Inaugural Concert Brings Together Past, Present & Future
In celebration of Moravian’s 16th president, Bryon L. Grigsby ’90, Associate Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies Neil Wetzel is uncovering new ground for the Presidential Inauguration Concert, melding together two jazz big bands on a single stage.
The collaborative event, which will include the Moravian College BIG Band, consisting of approximately 25 undergraduate musicians, and the Moravian College Jazz Hounds, a Big Band comprised of Moravian College alumni, ties fittingly into the concert’s title of “Moravian Traditions; Past, Present, Future.” The big bands won’t be just sharing a stage, but playing simultaneously as one.
“This is something that I have never done,” said Wetzel, who will direct the performance, which is slated for Saturday, April 12, at 7:30 p.m. in Foy Concert Hall. “To be honest, I don’t know if anyone has ever done it at Moravian.”
In addition to this potential groundbreaking performance, the concert will feature a student-composed piece by Chris Aguayo ’15 and Michael McAndrew ’15. The piece is titled “Mighty Mo,” a more-than-subtle reference to Moravian College, as well as President Grigsby’s beloved greyhound, Mo.
When the President’s Office approached Wetzel last fall to be a part of the Inauguration festivities, the director jumped at the opportunity. He immediately started working on how to appropriately intertwine the theme into the performance.
I’m always looking for an opportunity
to have (the Jazz Hounds) perform because
they are such a fine group”
– Neil Wetzel
Having encountered and enjoyed the Jazz Hounds’ Alumni Weekend performances for a number of years, he quickly brought them into the fold. “I’m always looking for an opportunity to have them perform because they are such a fine group,” Wetzel said.
Then came incorporating students into the event, which led to Aguayo and McAndrew co-composing “Mighty Mo.” The duo has worked with Wetzel and Sean O’Boyle, artist-lecturer in composition, to prepare the premiere piece. Additionally, the program will include rousing favorites and a few surprises. Among those will be premiere piece called “Making an Entrance,” as well as several “old tunes” recommended by the alumni musicians. “We are definitely trying to tie in the old and the new into this performance,” Wetzel explained.
Having helped commission an on-campus jazz opera and jazz ballet in recent years, Wetzel enjoys collaborating with other Moravian artists and performers. The Inaugural concert will continue this collaborative trend with a piece titled “On A Clear Day,” featuring a jazz vocal quartet, comprised of two undergraduates and two alumni singers.
“I like to give students a very wide range of opportunities, especially to do new works,” Wetzel added. “I think that is really important. It is exciting to expose students to the process, not just performance of a piece. This way students get to see the steps along the way of how a composition develops from conception to final presentation.”
Incorporating a new arrangement at an Inauguration ceremony is nothing knew for Wetzel and the Moravian College BIG Band. In 2007, for Christopher M. Thomforde’s Inauguration, the band and director commissioned a new arrangement of the new president’s favorite hymn, “How Brightly Shines the Morning Star.” Coincidentally, Tony Gairo, one of the College’s artist lecturers, arranged and orchestrated the piece.
For more information about the Moravian’s Inauguration, including details about the schedule and to RSVP, contact the Inaugural Office at 610-861-1467. Or visit the Inaugural website, www.moravian.edu/inauguration.
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