EMU's Wind Ensemble performs during Saturday's Gala Concert, an annual benefit for EMU music student scholarships. (Photos by Rachel Holderman)

EMU musicians and The String Queens inspire at 2021 Gala Concert

With photos by Rachel Holderman

Thanks to EMU students, community contributors and faculty David Berry, Benjamin Bergey, Kyle Remnant, James Richardson and Kimberly Souther for an amazing night of music inspired by the themes of peace and joy.

The dynamic Washington D.C.-based trio The String Queens were special guests, adding EMU to a stunning list of prior concerts. Already in 2021, the trio have headlined the presidential and vice-presidential inauguration celebration and partnered with ESPN for a global promotional campaign of Wimbledon tennis tournament.

Kimberlea Daggy of WMRA’s All Things Considered reprised her role as event host. 

View the livestream recording. 

The concert is a fundraiser for the EMU Music Scholarship Fund. Donate and find the concert program here.


Afton Rhodes-Lehman, soprano (below), and Professor James Richardson, baritone, were the featured vocalists, for a performance of Dona Nobis Pacem, composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Bergey conducted the Chamber Orchestra and University Choir.

Bergey selected the masterwork for its theme of a cry for peace, a fitting celebration of EMU’s new program enabling students to combine peacebuilding and music studies. 

Williams, a pacifist who served in World War I in the medical corps and as an artillery officer, composed the work in 1936 – and it was his “cry that a second [war] would not break out,” Bergey said.

Bergey described the piece as “powerful and raw, depicting the ugliness of war using drums as artillery, the sounds of a funeral march and screaming in the face of death. But within it, while coming face to face with death and war, there comes the realization of a shared humanity, even across enemy lines. This humanity is also capable of things much greater, more admirable, and even [like] that which we are called to in scripture.” 

Bergey ended his introduction with a reminder that more than 40 conflicts are ongoing throughout the world: “May we continue to work for peace across our shared humanity. This is our hope and this performance is just a part of our work.”

EMU’s Wind Ensemble, directed by Professor Kyle Remnant in his conducting debut, performed selections “The Cutting of the Hay” by Percy Aldridge Grainger and “Beyond the Summit,” by Brian Balmages.

The String Queens – Élise Sharp (cello), Kendall Isadore (violin), and Dawn Johnson (viola) – performed several selections.

The Jazz Band, with Remnant, performed music by Glenn Miller, James van Heusen, Duke Ellington, and Dizzy Gillespie. Soloists were 

  • “In the Mood,” Thaddeus Jackson on tenor sax, Sophia Gott on alto sax, Travis Trotter ‘99, on trumpet;
  • “In a Mellow Tone,” Andrew Troyer ‘19 on trumpet, Professor David Berry on piano, and
  • “Manteca,” Joshua Ayers ‘20 on tenor sax.

The String Queens joined the Jazz Band for a finale of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”

Special thanks to sponsors Truist and support from the J. Wilmer and Velma Heisey Music Grant Fund.

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