Westmont Music Department to hold virtual concerts this month
April is a big month for the Westmont Music Department.
Friday evening marked the first of seven virtual concerts available for free streaming.
Student musicians in the choir and orchestra combined forces for a performance of “Requiem” by Garbial Faure in the department’s annual Masterworks Concert, which became available to stream at 7 p.m. Friday.
Six performances are yet to come, including the Composer’s Concert, a performance from the Westmont Jazz Ensemble, a concert by the Chamber Orchestra and Chamber Winds, the Spring Choral Concert and the Vocal Chamber Concert.
“We feel very fortunate we’ve been able to do as much as we can,” Dr. Michael Shasberger, Adams Chair of Music and Worship and the conductor of the Westmont Orchestra, told the News-Press Friday. “We have a wonderful track record for vibrant health in the music community.”
The Masterworks Concert, Dr. Shasberger said, was a challenge in and of itself. The Montecito college’s choir singers were widely spaced high above the orchestra on the concrete and grass bleachers, while the orchestra encompassed the full width and length of the track.
The conductor and soloists were stationed on Thorrington Field.
“As we know, the guidelines change in response to the current conditions, so we’ve had to be very flexible in changing the plans for each program,” the chair said. “But we persevered and made the best of the possibilities for us.”
Dr. Shasberger said the biggest challenges in making the virtual concerts possible were finding adequate space to be properly distanced and dealing with the wind, temperature and lighting. However, he said that Santa Barbara is “far better off than most of our colleagues around the country” with its mild climate.
“Requiem” is a song about God’s grace and the reunion of the faithfully departed with the heavenly hosts, so for the choir and orchestra, Dr. Shasberger said it is a message of hope for all who have lost loved ones in the past year.
“They (the music students) are like a family. Of course, that’s why we do the work we do,” Dr. Shasberger said. “Whether it’s in a difficult time or not, it’s an academic calling for many of them and a life calling for all of them, in a way, to be expressive human beings.”
The Composer’s Concert, premiering several original compositions and pieces by Westmont students, will be held Friday.
In addition, the Westmont Jazz Ensemble will perform a variety of songs spanning history, including pieces by George Gershwin, Antônio Carlos Jobim, John L. (Wes) Montgomery and Jon Batiste. The ensemble features freshman Colby Young (drums), freshman Dylan Russell (bassist), freshman Keegan Perez (guitarist), freshman Samila Holt (clarinet), junior Soren Warren (trumpet), senior Julianne Jimenez (vocals), junior Heather Roell (vocals) and freshman Lillian Robinson (vocals).
Later on this month, the Westmont Chamber Orchestra and Chamber Winds will host their spring concert on April 18. The Bassoon and Harp Duo, featuring Tasha Loh (bassoon) and Julianne Jimenez (harp), will perform a Debussy favorite, “Rêverie. The Chamber Brass Ensemble will premiere two new arrangements of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ “Studies of English Folksongs.”
They will also perform “Just a Closer Walk,” a traditional spiritual in Dixie style arranged by Jack Gale, and two classical pieces for brass, Minuet from George Frideric Handel’s “Water Music” and Adagio and Presto by Italian composer Niccolò Antonio Zingarelli.
The Chamber Orchestra will perform Johann Pachebel’s Canon in D and his lesser known “Gigue” that was originally paired with the Canon. They will also offer an arrangement of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Music of the Night” from his “Phantom of the Opera.”
The Spring Choral Concert, which combines the College Choir, Chamber Singers and Choral Union, co-directed by Karen Janzen and Matthew Roy, will be held on April 23. And the Vocal Chamber Concert will feature Westmont’s top student musicians on April 25, followed by the String Chamber Concert on April 30.
“On the flip side of the challenge, it’s also been a great opportunity to take the time to do these video recordings so that people all over can access them,” Dr. Shasberger said. “We’ve had so many parents and family members and friends write to us and say, ‘Thank you for providing this at this time. I could have never gotten to my son’s or daughter’s performance.’
“This has been really delightful. We talk about the isolation we’re all experiencing and suffering from, so I hope in some significant way, these performances help break that for all of us.”
To learn more, visit westmont.edu/virtual-concert-series.