Scot Symphonic Band’s Commencement Concert Fraught with Bittersweet Emotions
Performance to celebrate Class of 2015 while solemnizing trio who were killed this semester
WOOSTER, Ohio — The Class of 2015 will conclude its four-year journey at The College of Wooster in much the same way it began four years ago — with a Scottish serenade. But the music and the mood will be bittersweet as the Scot Symphonic Band blends celebration and sadness at the annual commencement concert on Sunday evening in McGaw Chapel (340 E. University St.). The performance, which is free and open to the public, begins at 8:15 p.m.
The tragic deaths of a faculty member, an alumna, and a current student in the past three months convinced longtime conductor Nancy Ditmer that part of the concert should be a "tribute to those who were taken before their time." As a result, two of the works will be dedicated to the fallen trio, including Jack Gallagher's "A Psalm of Life," which he composed nearly 20 years ago in honor of another former Wooster student who died tragically in a car accident.
"Jack's piece is not only about mourning death, but also about celebrating life," said Ditmer. "Much of it is very lively and celebratory, but it begins and ends in a quiet, peaceful, almost spiritual mood."
In addition to Gallagher's composition, which will showcase several student musicians as soloists, the band will perform Bruce Houseknecht's arrangement of Pavel Tschesnokoff's "Salvation is Created." This is a reflective piece upon which "A Psalm of Life" is based and will be directed by student conductor Nicholas Penfound, a graduating music education major.
Also on the program are John Mackey's "Strange Humors," which represents the merging of two cultures — the modal melodies and syncopated rhythms of middle Eastern music with the percussive accompaniment of African drumming; Samuel Hazo's "...GO," which pays tribute to the composer's most influential mentors; and Edward Gregson's "Festivo," a light-hearted and cheerful piece; as well as Frank Simon's arrangement of Herman Bellstedt's "Napoli-Canzone Napolitana Con Variazioni," a popular concert staple featuring senior soloist Jacob Boca on cornet; and an American Medley with John Philip Sousa's "Easter Monday on the White House Lawn" and Robert Foster's arrangement of Henry Fillmore's "Lassus Trombone."
As always, the pipers and drummers will present traditional music from Scotland, including Mark Saul's "The Hellbound Train" and "Bronni's Blue Brozzi," as well as Donald MacLeod's "The Judge's Dilemma" and Terry Tully's arrangement of Neil Dickie's "The Clumsy Lover Waltz," while the Highland Dancers will perform "The Sword Dance," which was done on the eve of battle, and "The Sean Triubhas," a humorous routine in which the dancers figuratively shake off their cumbersome tight-fitting trousers and transition into the Highland Fling — a symbolic return to the wearing of a kilt. The concert will conclude with the always-emotional rendition of "Amazing Grace."
Nancy Ditmer has conducted the Scot Symphonic Band for 27 years and has mentored scores of Wooster students majoring in music education. Her leadership positions include serving as president of the Ohio Music Educators Association and the National Association for Music Education, and her honors include the Ohio Music Education Association Distinguished Service Award in 2006.
Ditmer is joined by Associate Conductors Ned Brooks and Thomas Roblee. Brooks is in his 19th at Wooster where he assists with the Marching and Symphonic Bands. Roblee is in his seventh year as instructor of percussion and fourth year as director of the Scot Marching Band.
Additional information about the Commencement Concert is available by phone (330-263-2419) or e-mail.