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Big band to Renaissance: 2007 Fall Festival is musical showcase

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – As always, this year’s Fall Festival at Bethel College plays host to a variety of musical acts, but in particular several events that showcase the talents of students, professors and guest soloists.

Richard Tirk, assistant professor of music, pushed for a musical emphasis in the 2007 Fall Festival. Fall Festival traditionally includes a main stage theatrical event, but the sabbatical of John McCabe-Juhnke, professor of communication arts, seemed to present the perfect opportunity “to highlight the exciting things happening in [Bethel’s] music department,” Tirk said.

He conceptualized the idea of a “music extravaganza – a concert that moves nonstop from one act to the next, an hour’s worth of straight music.” The program includes performances by Bethel faculty, student instrumental and vocal chamber groups, the Bethel College Wind Ensemble and guest cellist Rachel Dirks, Lawrence, a 1992 Bethel alumna and formerly orchestra director at Newton High School.

Professor of music William Eash will both lead and participate in a special choral ensemble that will participate in the Fall Festival Music Extravaganza, scheduled for Saturday afternoon, Oct. 6, at 3:30 p.m., with a repeat performance Sunday, Oct. 7, at 2 p.m., in Krehbiel Auditorium of the Fine Arts Center.

“This group is able to perform literature that the Concert Choir isn’t,” Eash said of the ensemble. Potential numbers include selections from vocal jazz, Renaissance music and various difficult pieces of modern musical literature.

In addition, the 2007 Fall Festival will highlight many of the jazz ventures of assistant professor of music and director of jazz studies Jim Pisano, who maintains a busy travel and performance schedule when he is not teaching. On Friday morning, Oct. 5, at 11 in Krehbiel Auditorium, jazz pianist Ben Markley will present a convocation entitled “Understanding jazz, an American art form” with help from Pisano and his former colleague at the University of Idaho, trumpeter Bob McCurdy. Both the convocation and the jazz improvisation clinic at 3:30 p.m. that day in Krehbiel Auditorium are free and open to the public. Clinic instructors are Markley, McCurdy and Pisano, along with bassist Aaron Miller and drummer Zack Albetta.

“I’ve made the time for the clinic at 3:30 so we can have involvement from as many parts of the community as possible,” Pisano said. “Area high school groups are invited to participate and hopefully a group made up of Hesston and Newton High students will also be playing at the clinic for critique.”

That evening in Krehbiel Auditorium is a Jazz Gala Concert at 7:30. First on the program is Bethel College’s Jazz Ensemble I under Pisano’s direction, with a repertoire of big band music from composers such as Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie and George Gershwin (arr. Bob Mintzer). McCurdy will be guest soloist on trumpet and flugelhorn.

The second half of the gala features a jazz quintet made up of Pisano on saxophone along with Albetta, Markley, McCurdy and Miller with a program of both originals and jazz standards. “Since it’s a small group, there will be much more of a focus on jazz improvisation and interplay between all five musicians,” said Pisano. “It should be quite an evening.”

Both Jazz Ensemble I and II will play Saturday from 1-2 p.m. in the Tent on the Green. Composers and arrangers featured are Thad Jones, Bob Mintzer, Oliver Nelson, Pat Metheny and Keith Jarrett. Pisano emphasized that this performance is “vastly different” from the Jazz Ensemble I performance Friday night. “The students have been working incredibly hard to prepare two programs,” he said.

Tickets for the Bethel College Jazz Gala Concert and the Music Extravaganza are $5 for adults and non-Bethel students with a Fall Festival button and $7 without a button. Bethel students with ID and prospective students with an Admissions pass are free. Children ages 3-12 are free with a Fall Festival button and $3 without. Seating is general admission, and all proceeds go to Bethel College. Tickets are available at Thresher Bookstore in Schultz Student Center on the Bethel campus, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., 316-284-5205, or at the ticket booth outside Krehbiel Auditorium before each performance.

Other music events on Saturday, Oct. 6, most featuring Bethel students, faculty and/or alumni, are Just Friends, a women’s vocal trio with accompanist (Bubbert’s in Schultz Student Center, 10 a.m.); the Newton High School Jazz Band (Tent on the Green, 10 a.m.); the Newton Community Children’s Choir – marking the directing debut of Brenda Bartel – and Rosewood Winds (Memorial Hall, 11 a.m.); Ann Zimmerman (Tent on the Green, 11 a.m.); Bethel College Men’s Ensemble and Women’s Chorus (on the Green near the Fine Arts Center, noon); Bethel College Academy of Performing Arts Suzuki Strings and dance program (Centennial Plaza, 1 p.m.); Bethel College hymn sing (Centennial Plaza, 2 p.m.); Ben Regier and Daniel Regier (Tent on the Green, 2 p.m.); City of McPherson Pipe Band (Centennial Plaza, 3 p.m.); and the Schniggle Fritz Band (Tent on the Green, 3 p.m.). There is a charge (reduced with Fall Festival button) for the Newton Community Children’s Choir and Rosewood Winds; other events are free.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the highest ranked Kansas college in the national liberal arts category of U.S. News & World Report’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at

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