Isn’t it Lovely: Six Music Events Scheduled May 3-7 at Monmouth College


In 1969, a young Stevie Wonder performed at Monmouth College. On May 7, Wonder’s music will return to campus – although not the artist himself – as part of the Jazz Ensemble’s semester-ending concert, titled “A Jazz Spring.”

It will conclude a series of three concerts May 3-7 at the College. The others are the Wind Ensemble concert May 3 and a spring choral concert May 5. All three concerts, which are free and open to the public, will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Kasch Performance Hall of Dahl Chapel and Auditorium.

On May 4, three students will present recitals in Dahl Chapel as part of a Monmouth College Musical Showcase. Vea Vavrosky ’25 of Reynolds, Illinois, will sing at 1 p.m., Emma Romano ’25 of Wilmington, Illinois, will perform at 4 p.m. and AJ Furness ’24 of Grinnell, Iowa, will sing at 7:30 p.m.

Wind Ensemble on May 3

The first half of the concert will be centered on music affected by and in response to World War II.

“It is a heavy topic but important music,” said professor Justin Swearinger, who directs the Wind Ensemble and was influenced in his education by composer David Maslanka. The group will perform a work by Maslanka during the concert.

“A quote from David Maslanka speaks to some of the reasoning for the program,” said Swearinger. “He said, ‘We see history as over and done with; nothing can be done about it, so just let it go. Yet certain events – Hiroshima, the Holocaust, exterminations the world over – are not finished, and will not be put aside.'”

The first piece is Daniel Bukvich’s Symphony No. 1, “In Memoriam: Dresden,” followed by Maslanka’s “Remember Me,” which will feature both cello professor Steve Jackson and choral director Tim Pahel on the piano, as well as guest harpist Claire Happel Ashe.

The first half of the concert concludes with “Fire in the Distance,” which was just completed this spring by Kevin Krumenauer, a student of Maslanka. Swearinger said the second half of the program is “much more positive and uplifting, beginning with an arrangement of ‘Be Thou My Vision’ arranged by our own Ty Otto.”

Also featured will be “Kalos Eidos” by Carol Brittin Chambers, a play on the Greek word for “kaleidoscope,” as a nod to the Wind Ensemble’s time in Greece this semester.

Seniors in the group will be honored with a small presentation, followed by a performance of “Irish Tune from County Derry” by Percy Aldridge Grainger. The concert will conclude with the “joyous and brilliant” piece “Firebird Finale” by Igor Stravinsky.

Choral concert on May 5

Featuring the Chorale, Concert Choir and Chamber Choir, the choral concert will have a strong multicultural element, featuring several pieces from around the world. There will be an Indian song, a set of Slovak folk songs arranged by Bela Bartok, and “a fast and lively arrangement” of a French-Canadian folk song. The audience will also get a taste of the Philippines, and “Lullaby,” sung by the Chorale, is a setting of a poem by an Iraqi war veteran, describing a father who wants to protect his son from harm during the war.

“We are excited that the Monmouth-Roseville High School Mixed Madrigal Choir is going to sing, as well,” said Pahel, who directs the Chorale and Chamber Choir. “They will sing two songs on their own and will also combine with Concert Choir on a performance of ‘Lamentations of Jeremiah’ by Randall Stroope.”

Kevin Ferry directs the MRHS group, and Tom Clark directs the Concert Choir. Solee Lee-Clark accompanies the Monmouth groups, and Al Silber accompanies the MRHS group.

At the end of the concert, all of the choirs will come together for a performance of Christopher Tin’s “Baba Yetu,” the text of which is a Swahili translation of the Lord’s Prayer. The song was the theme song for the video game Civilization IV. The concert will begin with the Mixed Madrigal Choir singing another piece by Tin, “Sogno di Volare,” which was the theme song for the video game Civilization VI.

‘A Jazz Spring’ on May 7

“Steve Wonder’s music works really well for jazz band,” said Jackson, the Jazz Ensemble’s director. “If you go back to his recordings, you realize there’s a lot of jazz elements in there. … I think anyone who gets a chance to listen will be a little bit blown away by how varied the styles are that can actually fit into the category of jazz band performance.”

Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing” will feature Furness on vocals. The talented musician also plays several instruments in the group, including guitar, vibraphone and auxiliary percussion.

Furness will also provide vocals on George and Ira Gershwin’s “The Man I Love,” and vocals will take center stage in the middle of the concert, when the Highland Harmonizers, a 14-member student group, presents a pair of selections, “Time” and “Happy Together.”

If that already wasn’t something for everyone, Jackson said his tenor saxophone player, Talon Hunter ’25 of Abingdon, Illinois, referred him to a pair of Pokemon songs that will be featured in the concert, including “Route 228,” which Jackson called “a funk shuffle that features the sousaphone,” which will be played by Lorenzo Ramirez ’26 of Waukegan, Illinois.

“It works really well. It’s a great sound,” said Jackson, who will also play some lead guitar during the concert.

Furness is one of four seniors performing in their final Jazz Ensemble concert as students. The others are Eli Kelly of Aledo, Zach Lundquist of Aurora, Illinois, and Otto, who is from Havana, Illinois.

***Courtesy of Barry McNamara, Monmouth College***

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