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Review: University ensembles surprise and delight the audience

By RUTH FIRESTONE

Special to The Hays Daily News

The great blizzard of 2013 made it impossible for FHSU ensembles to get to the annual in-service workshop of the Kansas Music Educators Association in Wichita. Directors Terry Crull, Dean Kranzler and Brad Dawson and members were disappointed since only the finest vocal and instrumental ensembles in the state are invited to perform.

On Tuesday evening, to the delight of a Hays audience, the Concert Choir assuaged their disappointment a bit by singing their KMEA program, plus "The Beautiful," by student Matthew E. Rome, dedicated to the Concert Choir and its president, Alexandra Hutchison.

It is a romantic composition expressing yearning for a lover the singer "cannot touch." A great surprise came at the end of the piece. Rome got down on one knee and proposed to Hutchison. Amidst tumultuous applause, she accepted.

As always, the Concert Choir began with "A Song for Fort Hays" by Donald Stout, its director for 36 years. I found this performance especially moving since his widow Marguerite was in the audience.

The premiere of "The Wonder of the Undiscovered" with music and text by student Steven Cornwell, bass section leader, earned enthusiastic applause. Cornwell said later, "I intended to express in music the feeling of wonder that you get when you observe the fine details, the nooks and crannies of different objects like nests in the forest or the grain in wood."

After an amusing dramatic performance of Paul Halley's "Soldier, Won't you Marry Me?" with brass accompaniment, the choir presented several pieces from their Christmas program. These included "Take Joy Home" by Dale Grotenhuis, Crull's college choir director. Grotenhuis conducted this at the 2011 Cathedral Concert, and it probably is his last work.

In between parts of the Concert Choir's program, the Fort Hays Singers and Percussion Ensemble performed Jeff Jordan's "The Heartfelt Spirituality of the Groove," written to the memory of Brett Zamrzla, also intended for the KMEA workshop. I think Zamrzla, a jazz percussionist, greatly would have appreciated this composition, which is composed in a jazz idiom featuring "scat" singing on nonsense syllables.

The Fort Hays Singers also gave a short program of their own featuring parts of the Mass -- Kyrie (Lord have mercy) and Sanctus (Holy) -- by graduate student Nathan Froebe, which Froebe accompanied. These showed considerable promise. Froebe should complete the Mass if he hasn't already.

Ruth Firestone, Hays, is an avid supporter of the arts and a frequent contributor to The Hays Daily News.