Luther College Chips

Winter storms do not stop Jazz Orchestra and Collegiate Chorale

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Jackson Churchill (‘20) plays a trombone solo during Jazz Orchestra’s Homecoming Concert.

Jackson Churchill (‘20) plays a trombone solo during Jazz Orchestra’s Homecoming Concert.

Matthew Gleaves (‘19) | Chips

Matthew Gleaves (‘19) | Chips

Jackson Churchill (‘20) plays a trombone solo during Jazz Orchestra’s Homecoming Concert.

Matthew Gleaves, Staff Writer

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Jazz Orchestra and Collegiate Chorale set out on tours the weekend of April 13 but met adversity. Both tours had to think on their toes when interrupted by a spring blizzard.

Each ensemble played at least one concert and performed a homecoming concert on campus throughout the week after returning from their respective snow-covered tours. Despite the changes in their weekends, their homecoming performances went on as planned.

Jazz Orchestra performed their Homecoming Concert on April 17 in the Center for Faith and Life. Their performance consisted of 16 different pieces, with compositions ranging from American composer and jazz musician Duke Ellington to pieces gifted to the Luther Jazz Orchestra while they performed on international tour in Brazil in 2016.

The program also included vocal charts and two songs performed by Vocal Jazz. The eclectic music ranged from poetic pieces with solos to pieces that challenged the strength and speed of the musician’s lungs and fingers.

Emma Withers (‘18) is part of the rhythm section and the vocalist of Jazz Orchestra. She enjoys how Professor of Music Juan Tony Guzman (‘90) arranges diverse programs.

“[Guzman] is an incredible director and tries to pick a wide variety of songs that touch on different eras of jazz and different style choices,” Withers said. “I really like how he sets up the program so there is something for everyone. It keeps the audience really engaged.”

Since their tour was cut short, Jazz Orchestra only performed one of the four planned concerts of their tour. Returning Friday morning, the ensemble wanted to continue spending time together and Withers took part in planning the ensemble’s Saturday activites.

“Andrew Murray (‘18) and I organized a fake tour day on Saturday,” Withers said. “Our whole group met up and did this silly gift exchange at Dollar Tree and Goodwill. Then after that we got dinner at Old Armory and went [to see a] movie. Then we had a Jazz Orchestra Prom that night. Each person had to do a Promposal. We coordinated outfits, had a grand march, took photos, and danced.”

Annika Vande Krol (‘19) | Photo Bureau
Matthew Espey (‘19) recites an excerpt about the Matthew Shepard Foundation introduing Craig Hella Johnson’s “All of Us” from his oratorio “Considering Matthew Shepard.”

While Jazz Orchestra returned to campus due to the untimely weather conditions, Collegiate continued their tour. The ensemble performed each day of their tour, but not in the originally planned venues. The group performed in Davenport, Iowa, on April 12 as scheduled. The next day they traveled to the Twin Cities, where the blizzard kept them for three days. During this time, they performed at two churches in the Twin Cities, with one service based entirely off the ensemble’s performance of “The Peace of Wild Things,” composer Jake Runestad’s setting of a Wendell Berry poem.

When they finally got back to Decorah, Collegiate’s Homecoming Concert took place on Thursday, April 19 in the CFL with a program focused on peace. Assistant Professor of Music Jennaya Robison (‘96) selected choral pieces and spoken texts that represented this theme.

“It’s called ‘Prayers for Peace’ and I would consider it a marriage of both music and spoken text,” Robison said. “The idea [is] that we have the power to create goodness and justice and peace in the world.”

As a part of this theme, Matthew Espey (’19) read a text written in remembrance of Matthew Shepard, a young man who was brutally and fatally attacked in Colorado for being homosexual. This introduced Craig Hella Johnson’s “All of Us,” a piece from the oratorio “Considering Matthew Shepard,” which was the group’s final piece.

Although both tours were interrupted by severe weather, the ensembles persevered and delighted audiences at their homecoming concerts. And although they enjoyed the experience, those involved a look forward to warmer weather.

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