"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)

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Memorial concert & graduation: spice, grandeur

UMM symphonic winds performs for the Ralph E. Williams Memorial Concert, a most memorable event held on April 28. Simon Tillier directs his musicians at the HFA recital hall. (Del Sarlette photo)
We are humbled and thrilled that UMM presented a memorial concert honoring Ralph E. Williams. My father Ralph, my mom Martha and I came here when UMM was just getting hatched. I guess those were the "Mad Men" days.
The April 28 concert was "dedicated to the life and work of Morris music faculty founder and conductor, Ralph Williams," according to the front of the concert program.
It's bittersweet of course. We'd prefer still having Dad with us. He'd be spending time on our front portico, enjoying the fresh air and that wide view of Morris from the north. We're across the field from Shopko. We remember that store starting as Gibson's and then becoming Pamida.
We remember when Prairie Inn was Sunwood Inn. We remember when the local fast-food restaurant was the Quik Stop, not McDonald's. The Quik Stop billed "19-cent hamburgers" at the start.
I got my occasional haircut at the Merchants Hotel. Barbers then were probably beside themselves how to handle boomer males. We couldn't just let our hair grow forever, and yet when we sat in the barber's chair, we demanded only the most conservative "trim." Today's generation wouldn't understand. Come to think of it, I don't understand. Those were the days of the so-called counterculture.
I'm not sure how much familiarity Simon Tillier has with this. He's the symphonic winds conductor at UMM. He's the very considerate soul who came up with the idea of the memorial concert. He's a native of London, England.
To an extent the counterculture was a worldwide thing. We learned this when Roland Guyotte brought a guest speaker here once who spoke on "hippies and the 1960s." That era is getting pretty remote in time.
I don't know Simon's age but he's probably younger than I think. Actually, the situation is probably that I'm older than I realize. Us boomers never envisioned ourselves being "old."
Our generation has gone through phases that have always been celebrated by the media. The World War II generation, our parents, never really had phases, they just tended to business. It has been written in fact that they never changed at all. It was considered a compliment. They persevered with their simple values.
Right now the boomers are in a phase of caring for, or keeping a close eye on, their aging parents. It's not going to get any easier. Medical science is extending lifespans. But this can create supreme challenges.
I never had to deal with the guilt of being a long distance from my parents. Don't think the boomers don't deal with guilt if they're distanced, or that they don't lose sleep at night.
Obviously there are resources available to aging Americans to ease the challenges. But in many respects these don't duplicate the constant presence of a family member.
My father was able to stay at his beloved family house until the end came when he was 96. He had accumulated issues connected to age. But he was never in a state of misery. He kept his appetite until the end.
Although his mental and communication capabilities slipped, he never had anything I would call dementia. He was always aware on the most basic level of his surroundings. And, his (our) dog "Sandy."
I remember when My father led the UMM musicians through both the UMM Hymn and UMM Fight Song. The hymn has been kept alive through the years. Most recently it inspired a new interpretation or arrangement which was penned by J. Wesley Flinn. He calls it a "Fantasia." Symphonic winds performed it at the start of the memorial concert. My mother and I thought it wonderful.
The rest of the program included works that reflected Ralph's life.
It's appropriate that Simon should lead this concert because he had the opportunity to meet my father following the Homecoming concert. It's the last music event my father would take in.
My mom and I are making an effort to attend all UMM music events now. Oh, and we're keeping an eye on the public school music calendar too.
"Rhapsody in Blue" was an unforgettable performance from the memorial concert. It featured the virtuoso piano abilities of Therese Sutula. We were spellbound listening to this George Gershwin classic, composed in 1924.
I was a little concerned the $5 admission price for adults might hold down the audience. There was also some concern over the Assumption Church confirmation being held that afternoon. Planning a concert brings such worries.
We could see as concert-time neared that the turnout was going to be quite good. The HFA recital hall was in fact quite filled. I suppose the $5 charge helped put funds in UMM music's coffers.
There was more than one standing ovation during the performance. We would have enjoyed an encore too.
 
And then, the 2013 graduation
Symphonic winds closed out the year performing at the UMM graduation on Saturday, May 11. The graduation was a story in itself. Oh, it always is, of course, but if you think apprehension is felt preparing for a music concert, well, UMM graduation can have its monumental issues with weather.
I could swear UMM has been snakebit through the years. This year was the epitome.
We awoke to see the sun shining. Sigh of relief, right? Not so fast. The Minnesota weather vagaries can really make you hunker down.
As Saturday unfolded, we might've wanted to say "whoa Nellie" about the wind (apologies to Keith Jackson).
Remember that scene in Mel Brooks' "Silent Movie" with Marcel Marceau? Where he's struggling to enter a room where the wind is gushing in through an open window? He's trying to get to a phone. (The movie was made in the 1970s when landline phones reigned.) Everyone on the UMM campus mall would have looked like Marceau had the ceremony been held there.
So even though the sun was out, UMM administrators had to put their heads together with a feeling of great gravity and shift the whole thing to the P.E. Center.
My mom and I attended. Frankly it was not a comfortable arrangement. It was crowded to the maximum. I'll wager that no fire marshal would approve this arrangement.
We were up on the concourse where the layers of people we so thick, you could hardly get a glimpse of what was going on.
It appeared that half the concourse was closed for reasons not readily apparent to me. I'm just guessing, but maybe the presence of a U.S. senator caused this. Maybe the security people didn't want people overlooking the stage from behind and from such a short distance. But a completely open concourse would have dispersed the people there and made it easier to view and appreciate.
There was an incident where something like a fire alarm went off and caused a distraction for people in that part of the gym. (Yes it's a "gym" and not an "auditorium.")
I'm not sure the sound system was up to snuff. From my vantage point it was hard trying to follow the speeches.
It probably wasn't worth our trouble to attend except that we want to be present and support the University of Minnesota-Morris.
How wonderful the ceremony would have been, had it been held outdoors. The bleachers actually did get set up. It was easy to envision how it could have been.
I do appreciate the guys scooting around on the golf carts offering rides. I availed myself of this twice, so thanks.
From the P. E. Center that mass assemblage had to make its way across campus to Oyate Hall for the reception. It would seem Oyate wasn't a large enough facility for this.
Oyate is connected to Edson Auditorium where all of the concerts in UMM's early days were held.
Normally when the UMM graduation is held outside, it's broadcast onto a screen in Edson for people who prefer that setting. We in fact checked out Edson when we first arrived on campus Saturday. We thought we might watch it there and then be conveniently located for the reception.
But the doors to Edson were locked. So when the graduation is moved indoors, the Edson option is apparently no-go.
UMM graduation always makes me a little nervous because there are so many people on campus and so many cars, obviously, on the periphery. But we got through it just fine.
Earlier in the day we dined at DeToy's where obviously we saw a lot of unfamiliar faces, signaling it was graduation day. We saw a party leave before getting their order, claiming they were pressed for time. That's inconsiderate toward the restaurant of course, but these people are "out of towners" and they don't have to guard their image here. If local people were to do that, they wouldn't want to show their faces in the restaurant again.
But of course we accept the bad with the good when it comes to UMM. It's "the jewel in the crown" of course.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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