Homecoming concert brings alumni singers back to EMU

Eastern Michigan University Choir and chamber string ensemble, Inspirati, came together Sunday Oct.11 in Pease Auditorium to celebrate EMU alumni coming back home. Conducted by the Director of Choral Activities, Brandon Johnson, “The Road Home” was the first Homecoming Choral Concert by EMU’s Department of Music and Dance.

Featuring the music of W.A. Mozart, Alessandro Scarlatti, Daniel Elder, Eriks Esenvalds, Stacy Gibbs and Morten Lauridsen, Johnson said the purpose was to reconnect alumni singers and to reach out to past graduates for current students to interconnect with.

“One of the things I felt when coming to EMU was that there wasn’t an ongoing sense of the great ensemble of the past carrying forward,” said Johnson. “So I wanted to bring that tradition of EMU singers of the past and present and to do it on an ongoing basis so that our alumni can know how much we value them and how much they can add to current students - and homecoming seemed like a great time to do that.”

The title of the concert, “The Road Home,” was a line from one of Johnson’s favorite modern poems written by University of Minnesota poet and professor, Michael Dennis Browne. Johnson said it was the right title for a concert featuring alums.

Alexander Erwin, freshman electrical engineering major, was in the audience and thought the performance was wonderful.

“Having alumni come back and student body participation after all the years is really cool,” said Erwin.

“Venite Populi,” by W.A. Mozart was the first piece to be performed by the EMU Choir and Inspirati.

One of the sacred Latin Monets in the program, the piece was a powerful start as the choir’s harmony echoed across the auditorium and moved the audience through time to the early career of Mozart. With translations in the program, the audience was able to read the lyrics and have an understanding of what was being sung.

The second part of the program featured more recent pieces by modern composers, Daniel Elder, Eriks Esenvalds and Jake Runestad.

Jolene Green, a second year graduate student and a soprano of the choir thought it was cool to sing modern composers who were two years older than her.

Alli Buttermore, a junior music therapy vocal major and alto member of the University Choir said “Ballad to the Moon,” by Daniel Elder was her favorite song in the concert.

“The wholeness was really beautiful and the alto harmony created a really rich feel and sound,” she said. “I really loved that song.”

“Only In Sleep,” by Eriks Esenvalds was the last song to be sung for the second part of the program. The piece was a mystic narrative spoken by an old person to when they were younger. The soloist was Jennifer O’Neal, a soprano from the Choir, whose strong angelic voice transported the audience through time for them to reflect their own childhood.

The Choir kicked things up a notch with the third part of the program, which consisted of African American folk songs and spirituals.

“Hold On,” by Moses Hogan was a powerhouse as it felt like the choir was personally telling the audience to “hold on” as the crescendos reached the top of Pease.

Towards the end of the concert, Johnson invited the alumni from the Choral program to the stage to sing the closing song of the concert, “Sure on this Shining Night,” by Morten Lauridsen with the choir.

The piece was moving as it combined the voices of the past and present choir members to become one in a night dedicated to song and of the memories of the alumni of EMU.

Tiffany Doan, a 2013 alumni was one of few who shared the stage with the University Choir at the end of the concert. After job searching in Maryland, Doan had come back to the area and was excited to jump back on stage and sing.

“It was great. I loved it,” Doan said.

Rebecca Myers, vocal performance major and an alto member of the choir, felt the concert was communicative and she was proud of her alto section.

Next year alumni can expect another concert if they were not able to attend this one.

“I’m looking forward to making more alumni connections to past singers,” said Johnson.

A fundraiser, hosted by EMU Choir, followed after the concert at Tower Inn Café Bar & Grill to help the Choir raise funds to go on their international tour to England, Wales and Scotland next semester. The choir will also be touring the Great Lakes region in the U.S. next semester.

You can find more upcoming choral performances and events at http://www.emich.edu/musicdance/ensembles/choirs/upcoming_concerts/index.php.

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