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Millersville’s instrumental ensembles Celebrate with Song and Dance

MU Concert band, Wind Ensemble, and Orchestra played at the Celebrate with Song and Dance concert. (Dan Zalewski/The Snapper)
MU Concert band, Wind Ensemble, and Orchestra played at the Celebrate with Song and Dance concert. (Dan Zalewski/The Snapper)

Dan Zalewski
Staff Writer

Biemesderfer Concert Hall echoed with the compositions of Ludwig von Beethoven and John Phillip Sousa this past Sunday as Millersville’s Department of Music featured a three-part concert highlighting the beauty of the classical genre. Celebrate with Song and Dance, as it was titled, progressed throughout the best and most iconic songs and dances through the abilities of an orchestra, concert band, and wind ensemble. At times including a vocal group, the assemblies moved through the Baroque and Romantic eras of musical history, as well as including more modern pieces.

MU Concert band, Wind Ensemble, and Orchestra played at the Celebrate with Song and Dance concert. (Dan Zalewski/The Snapper)
MU Concert band, Wind Ensemble, and Orchestra played at the Celebrate with Song and Dance concert. (Dan Zalewski/The Snapper)

The concert began with the orchestra ensemble. Led by Dr. Vera Volchansky, the group featured over 50 members. Its selected pieces ranged from 18 to 20 century works from around mainland Europe. Dr. Jose Holland-Garcia also accompanied the group during two Italian opera compositions, who had solo performances to adjoin the music. Their final piece was the most iconic, as they played “Symphony No. 5” by Ludwig von Beethoven.

The concert band was the next group to take the stage. The group also featured over 50 members, and was led by Dr. Mark Yingling. The group took a more modern approach, playing newer songs of the 20 and 21 centuries. The band’s most memorable piece was “Courtly Airs and Dances” by Ron Nelson. The six-movement piece offered a variety by contrast, as each movement drew inspiration and sound from a different represented country. The band also featured the newest composition of the concert with “Spirals of Light,” composed by Sean O’Loughlin in 2007.

The final piece of this concert’s trifecta was the wind ensemble. It was the smallest group of the night with fewer than 40 members, but that did not stop them or conductor Dr. Keith Wiley from commanding the attention of the crowd. The group began by thunderously launching into John Phillip Sousa’s Washington Post March in its adaptation by Brion and Schissel. Joel Behrens, flute instructor at Millersville University, also joined the group, as he was a soloist in accompaniment of the ensemble. The final piece of the concert featured a three-movement group of dances known as “the Satiric Dances” by Norman Dello Joio, originally written to accompany the work of Greek playwright Aristophanes.

The performance was very well done and the music was played masterfully, yet they only practiced for three hours a week. “We started rehearsals the second week of classes,” Dr. Keith Wiley, conductor of the wind ensemble, explained, “The first week was devoted to auditioning everybody to get them in place in the orchestra, concert band, or wind ensemble,” How little they needed to practice for this show exemplifies the group’s musical abilities and helps to give an example of how professional the musicians of Millersville truly are.

The concert’s displays of classical music is one that you’d expect to find at any educational institution, such as Millersville, and its style and heritage makes it one of the most timeless genres in existence. To Dr. Wiley, the variety that you can include is a highlighting part. Wiley elaborates, “The most appealing part would be the variety of timbres, the variety of instruments that you’d get with classical music that you don’t with, say, even jazz … or even commercial music. You’re limited a little bit in the terms of the timbres. I like the wide range of expression that we’re expected to get. It’s a little harder to do because we don’t have any words, we have to work that much harder to be that much more expressive.”