Brothers, Sing On: A Virtual Performance by the Allegheny College Men’s Ensemble
April 13th 2021
April 13th 2021
April 13th 2021
April 13th 2021
October 30th 2020
It doesn’t have the same elegant backdrop as the stained-glass windows of Ford Chapel, and it doesn’t enjoy the same acoustics as Shafer Auditorium in the Henderson Campus Center. But the 24 members of the Allegheny College Civic Symphony sound heavenly as they share their latest performance from their individual workspaces and parlors.
The Civic Symphony is sharing the first of what promises to be several performances emanating from the Music Department of Allegheny College during the remainder of the fall semester. The ensemble performs “High Rise” by Adrian Gordon, which is available to watch above or on the Allegheny College YouTube channel.
It is a relatively new work for string orchestra (2014), and Jennifer Dearden, director of the Civic Symphony, chose the piece “in part because it incorporates some jazz/funk elements, which is something that many collegiate string players have not yet had the opportunity to try. And while it is important to give students the experience playing ‘standard’ orchestral music by familiar names like Beethoven or Haydn, it is equally important that student performers and audiences alike get to know and appreciate music outside the confines of 18th and 19th century Europe.”
With some students studying remotely and others on campus, it has presented a challenge for rehearsing and arranging music, Dearden said.
“Each ensemble has done things a bit differently. The orchestra, normally 50-plus students playing strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion, has reduced down to string instruments only, and so all the in-person members are able to rehearse together on the Shafer stage,” she said. “The Wind Symphony and Jazz Band meet in rotating small groups, and the choral ensembles are meeting entirely on Zoom. Remote students in instrumental ensembles have used specialized software, called SmartMusic, to submit work and still participate in the ensemble, playing the same repertoire as the students rehearsing in person.”
Coordinating all the individual feeds from the musicians can be tricky work. “The largest challenge we had was that the first attempt at recording ‘High Rise’ just didn’t work — the individual files weren’t lining up and we had to record them again using a different technique,” said Dearden. “That was an especially difficult thing to have to ask the students to do, but they stepped up and the resulting product was worth the extra effort. The Department as a whole has had to rethink other things like instrument storage and how students can use practice rooms safely.”
Still to come this fall?
“The orchestra will have at least two, hopefully three, more videos released. Next up will be a string version of Edward Elgar’s ‘Nimrod’ from the Enigma Variations. The other ensembles all have recordings at various stages of the process right now; some ensembles will release audio recordings rather than video,” said Dearden.
June 3rd 2020
The Northwest Passage Trumpet Trio, of which Dr. Jennifer Dearden, associate professor of music and chair of the Allegheny College Music Department, is a founding member, has announced the recent release of its first album, “Expeditions.”
The trio also consists of two other music professors from the northwest Pennsylvania area — Dr. Timothy Winfield of Westminster College and Dr. Andy Erb of Grove City College.
Since its founding in 2015, the trio has been dedicated to exposing a variety of audiences to a vast array of music, both in live performance and now via their album. They are also committed to commissioning and performing new music that will advance the genre of trumpet trio within the musical community.
The trio formed in the fall of 2015. Dearden says: “Myself and two other collegiate trumpet professors in western Pennsylvania were each searching for a creative way to present a recital to our respective college communities. The collaboration was originally meant to be for a single recital, but it was both a professional challenge and a great deal of fun, so we decided to keep it going, and the Northwest Passage Trumpet Trio was born.”
The group has performed at numerous venues around western Pennsylvania, and performed one of the works — “Nuvens de Junho” by Fernando Deddos, which was written for the Northwest Passage Trumpet Trio and appears on their new album — at the 2019 International Trumpet Guild Conference in Miami, Florida.
The COVID-19 outbreak has prevented the Northwest Passage Trumpet Trio from having a more traditional recital to celebrate the release of “Expeditions,” so instead they produced a brief virtual ensemble video, showcasing one of the tracks on the album, which you can access by clicking here.
The trio recorded the tracks for the CD some time ago, and all the post-production for the CD was also complete before the pandemic. “The video, however, was created last month, with each of us in our separate homes, playing our own parts,” says Dearden. “We did not need to rehearse for this particular project because it was a piece we knew very well and have performed several times. We played with a click track, which isn’t heard in the video, to keep us all playing the same tempo, but otherwise the three videos are just put together through the magic of editing into a composite product.”
Physical CDs are available now by going to jenniferdearden.com or winfieldtrumpet.com, and a digital version will be available in the coming weeks.
April 1st 2019
Many professors have great relationships with their students, but Lowell Hepler, chair of the Allegheny Music Department, fosters healthy ties with students for their entire time at Allegheny.
Many students look to “Doc” as they call him, as a mentor. Hepler also knows how to take a joke — something students have capitalized on lately on April Fools’ Day. On April 1, 2018, members of the Allegheny Wind Symphony secretly distributed music to the “Super Mario Bros.” theme song. While Hepler was prepared to conduct a symphony, he was surprised to be met with cartoon video game music. Thus, a tradition was born pranking Hepler every April Fools’ Day.
The plan for 2019 was a bit more complex, as it required a lifesize cutout of Hepler. The plan was as follows: Take a full body photograph of Hepler, submit it to a lifesize cardboard cutout company, and move the cardboard version of the beloved conductor into the ensemble. After Hepler recognized his own face in the crowd of his 90-plus students (all of whom he knows personally) a “take a picture with Doc” day commenced. The twist? Students took their photos with the cutout version of Hepler.
What does it take for students to be so comfortable with their professor that they can prank him? According to Katherine Hubert, a senior at Allegheny, “The fact that he’s a friend and a mentor. He always says that ‘he doesn’t get mad, he gets even.’ I’m still waiting for him to get even for last year.”
To students, Hepler is more than just a professor; he is a mentor, a confidant, and most importantly, a friend. That said, Hepler’s cheerful personality and interactive teaching style allows for far more than just pranks. It opens doors for students of any skill level to develop a love for music.
Hepler has spent 45 years at Allegheny. He works alongside his wife, Dr. Julie Hepler. It is often said that the Allegheny Music Department is like a family. These two take that in stride. “Students are the very reason I exist,” Hepler said. “It’s the reason faculty are here. … Students depend on faculty and faculty depend on students” to demonstrate the symbiotic relationship he holds with students.
Hepler never forgets the true reason he is here–students. In fact, the student’s are Hepler’s most cherished part of his job. He loves the “interaction with the students” and “the personal relationships you can have,” he said.
Clearly, Hepler is more than just a professor, he is an integral part of the Allegheny community. His caring, fun-loving personality allows students to interact with him in and out of the classroom, whether that be as a mentor, or the target in a years’ long prank war. The past two April Fools’ Day were a success for the Allegheny Wind Symphony. It will be interesting to see their plans for 2020 unfold.
April 4th 2018
The Allegheny College Choral Ensembles, featuring more than 50 students and 35 community members under the direction of Professor James Niblock, will present their annual spring concert on Saturday, April 14, at 3:15 p.m. in Shafer Auditorium. The concert is free and open to the public.
The Chorus Choir will open the concert with a movement from Vivaldi’s Gloria: “Domine Fili Unigenite.” They will also feature Richard Hundley’s “Come Ready and See Me,” an arrangement adapted from Hundley’s well-known composition for solo voice and piano.
Chamber Choir will continue with “In Pace In Idipsum” by Thomas Tallis, which has three sections of polyphony separated by two sections of plainsong. Carol Niblock will then direct “She Dwelt Among Untrodden Ways” by Albert Lee Carr, and James Niblock will join in the bass section. The piece is a musical setting of the William Wordsworth poem.
Women’s Ensemble will close the first half of the program with a piece by Allegheny alumnus Professor Jeffery L. Webb ’98, “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.” Webb is director of Choral Activities at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, and last summer joined the Chamber Choir on its tour to New Zealand.
After intermission, the Men’s Ensemble will feature two Irish pieces, beginning with “Down by the Salley Gardens,” a traditional folk tune. Following Matthew Harris’ “A Red, Red Rose,” they will complete their set with “Whup! Jamboree,” a sea shanty by Alice Parker and Robert Shaw.
The College Choir will perform “Choose Something Like a Star” by Randall Thompson, the final movement of his composition “Frostiana.” Thompson held conducting residencies at Allegheny twice in the 1970s during W.S. Wright North’s tenure as choral director. They will also present “The Ghost of Molly Maguire” by Gene Glickman, a piece about the Molly Maguires, a 19th century Irish labor activist group that later had a presence in eastern Pennsylvania.
As a finale, all five choirs will combine to perform a setting of the Londonderry Air, “Danny Boy.” They will close the concert with a famous South African song, the unofficial national anthem, “Tshotsholoza,” arranged by Jeffery L. Ames.
Professor Emeritus Ward Jamison and Kevin Dill will accompany the choirs on piano. All current members and alumni of the choirs are invited to the stairwell at the end of the concert for the traditional singing of the “Nunc Dimittis” and “Alma Mater Beatissima.”
May 23rd 2017
19 May, Auckland to Whitianga
Though we have only been in New Zealand a short while, and this is only our first stop, I am already in awe of the country. Auckland is a beautiful city, and experiencing the people and the culture is wonderful. Our days haven’t been packed yet, but that is much appreciated, because we are all still getting over the jet-lag, and enjoy having the freedom to explore the city in small groups.
Day 1 we landed in Auckland at 6 in the morning (NZ time), and spent the morning driving around the city and exploring various parts of it. We were all exhausted at this point, and to be honest I don’t think a single person was able to stay awake for the entire tour, but it was still exciting getting our first look at the place we’d all been dreaming about for months. We grabbed lunch in Devonport and explored around, before all going up 60 stories into the SkyTower overlooking the whole city. The view was wonderful, especially because we could see all the places we’d been wandering through that day.
Day 2 began with a choral workshop with Dr. Karen Grylls, and then we went to see the Holy Trinity Cathedral which has been in construction for 3 years, just now putting on the final touches. We sang “Le Pont Mirabeau” in a side chapel of the church, and then “Daemon Iripetit Coridus” in the main area – the final climactic chord echoed through the building up to the ceiling, shocking and somewhat startling us all. After that, we explored the War Museum and Memorial area. Being introduced to the rich history of New Zealand and the Maori people was incredibly interesting.
Day 3 we were set loose on Auckland, and allowed to go wherever we desired in the city – some went to art museums, others to the park, and myself and some others just wandered the city and the wharf. We reconvened in the afternoon at Takapuna Methodist Church, to have our first concert – a joint concert with the Auckland Youth Choir. Performing a couple of songs with them was phenomenal – their choir has about 100 members, and the sound we made singing together was incredibly powerful. It was also neat getting to meet Kiwis our age, and talking about the differences in their experiences and ours. In particular, we discussed American versus New Zealand slang, and the various phrases we used daily but almost never thought about.
The trip thus far has been phenomenal; all of us are in awe of just how beautiful the country is, and cannot wait to see the sights that await us.
May 29th 2017
29 May 2017
Queenstown was the perfect conclusion to our wonderful adventure. The drive itself was phenomenal – we took the longer route, to drive through the Southern Alps and get to see sights such as Lake Tekapo and the lovely stone church by its shore. By the time we’d gotten to Queenstown it was dark, so when the sun rose the next morning we weren’t prepared for the incredible beauty surrounding us. The town is nestled along Lake Wakatipu, surrounded on all sides by the Southern Alps, with the buildings picturesque and staggered so that every window has a spectacular view of the waterfront. We began early with a jet boat ride around the lake, and it was early and cold enough that in some areas clouds still lingered on top of the water, creating a dreamlike atmosphere with the sun shining through. Following that we found a delicious coffee/gelato/chocolate shop – Patagonia Chocolates – before riding gondolas up to one of the mountaintops. The day was clear, sunny and crisp, and looking out from the mountain over the city, the lake, and the surrounding Southern Alps was spectacular, but then we were all able to ride the luge track which followed the side of the mountain. It was hard to focus on the driving – the view was too distracting! Following that we ate lunch overlooking the Cliffside, and were able to watch parasailers glide down across the town.
Then came the time for our final concert. We all anticipated devolving into tears at the end, but we somehow still gave the best concert of our entire trip. We sang in a small, gorgeous stone church, and the combination of high emotions, perfect architecture, and joy from that day’s adventure was just so to allow us to put on an incredible performance. Then it came time for the “Nunc Dimittis” – the song written by Morten J. Luvaas for the original Allegheny Singers, which has since been sung after every Allegheny Choir concert. To say the least, the song has a very special place in all of our hearts. Before we could start, however, the pastor of the church stood up to give us wonderfully touching and praising words, which unfortunately just got us all that much closer to tears. Professor Niblock had us sing a short and lighthearted song after that, only to try and calm us before diving into the emotional conclusion to our concert – our last performance in New Zealand, and the last Allegheny Choir performance for those who graduated. It went about as well as expected – the singing was still lovely, though with much additional vibrato from trying to hold back the sobs (somewhat unsuccessfully). But when it ended, though we were all in tears, every face was smiling and full of joy and love.
Now, sitting in the San Francisco airport back on US soil, though I already desperately miss New Zealand, I cannot get over the feeling of peace, of happiness, and satisfaction that those two incredible weeks gave me. That place has a kind of magic to it that has become embedded in each one of the chamber choir members, and that won’t leave us for the rest of our lives. We have made memories and connections that will last forever, and I cannot truly express how thankful each of us are for the gift that New Zealand was. All I can say at this point is I’ll be back – New Zealand holds my heart.
May 25th 2017
I am sure that we are all familiar with the saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” And I have come to the conclusion of presenting our experience thus far in a medium of only photographs taken during this trip with brief descriptions. My intent is that this exhibit will offer you, the viewer, the opportunity to revel in this fantastic voyage through our actual lenses as if you were right here with us. Please enjoy.