Ashley Huizinga–Staff Writer
On Friday, Oct. 13, Dordt was packed with parents, alumni and students trying to attend as many events as possible during Defender Days.
But around 3:00p.m., people entering the B.J. Haan were given a reprieve from the business of campus by watching three small Dordt ensembles perform for the annual Small Music Festival. A few hundred people turned out to see the Bella Voce choir, Kantorei choir and the Jazz Band that afternoon.
Bella Voce opened the concert with a Mendelssohn piece from the larger work “Elijah.” They transitioned to a faster piece called “A Girl’s Garden” that challenged diction and pronunciation. Finally, the women’s choir finished their 4-piece set with a choral rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon.”
Bella Voce then yielded the stage to Kantorei, who began with a selection from 1631 which has the distinction of being the earliest choral piece printed in the New World. One favorite of the four Kantorei pieces was “Embraceable You,” by George Gershwin, which left the audience and other choirs guessing: Is it a lullaby? Is it a love song?
It was new music professor Ryan Smit’s first Dordt concert as a conductor.
“It was so much fun to see students up on stage having a blast with such fun music,” said Music professor John MacInnis. “‘A Girl’s Garden’ simply sparkled and ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ is always just perfect.”
The Jazz Band brought the Small Music Festival to a close with a multitude of student solos throughout their 4-piece set. Soloists included sophomores Matt Van Holland (trombone) and Jazmin Mendieta (guitar), juniors Nicholas Mills (tenor sax) and Zach Steensma (baritone sax), and seniors Mary VanWyk (alto sax), Daniel Amin (piano), and Micah Tjeerdsma (guitar).
Although there was a moment of confusion for the ensemble when director Kevin Linder forgot the order of music (which he quickly admitted to the audience with all his characteristic charm), the switch was easily forgiven and forgotten amid the jazzy, upbeat strains of brass, piano, guitar, and others.
Later that evening, the Fall Music Festival provided Defender Days attendees with more entertainment.
The Campus-Community Band opened the event with a 3-piece set. It included a “Meditation” on “Poor Wayfaring Stranger” and an energetic Japanese song titled “Yagi-Bushi.”
Next, Chamber Orchestra took the stage to perform a suite on Old English songs and a pairing of a folk tune and a fiddle piece. The around 600 attendees offered generous applause after each work (even when they weren’t supposed to), but the audience favorite of the set appeared to be “Folk Tune Air” and “Fiddler’s Fury.” Throughout, it wasn’t hard to imagine dancers in barefeet and medieval-era dresses bowing to each other and kicking up their heels to the lively piece in the empty side of stage left.
Concert Band performed 3 pieces, starting with “Esprit de Corps,” featuring strains of the “Marines” song and three piccolo players. The final piece of the set was titled “Play!” This New Orleans’ take on “Come Thou Fount” set audience and band members, especially senior trumpet Karissa Van Surksum, bobbing and tapping along to the rhythm
The gong (which had been tantalizingly left in the back of the stage since Campus-Community Band’s set) was finally put to use by junior percussionist Ellie Koerner for “Esprit de Corps” and “Play!”
“The whole [concert] was extravagant,” said junior Evelyn Reinders. “Probably my favorite way to spend a Friday night.”
After an intermission and offering while the stage was reset, the new Music professor and choral conductor Ryan Smit took the stage with Chorale, Concert Choir and a final Combined Choirs piece.
Chorale’s “He Never Failed Me Yet,” which the choir had performed earlier that day at the Friday chapel was also a crowd favorite. Freshman Worship Arts major Damon Groen offered a colorful, climbing solo to the beat set by junior Marcus Zevenbergen on drums and senior Caleb Smith on bass.
“They definitely sprinkle some soul in the water at Prinsburg,” said alum Brian Bonnema.
The song wasn’t necessarily a daring choice – Dordt choir have certainly done spirituals before – but Smit’s decision to jazz up the performance with making the choir sway and clap was unexpected. Cream robes flapping, the Chorale held out until the cut-off, at which point the audience responded with energetic applause.
Concert Choir was the last large ensemble of the evening. The first two songs, “Song of Triumph” by Dale Grotenhuis and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” by Benjamin Kornelis, were announced as a way to honor the legacy of the two previous choir conductors at Dordt. Next in the line-up was “Due North,” a 3-part homage to Smit’s Pacific Northwest.
“We cut out one of the five sections,” said sophomore Joshua Dorsett, “but that one was a lot like ‘Woodpecker’ – atmospheric, forest-y…”
After a solo by junior Kaylee Dykstra to “My Jesus I Love Thee,” Smit announced the final Concert Choir piece. “Lambscapes” demonstrated a brilliant take on the old familiar tune “Mary Had a Little Lamb” – including a sheepish solo by junior Daniel Seaman and an operatic male quartet.
The final Combined spiritual, “Daniel,” ended the event on a high note, calling for an enthusiastic standing ovation for conductor, choirs, and accompanists. Thus, even (or maybe especially) with “the new guy” choir conductor, both Small and Fall Music Festivals went off without a hitch. The instrumental ensembles shone, and all choirs succeeded in setting a new kind of choral precedent for years to come.