Music students beat the pandemic blues

Music department hosts virtual gala


Dr. Christopher Ramaekers, Music Department

Left to the right, Kayla Okus, Clara McGowan, Miranda Johnson, Fai Haw and Kevin Zawila pose for a photo after the 2019 holiday gala.

Lizzy Rost, Arts and Rec Editor

This fall members of the music department didn’t let social distancing guidelines defeat them. They stood nine feet apart left to right between a 15-foot gap. At times it was difficult for students to hear one another because they could only hear themselves play. And although these guidelines posed a challenge, they took this opportunity to learn and grow, culminating in a virtual performance called Gala Gets Thankful

From Nov. 23 – Dec. 21 the music department fundraises for their students through the annual gala, and the proceeds go toward student scholarships. It features Vocal Jazz, Chamber Choir, Jazz Ensemble one and two, Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Meistersingers and the Chamber Orchestra. 

In the Chamber Orchestra, Dr. Christopher Ramaekers conducts the song, “Autumn” from the Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi. Vivaldi, an Italian composer features first and second violin, viola, cello, bass and a harpsichord in this piece. 

“The whole piece is a set of different pieces, each based on one season. Spring, autumn, winter and summer,” said Ramaekers. 

Within the Four Seasons, each season has its own three-movement concerto and there’s a poem that goes along with each season. Imagine it as an album divided into four sets, and each set has three different songs that’s inspired by an Italian poet.

“The peasant celebrates with dances and song, the pleasure of the rich harvest. And full of Bacchus’s liquor, they finish their celebration with sleep. So, after harvest they have a party and drink. The air is fresher now, but it’s contemplating and the season, which invites so many to the great pleasure of the sweetest slumber, make each one abandoned dance in song. At the new dawn the hunters set out on the hunt, with horns, guns and dogs. The beast flees, and they follow its trail. Already fearful and exhausted by the great noise of guns and dogs, and wounded, the exhausted beast tries to flee, but dies,” Ramaekers said. 

When the peasant dances, the notes become shorter as it impresses its mate. They then rest in a peaceful slumber, full of blood. They are ready and and slow, and the notes become longer as they sleep. The early sun rises, and the hunters chase the fox. The fox runs, but they follow its trail. The fox scared from the loud shot, tries to escape, but it was too weak and died. 

“They played from their souls, and if you watch the gala you can sense that in every choir and ensemble group,” said Glenn Hayes, conductor of the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, and the director of the university’s band. 

In preparation for the performance, students had to rehearse for 25 minutes and then go to another room to let the air circulate. The students were dedicated to their music. They all prepared themselves outside the rehearsal because they had to put it together as well as they could before the curtain rose. 

“I actually listen when I’m in rehearsal and performing. I like to listen to others and everyone in the ensemble to make sure I’m fitting and in tune. I had no sense, because we were playing without an audience. I couldn’t really hear them well,” said Miranda Johnson, a music performance major. 

Miranda was thankful she could play and perform. She felt that this semester the ensemble worked harder, because they were without music since the summer. They had the opportunity to play and they weren’t going to miss that chance in “Amazing Grace.” 

“I chose Amazing Grace, for personal transformation. The students worked and brought out the feeling of fullness of that peace from it. In this pandemic, this song gives hope, self reflection, helps student wellness, and helps them through this traumatic time,” said College of Arts and Communication Dean Eileen Hayes. 

See the virtual performance of Gala Gets Thankful at by Dec. 21.