Where: Lehman Auditorium
When: 7 p.m., Friday
Cost: Free, with suggested donation of $10 to $20
Eastern Mennonite University’s 2023 Music Gala Concert, says David Berry, is a labor of love for so many people.
The upcoming concert will showcase three talented guest artists and every music ensemble on campus collaborating in a special evening of dance, poetry, jazz and world music. Two compositions written for the event will premiere. And the university choir and chamber orchestra will pair up to perform Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” featuring soloists Olivia Rominiyi, Sarah Hamilton, Jordan Davidson, and Shannon Kiser.
“We’re celebrating the connectedness of community and humanity across the globe and what we can do when we come together,” said Berry, music program director at EMU.
The concert, fittingly titled Together, begins at 7 p.m. on Friday in Lehman Auditorium. It is free to attend, with donations welcome to help support EMU Music.
The World Has Changed
Embodying the theme of collaboration, an actress, dancer, orchestra and choir will join together to perform The World Has Changed. The interdisciplinary piece, based on the poetry of Alice Walker, will see its world premiere at the gala.
Zachary Wadsworth composed the score for The World Has Changed. Wadsworth, an assistant professor of music at Williams College, also wrote music for this year’s Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival. His compositions have been performed at The Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center and at Westminster Abbey for Queen Elizabeth II.
The World Has Changed will feature a narration of Walker’s poetry from actress Andreá Bellamore of the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton. “We needed a voice that would communicate the text well with the orchestra, with the choir and with the dance, so we knew we needed someone special for that,” Berry said. He credited EMU Provost Tynisha Willingham, a board member of the theater company, with connecting Bellamore with the production.
Paula Facci, an assistant professor at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, will perform a dance that her class, Creative Approaches to Peacebuilding, helped to choreograph.
Berry described the music of The World Has Changed as “ethereal, powerful and soulful” and said the composition serves as “a celebration of what could be.”
The other original piece premiering at the concert will be the world jazz fusion composition Amahoro Suite by Makinto, a man of many talents and cultures.
The Liberian-German composer, musician, singer, storyteller and pastor plays jazz flute, piano and percussion. He’s performed in Vatican City for Pope John Paul II and at Madison Square Garden. He is the director of Amahoro International, a Christian ministry affiliated with Mosaic Mennonite Conference.
“He’s really just an amazing artist and person,” Berry said.
Makinto and his wife, Mukarabe, will recite poetry as part of Amahoro Suite. Amahoro is the Kirundi — the official language of Burundi — expression for “peace.” Amahoro Suite will include musical performances from Makinto and the EMU Jazz Band.
“It’ll involve all kinds of things from Duke Ellington to djembe ensemble to African jazz flute,” Berry said.
‘Ode to Joy’
Those attending the concert will be treated to a choir and orchestra recital of “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. The ode, with its lyrics by poet Friedrich Schiller, has been sung at important movements throughout history to inspire and instill courage and hope, Berry said.
“It’s been a symbol, since it’s creation, of our shared humanity, our connectedness as a human race,” he said.
In the days leading up to the concert, about 1,500 students from Harrisonburg and Rockingham County will watch Makinto perform music and share stories as part of a unique collaboration with Any Given Child – Shenandoah Valley. EMU Music is a premier artist partner with The Kennedy Center-sponsored arts education nonprofit.
Other collaborative partners for this event include the American Shakespeare Center, the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, EMU’s Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival and sponsor Everence Federal Credit Union.
For those who cannot attend in person, a livestream will be available to watch online through the EMU Facebook page.