The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

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The Weis Center houses a weekend of student musical performances

The Weis Center welcomed the Bucknell University Orchestra and Choir this past Saturday evening, as well as the sounds of the Symphonic Band on Sunday afternoon. On Saturday, Orchestra and Choir joined forces to present a tri-fold performance of music by African-American composers and poets. “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” as the program was called, was divided into two periods, the first orchestral and the second purely vocal. The hour culminated in the performance of two songs that combined both the Orchestra and Choir into one sweeping demonstration of skill and artistry. 

Beginning with an upbeat composition by James Reese Europe, written for and performed by the Clef Club in 1910, the Orchestra swept the audience off their feet one performance after the next. From there, the musicians performed “A Chant from ‘Bandana Sketches’” and “A Spiritual from ‘The Cotton Fields’,” both by Clarence Cameron White. Rick Benjamin, the spirited conductor of the stage, took an aside to inform the audience of the opportunity the assembled Orchestra had with White’s music— they were able to use direct copies of his historic sheet music. Benjamin then took a seat at the piano and played solo a piece by Scott Joplin, “The Gladiolus.” 

The Orchestra closed out their dedicated portion of the night with one final piece by James Reese Europe, “Congratulations,” a concert waltz from 1915; after their sweeping finale, the Choir took their places on stage and set up to sing their three practiced songs. 

Each of the Choir’s chosen pieces centered around themes of dispossession and longing for a home lost; as they progressed through the set, lyrics invoked feelings of hope and plea in turn, taking the audience through a whirlwind of emotion. “The Tropics in New York,” a song written by Claude McKay, combined elements of lyricism and harmony into a masterful and moving performance. Rosephayne Powell’s song “Still I Rise,” inspired in part by the famous Maya Angelou poem, soared to new heights as the Choir rearranged verses and let their voices echo in the rafters of the concert hall. Molly Manhoff ’25 and Owen Davis ’25 were spotlit during the performance, each delivering solo a verse of the song as the choir harmonized around them. For their final piece, the Choir sang the hymn-like composition by Moses Hogan, “Hear My Prayer.” 

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Students of the Orchestra rejoined the Choir on stage for two encore pieces: “Aunt Dinah has Blowed de Horn,” pulled from an opera by Scott Joplin, and “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the titular piece of the evening written by James Weldon Johnson of the Johnson Brothers. Both musical cohorts left the stage after their final song to thunderous applause. 

On Sunday, the Weis Center stage was once again prepared for a Bucknell musical ensemble. Promising to be a concert for friends and family,” the band played music accessible to both seasoned concert-goers and children. 

The band opened with Funiculì, Funiculà,” a song which Band Director and Professor of Music William Kenny said many in the audience may recognize from pasta and pasta sauce commercials. Before playing the whole arrangement through, he broke down the song’s theme and tune, having the band play the first part of the tune so the audience could recognize it and listen for how the arranger modified it in the full piece. 

This piece was followed by two more chosen and conducted by music education major Ryan Hill ’24, “Raging Machines” and “Malagueña.”

Its rare at a school when youre studying music education that you get the opportunity to conduct a good portion of a concert, so its really just a gift to be able to do this,” Hill stated. 

“Raging Machines” is a programmatic piece, which means that the music has some sort of story that you follow along, Hill explained. Hill described the song: “it’s relentless, it keeps going, it’s very fast and it’s aggressive, with small an very few points of rest and release.”

“Malagueña” on the other hand, is a fun and even danceable Spanish piece in the Flamenco style. Though it was originally written as part of a larger suite of pieces, “Malagueña” has since been taken out and rearranged into music for concert band, jazz band, and marching bands. 

With Dr. Kenny returning to conduct the last two pieces, the first he led the band through was “Mountain Thyme,” a far calmer and more ethereal arrangement than what the band had played so far. Composer Samuel Hazo had sent sheet music to Kenny before the piece was even published, and “somehow [Kenny] had forgotten to erase them” and thought it would be fun to add to the concert. 

To close out the program, the band performed “76 Trombones” from “The Music Man.” As a special treat for the families and children in the audience, Kenny invited any interested audience members to come up to the stage to watch the band play more closely. With this piece, the concert ended on a strong, upbeat, familiar show-tune which left the audience smiling. 

Bucknell University Choir will perform next on March 23rd, location to be announced, and the final Symphonic Band Concert of the semester will be April 6th.  

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Lyndon Beier
Lyndon Beier, Assistant News Editor

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