Every two years during Homecoming weekend, Chorale and Women’s Chorus hold a concert in Park Place to showcase several pieces and to honor an Outstanding Music Alumnus.
The choirs are honoring Douglas Beam as the Outstanding Music Alumnus this year, who composed three pieces for the choirs. Women’s Chorus is also honoring alumna Ann Smith with a song titled, “Letter from Ann.”
Ann Smith came to AU as a freshman 71 years ago, and has been part of the campus community for many years. She has been a trustee and a host for Tri-S trips that traveled to Japan. Now in her 90s, she still serves in the AU community.
Every year, Smith sets a theme for her life that she wants to pursue. One year, her theme was, “I want to show up where my body is. Be present.” That is the main theme of “Letter from Ann.”
When asked what it means to her to have the song “Letter From Ann” use her words, Smith said that she was simply blown away and didn’t understand why it was happening.
“It’s always difficult for me to understand that anything that comes out of my mouth would have an impact on someone else,” Smith said. “If they are a blessing to someone else, then I give God thanks for that.”
Smith said that Homecoming is important, because we should never forget about the people and experiences that have shaped us.
“In one way or another, AU shapes all of us,” she said. “I am deeply grateful for the impact that it had on me. I don’t ever want to forget that, and I want to continue to connect with the those who come after me. I want AU to continue to help people discover who they are and what they are supposed to be doing.”
She also said that she has had many great encounters with professor of music and director of Women’s Chorus Dr. Brandon, and that they have been friends for many years.
“We’ve talked together, we worship at the same church together and we’ve shared together,” Smith said. “I have high regards for her faith journey.”
Brandon wrote Smith’s words into a poem, and she said that Smith has been an inspiration to her for much of her life. Smith also attends Park Place Church of God, and she and Brandon have been in the same Sunday school class for many years.
“Ann has been a personal mentor to me for the past 25 years,” she said. “She has encouraged me in times of great difficulty and modeled faith and the grace of God.”
Brandon said that most of the songs Women’s Chorus sings represent the legacy of embracing hope in Christ, which is the chapel theme for this year.
“We are singing ‘Lift Thine Eyes’ by Mendelssohn and ‘Eternity’, a Swedish piece by Michael Bojesen set for triple choir,” she said. “As a choir, we get to sing and celebrate these words and themes, which is a deep dive.”
Another piece with special meaning to Brandon is “Spirits” which was written by Beam.
“Spirits was written following the death of two AU alumni who were graduate students at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University,” she said. “Zachary Novak and Garth Eppley were among the five IU graduate students killed in a small crash.
“Douglas Beam, a good friend of both Zach and Garth, was a music teacher at Indianapolis at that time and wrote this piece reflecting not only the words of Shakespeare’s ‘Midsummer’s Night Dream,’ but also his thoughts of those who have passed away and how they are always with us.”
Chorale is also performing in the Homecoming concert and is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. Professor of music and director of Chorale Dr. Richard Sowers said that Chorale with be performing four selections with one of which was written by Beam.
“The first piece is ‘Hallelujah,’ the concluding chorus from the oratorio Judas Maccabeus by George Frederic Handel,” Sowers said. “Accompanied on the Cassavant pipe organ at Park Place Church by Schuyler Brinson, the Chorale accompanist. This piece celebrates the restoration of Jewish worship at the second temple in Jerusalem in 164 B.C.”
The second piece was written by Beam titled, “To the Light.” Sowers said that Beam will be conducting this piece at the concert.
He said that Beam wrote the text as well as music and penned these inspiring words: “On this open road, the moon and stars to guide me, and my heavy load made lighter by the wind against my back. And with my friend, I journey on.”
Chorale’s third piece will be an unaccompanied work by the well-known American composer, Jake Runistand.
“‘Let My Love Be Heard’ is a prayer by the English poet, Alfred Noyes, which offers comfort to those who have lost loved ones,” he said. “We will close with the rousing gospel song, ‘Unclouded Day,’ arranged by Shawn Kirchner.
The Homecoming concert featuring Chorale, Women’s Chorus and the award ceremony for Oustanding Music Alumni will be Friday, October 18 at 7:30 p.m. in Park Place Church of God.