refrain. The tune became widely known and, early in the Civil War, was used to create the Union army marching song “John Brown’s Body.” When Julia Ward Howe heard this version in 1861, she used it as the basis for the verses of what later became known as “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Personnel of the Bethel College Wind​ ​Ensemble​ ​are: flutes, Chloe LaCombe, Abilene, Matthew Lind, Newton, and Mackenzie Young, Peabody; clarinets, Sarah Balzer, Inman, Paige Cooper, Hutchinson, Juliana Drouhard, Hesston, Reece Hiebert, Walton, Peyton Landrum, Arkansas City, Jessica LaRocque, Cawker City, Anna Lubbers, Peabody, Sarah Turner, North Newton, Benjamin Wiens, Goessel, and Kaho Yanagidaira, Nagano, Japan; saxophones,  Caleb Abbott, Wichita, Ryan Fritz, Salina, Westen Gesell, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Aaron Long, Wichita, Zane Richter, McPherson, and Autumn Strecker, Goessel; trumpets, Connor Born, North Newton, Arlin Buller, Evan Koch, North Newton, and Alec Loganbill, Hesston; trombones, Benjamin Abel, Paola, Adam Kroeker, Augusta, Nathan Kroeker, Augusta, Seth Larson, Wichita, and Andrew Thiesen, Newton; horns, Jesse Balzer, Hurley, South Dakota, Abigail Phillips, Maple Hill, and Anna Wiens, Goessel; euphoniums, Brendan Ostlund, Mount Hope, and Nicholas Preheim, Peabody; and percussion, Shawn Bontrager, North Newton, MacKenzi Eisenbraun, Shawnee, Matthew Garber, Newton, Charles Lenley, Kansas City, Missouri, Callie Ross, Overland Park, Elijah Brockway (bass), McPherson, and Rebecca Schrag (keyboard), Newton.

Bethel College ranks at No. 1 in College Consensus’ ranking of Kansas colleges and universities, and is the only Kansas private college listed in the Forbes.com analysis of top colleges and universities, the Washington Monthly National Universities-Liberal Arts section and the National Liberal Arts College category of U.S. News & World Report, all for 2017-18. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.

Bethel College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, age, gender, sexual orientation, parental or marital status, gender identity, gender expression, medical or genetic information, ethnic or national origins, citizenship status, veteran or military status or disability. E-mail questions to TitleIXCoordinator@bethelks.edu.

About Bethel

As the first Mennonite college founded in North America, Bethel College celebrates a tradition of progressive Christian liberal arts education, diversity within community, and lifelong learning.