"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Monday, April 29, 2013

What a wonderful memorial concert for Ralph

The HFA on the University of Minnesota-Morris campus was abuzz Sunday afternoon.
It was such a delight to see so many people turn out for the UMM symphonic winds concert. I'm an old-timer so I call it "band." In the old days we had the band/orchestra dichotomy. You had your choice: strings or brass. Of course, sometimes the most agreeable choice is a combination of the two. We've seen UMM symphonic winds director Simon Tillier employ singers too. What it's all about is wonderful music.
"Wonderful" describes what we experienced on Sunday, April 28, at the music/arts building on campus. It was a concert in memory of Ralph Williams, the original UMM music faculty person who laid the groundwork.
Williams worked across the board with brass, strings, vocalists - the whole gamut. He didn't hesitate to do more than what was technically required of him.
Concerts in those heady early days of UMM were at Edson Auditorium. We gained visibility by having the UMM men's chorus travel to Seattle WA and New York City for the world's fairs of 1962 and '64, respectively. UMM was making inroads on many fronts. Everyone got familiar with the "Cougars" nickname.
Ralph composed the UMM Hymn which was like a sentimental paean celebrating our campus and rural setting. No big city distractions here.
UMM clearly stated its niche: liberal arts. There were times when I felt the focus was a little too narrow and limited. But all these years after UMM's founders did their work, the campus seems most vibrant. We can sing the praises of liberal arts which I guess we can conclude have timeless value.
What stood out most at Sunday's concert? Was it the audience size? We were a little concerned that the Assumption Church confirmation might hold back the numbers. Well, maybe there weren't as many Catholics in the seats as there might have been - who knows? - but the turnout was terrific. The cookies ran out for the post-concert reception.
We were thrilled about the multiple standing ovations during the performance. What inspired performing! The piano playing of Therese Sutula should be videotaped and recorded and sent to PBS. George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" was unforgettable.
Again, what stood out most at Sunday's concert? It was everything.
My mother Martha and I were humbled and honored. Ralph was my dad. The only thing better than the concert would be to have Dad still alive and with us. He left us for that grand auditorium in the sky on February 2. We were blessed to have him at home with us until the end.
The April 28 concert began with a J. Wesley Flinn arrangement or interpretation of Ralph's UMM Hymn, called "Plains and Pines - Fantasia on the UMM Hymn." I had a tear or two trickle down my face. Kudos to J. Wesley.
Director Tillier programmed various works for this concert that reflected Ralph's life and musical tastes. The printed concert program included an extensive profile of Ralph's life. His adventure fighting the great Glacial Park fire of 1936 was included, along with his trip into Tokyo as a U.S. Naval officer shortly after the end of World War II. He saw the immense devastation in that city.
The 1950s saw him direct the 120-voice Minneapolis Apollo Club male chorus. I was born in 1955 and spent my first five years in St. Paul. The fact I could take kindergarten in Morris (Miss Feigum's class, East Elementary) and go K-12 here means I'm considered a Morris native for all practical purposes.
We continued visiting the Twin Cities through the years. We'd dine at the old Forum Cafeteria and shop at Dayton's. But mostly we were devoted to Morris. I graduated from high school in 1973 which was the year J. Wesley Flinn was born, the program informs me.
I've been around a lot of music in my life but I saw a "first" for me at Sunday's concert: mutes for the heavy brass instruments, you know, tuba.
Tillier had a fleeting encounter with my father last fall. I'm so glad he and my dad got to exchange a handshake outside the Recital Hall after the Homecoming concert.
I'm so glad that at this stage of my life, I can pay more attention to music than to football. In my media career I got drawn into sports a lot. Football is falling into a state of siege because of all the health-related concerns being raised. The emotions surrounding sports bother me sometimes. There is nothing but joy surrounding music.
I was glad to see my old newspaper boss Jim Morrison at the concert, with wife Liz (the former Liz Martin, how I knew her in high school). Jim's parents Ed and Helen Jane have made a generous donation to improve the art gallery in the HFA. It's across the hall from the recital hall.
My mom and I made a donation which Tillier informs us will go toward developing a new music department asset, the details of which I'll share when I know more later.
Two more suggestions for the HFA building: how about "power doors?" The existing doors can seem a little heavy and challenging. And, how about increased restroom facilities on the main floor? Some people used the elevator to use the basement restrooms during intermission Sunday.
I was pleased seeing our Morris Public Library director, Melissa Yauk, at the concert. UMM Chancellor Jacqueline Johnson graced the event with her presence.
We wish to thank Adiroopa Mukherjee, feature editor of the University Register, for the fine concert preview article in the April 25 issue. Mukherjee wrote about Williams' "undying legacy."
So, even though it was a memorial concert, it was a reminder that the qualities Williams instilled will never die or go by the wayside. Thanks everyone.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

No comments:

Post a Comment