THUNDER BAY, ON - March 29, 2010 - Lakehead University Music Department presented its annual Spring Ensembles concert Friday March 26th. It is one occasion where people from Thunder Bay can see firsthand the quality of the University’s work.
As I was waiting for the concert to begin I kept thinking how in Bach’s time and until not so recent times organists were required to play an annual recital to show parishioners how far the organist has progressed during the year. In those days there were consequences for organists who did not meet expectations. In Bach’s time the annual recital was more than a routine concert. The organist’s future prospects depended on how well they did with the annual concert. There was a lot at stake. In many respects the LU ensembles concert has some of the same elements.
At some point in their career musicians will be required to work with other musicians, and for most students the one instrument we all have in common is our voice. When I attended the music at LU all students were required to participate in an ensembles course for each of their four years in the program. Instrumental ensembles also exist, and in this concert the brass players played in the spring recital.
The music students sing at these concerts is unlike anything they have done before. A few years ago none of these students could imagine singing opera chorus numbers such as the Humming Chorus from Madame Butterfly, or perhaps a new Magnificat by a Canadian composer. The transformation the University has on its music students studying in Thunder Bay is remarkable.
Senior Students, those who have been in the program for four years will be remembering their first such concert, and by concert’s end will start missing their friends who they have worked with as they finish up their last choral ensembles credit. It will be their last concert in this accelerated learning program. They will also be counting on a good performance to help improve their grades!
Many students in the program do not become professional musicians, but music will remain a strong part of their life, others will go into teaching, while others will use their experience at Lakehead University to move on to advanced studies in music at another school, so in many ways the music program opens the doors for many students to a satisfied life with music.
Good preparation is one value students learn by participating in ensembles courses. Practice time together is precious time, and not a moment can be wasted. It is amazing what a talented choral conductor can do with motivated youth. I have seen it before this year when the Pembina Trails Voices from Winnipeg visited the city, and on Friday evening Dr. Dean Jobin-Bevans has brought forth goo things with the singers at his disposal.
One of the bright spots of the night was the performance of the Magnificat, a large multi-movement work featuring Thunder Bay born and raised soprano Patricia Cotton. She is a perfect example to other students who are thinking of advance music studies and a career in music is the reward. The large chorus was superbly prepared for this work and Patricia sang with confidence born from many years of good preparation. She has done her home town and University proud. Dr. Jobin-Bevans stated that the “Magnificat was Magnificent” sharing my opinion that this piece anchored the entire program.
I asked Jobin-Bevans what the greatest challenge was in preparing this group. He responded “Working with a student ensemble comprised of students from all instrumental and musical backgrounds”. He went on to say, “many first years students had never sung before!” In total approximately 80 students from Lakehead’s Music Department graced the stage last Friday night.
The evening was not all about choral work, though brass ensembles are often referred to as brass choirs. Merry Klazek teaches brass ensembles at the University, and is well known as the principal trumpeter of our own TBSO. The appearance of this group in the concert means that they have reached the same level of performance as the choirs. I especially enjoyed the Brazilian dance that they performed. This is a fun group and the sense of fun and accomplishment transferred to the entire audience on Friday night.
Lakehead University provides an enriched learning environment for its students. Those who know how to make the most of their education will have a bright future, and in this respect the Music Department has its share of success stories.