Mark your calendars for yet another fantastic show put on by our very own music department. Nunnelly Music Building is home to around 30 music majors, not to mention minors, and six full-time faculty. On Sunday, Oct. 14 at 3 p.m., they will all come together to perform “A Gershwin Extravaganza.” Different musical groups have their own concerts every year, so this time the department decided that it wanted to have a themed concert in which all the ensembles, faculty members and any students who wanted could participate. It found that the music of 20th-century composer George Gershwin was the perfect fit for these requirements, as it was written for and has been arranged for a wide range of ensembles. Additionally, Gershwin wrote many famous pieces that are easily recognized even by non-music majors (“Rhapsody in Blue” anyone?). His music has great appeal as it is a mix between classical, or art music, and jazz, a more popular genre.
The “Extravaganza” will open with two numbers by the band: Gershwin’s “Second Prelude”, which will feature a saxophone solo, and a medley of selections from “Porgy and Bess,” an opera by the theme composer. Other major ensembles that will perform include both choirs. Chorale is hard at work learning two songs, “Strike Up the Band,” and “Somebody Loves Me.” There are rumors that some jamming choreography will be included in the Chorale’s performance. Concert Choir will wrap up the concert with a “Gershwin Concert Panorama,” a medley of several of the composers most famous tunes. If you know any music students, most likely they will be participating in the concert—every major or minor is required to be in one of these major ensembles or the orchestra. Unfortunately, the orchestra will not be performing this time due to music ordering issues.
In addition to the major ensembles, there will be several smaller ensembles composed of faculty and students performing. One of these is Dr. Sonny Burnette, music theory teacher extraordinaire, on tenor saxophone, and sophomore Bri Gibson on string bass. They will be performing “Fascinating Rhythm.” According to Dr. Burnette, “It’s a very jazzy piece and should work well with that combination of instruments.” When asked why he decided to choose this piece, he replied, “The idea came to me from my days at Northwestern University. During jazz band concerts, whenever there was a change of equipment on the stage, one of our sax players would play a short jazz piece along with string bass to keep the audience entertained during the move.”
The piano will also play a special role in the concert. The four piano majors have paired up to play four Gershwin songs arranged for piano duet. Juniors Genee Johns and Chelsea Brown, and freshman Katy Simpson and senior Meredith Rigby (yours truly) had an enjoyable sight-reading session early in the semester to choose their pieces and have been working on them ever since. The piano majors have not had much experience with Gershwin in the past but have enjoyed learning more about him. “His music seems very fun and has a lot of swing that people will find interesting,” comments Genee. Dr. Mami Hayashida will also be playing a solo piano piece, “Prelude Number 1.”
To round out the concert, there will be several vocal solos and duets. Students singing include Tiffany Yeddo, Shay McCleavy and Meredith Cave. Dr. Heather Hunnicutt will be singing “Summertime” from the opera “Porgy and Bess.” This promises to be an exciting number because, as Dr. Hunnicutt declares, “‘Summertime’ is one of the most incredible arias ever written!” Far from what one often expects in an aria from an opera (written a long time ago in a country far, far away), this song shows influences of folk music, spirituals and jazz.
This “Gershwin Extravaganza” promises to put a new spin on what we think of when we think of “classical music,” and the large variety of performers and musical groups ensure the concert will be fun and entertaining for all involved. This concert is only the first in a series of out-of-the-box musical events the department has planned for this semester. Other upcoming events include the beloved SNATS parody concert, and the world premier of “Clara, My Love,” an art song opera written by Dr. Hunnicutt.