by Erin Bradley
NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – The Bethel College Wind Ensemble takes the stage at a different location for their first concert of the school year.
The ensemble will perform at the Fox Theatre in downtown Newton Sept 29 at 4 p.m. (note change of venue from printed posters).
The concert is free, with a freewill offering taken to support music education and performance at Bethel College.
The Wind Ensemble will also perform under the baton of a new director, Chris Westover, who begins a three-year assignment as director of instrumental music at Bethel, a sabbatical and study leave replacement for Timothy Shade.
“When I moved here, I was already looking in Newton for new performance venues,” Westover said. “I like Krehbiel [Auditorium]. I like Mem Hall, too, but they’re unique spaces. I am wanting to explore what other options there were in town.
“I also thought it would be good for us to play a concert off campus, in the community. I didn’t intend for it to be our first concert but I am really happy it worked out.”
Westover has titled the concert “BC Wind Ensemble Plays the Classics.” It will feature pieces from the 1600s to the present.
On the program are “Nocturno for winds” by Felix Mendelssohn; “Good Friday Spell” from Parsifal by Richard Wagner; Sonata Pian ’e forte by Giovanni Gabrieli; “O Cool is the Valley” by Vincent Persichetti; and Suite No. 1 in E-flat by Gustav Holst.
“The Holst is maybe the most classic piece in our literature,” Westover said. “So I couldn’t think of a more fitting way to start here than to work on that piece with the students.”
“I think a little bit the same way of the Gabrieli. It is called ‘Sonata Pian ’e Forte,’ which means an instrumental work that is both soft and loud. In fact, written in 1597, it is likely the first work to include directions for loud and soft from the composer.”
As he begins his time at Bethel, Westover said Newton and the position have treated him well. Everyone has welcomed him and lent a helping hand, making the adjustment “fantastic,” he said.
He pointed to the ensembles themselves (he also directs the chamber orchestra) as a high point of his transition.
“I know larger institutions that would envy the playing level here,” Westover said. “To have the high level of playing and work ethic is really great.”
As he settles into his position, Westover plans to stay true to some things Shade put into place.
“I am going to go [with] the goals Tim Shade had, commissioning new works and working with composers, working with soloists and with a higher quality of music overall,” Westover said.
Westover’s own primary goals have to do with expanding students’ and audience’s musical exposure.
“My goals are always musical,” Westover said. “I want the ensemble’s experience to be both lyrical and musical.
“It’s already a very strong ensemble. We wouldn’t be able to play what we are if they weren’t. But I want to be able to expose them to an even wider variety of music that I think they should be exposed to.
“The kind of music we play and the kind of music they introduce to the community here is important,” Westover added, “because the college community and the North Newton community are very supportive. Whether it’s introducing a piece written in 1597 or, in the next concert, a piece written 11 years ago, the ensemble will perform literature that is significant for our students and I hope will be profound for our audiences.”
Westover’s drive as a conductor is to have performances ask deep questions and make listeners turn inward for the answers.
“I don’t want my concerts to be enjoyable – enjoyable seems kind of passive to me,” Westover said. “I want them to be engaging. That’s what I think art should do.”
He added, “That doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.”
Westover already has planned the Wind Ensemble’s three other performances for the year: Nov. 10, “Turn Not Thy Face”; Feb. 23, 2014, “Around the World in 60 Minutes”; and May 4, 2014, “Fiesta.”
For now, however, the focus is on the Sept. 29 concert.
“There really is a wide variety of music,” Westover said. “It’s a good one to start with – because if you hear something you don’t like, all you have to do is wait 10 or 15 minutes.”
Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2013-14 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 2013-14. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see www.bethelks.edu.
Sidebar: Bethel College Wind Ensemble personnel
Bethel College Wind Ensemble personnel are: flutes, Erin Engle, Salem, Ore., Makayla Epp, Marion, S.D., Olivia Gehring, Manhattan, Rachel Tamerius, Wichita, Georgia Thiesen, Newton, and Amy Wedel, Peabody; oboes, Megan Leary, North Newton, Karina Ortman, Marion, S.D., and Jocelyn Wilkinson, San Antonio, Texas; clarinets, Jacob Anderson, Newton, Joel Boettger, Hesston, Heather Eddy, Park City, Bryce Hostetler, Dodge City, and Carl Lehmann, Marion, S.D.; bass clarinet, Michelle Unruh, Goessel; bassoons, Jessie Pohl, Moundridge, and Elizabeth Schrag, Newton; alto saxophones, Daniel Barrera, Newton, Michelle Kaufman, Moundridge, and Emily Simpson, Lebanon, Tenn. ; tenor saxophones, Ryan Fritz, Salina, and Westen Gesell, Winnipeg, Manitoba; baritone saxophone, Chase Ebeling, Hutchinson; French horns, Brendan Bergen, Moundridge, Tim Regier, Newton, Genevieve Rucker, Lawrence, and Caroline Schrag, Marion, S.D.; trumpets, Arlin Buller, Andrew Ewy, Parlier, Calif., Evan Koch, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Braden Unruh, Goessel; trombones, Josh Janzen, Aurora, Neb., Andrew Thiesen, Newton, Rebecca Trumble, Newton, Aaron Tschetter, Freeman, S.D., and Issei Tsuji, Chiba-shi, Japan; euphonium, Sarah Evans, Colorado Springs, Colo.; tubas, Ben Carlson, Hurley, S.D., Shianne DeFreese, Goessel, and Mark Lyles; percussion, Riley King, Lawrence, Mika Patron, North Newton, Micah Smith, Topeka, Leah Towle, Lawrence, and Adam Voth, Wichita; and string bass, Landon Bartel.