Faculty members give humbling performance

Amelia Perron

The Lawrence faculty, in a marathon extravaganza Sunday afternoon, presented a “Concert for Humanity” in an effort to raise awareness and funds for the many disasters that have befallen humankind in recent months.
Voice professor and concert coordinator Steven Spears explained that, in planning the benefit concert at the beginning of this year, there were simply too many natural disasters to choose just one. “Instead of focusing on one tragedy or charity,” said Spears, “we decided that it would be best to simply remind people through a memorial concert that these events have happened and help is still needed in so many ways.” Instead of collecting donations at the door, audience members were encouraged to send a donation to the charity of their choice. “Perhaps this will encourage someone to donate their time to their church goodwill drive or homeless shelter or be inspired to give in some unique way that only they can,” Spears said.
The music and readings of the concert reflected a variety of deeply felt reactions to tragedy. Some pieces were clearly commemorative of specific events. Jazz instructor Lee Tomboulian, whose piano sextet “Set for New Orleans” premiered in this concert, was inspired to write the piece after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. “The first movement has a post-Katrina feeling,” he explains. “It’s a twisted version of the song ‘Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans.'”
Other selections, matching the plea for help that characterized the essence of the concert, turned spiritual, asking God for the help that we humans can’t seem to provide. Francis Poulenc’s profoundly beautiful “Priez pour paix,” performed by professors Joanne and Ken Bozeman, implored Jesus to “banish war which disrupts all.” The program also included the Buddhist “Metta” chant, led by Professor Gene Biringer, which recognized the common goals of peace, happiness, health and wisdom.
Some music was simply beautiful and reflective ***–*** Professor Stephen McCardell’s “Lent,” Professor Steven Jordheim’s performance of Srul Irving Glick’s “Prayer and Dance,” and Professor Stphane Tran Ngoc’s performance of Lynn Job’s “Arcangelo Red.”
But the overall mood of the concert could be summarized in a single piece: Schubert’s “Lebenssturme,” played by Sooyeon Kwon and Anthony Padilla. “You can hear so many interpretations – all the storms of life,” Spears said. “This could be the title of the concert.”
But the music tells of more than storms. In its dramatic chords, the music – like so much of the program Sunday – speaks of the human capacity to turn the worst of human suffering into art that expresses the best of our nobility. How appropriate it is to use a concert of noble and beautiful music to encourage that noble and beautiful human endeavor: caring for humanity.