"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)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Music soothes for 2016 UMM Homecoming

It's so much more soothing to celebrate the UMM Homecoming by attending the music concert, rather than the football game. It's so soothing to be away from the emotions connected to sports. Music is wholesome and uplifting.
This year I noticed the announcement that the Homecoming concert would be on Saturday. I wondered: "Is this how it was scheduled before?" I could have sworn the Homecoming concert was held Sunday in past years. I wondered if I was experiencing age-related confusion. I called Sarlettes Music to confirm that the concert would indeed be on Saturday. "Yes," I was told.
I wondered how this would work, given that the football game wouldn't be over by 2 p.m. But then I found out a couple things: The Homecoming concert had indeed been held on Sundays in past years. My mental soundness was affirmed. And then I found out, on Sunday, that the football game was moved to a later start time.
I haven't paid any attention to UMM football for a very long time. I do sense, though, that political correctness has probably had a very positive effect on the program. Consider the recent hullabaloo over "locker room talk" prompted by the past behavior of the Republican presidential nominee. Yes, Republicans, you own this guy, I think. A general discussion regarding locker room talk and its misogyny, not to mention other words that could describe it, has developed, as we as a nation examine our navel again.
Well, if you want to consider a prime example of locker room talk, taken to the extremes of parody, you need only consider the UMM football program of the 1970s, full of "cock of the walk" types. If you get upset with me for pointing this out, I'd be happy to tell stories at some future time about the skits of the annual "Cougar follies." It was an annual event during the heyday of Cougar football, when the team could beat legitimate programs (like Northern Iowa) on a regular basis. The wins were great but the culture was disturbing.
Back then the fans were all too happy to just indulge Cougar football. Its cultural shortcomings could be overlooked. "Boys will be boys," I guess. But that's the attitude being overcome by political correctness (the good kind) now.
Far be it from me to understand why certain trends take hold on our august liberal arts campus. I'm not sure why the football program had to slide from being breathtaking to breathtakingly mediocre. I'm not sure why such a long and painful transition was needed before we could land in a conference where we'd have a chance again. We could play Bible schools. We're at least not making news by perpetually losing.
We once had a program that produced some NFL prospects. I guess that was exciting. But today I'm far more interested in taking in the Homecoming music concert. It's free!
I must continue this blog post in the spirit of constructive criticism. Has the HFA ever struck you as a strange place, architecturally speaking? Upon entering you're struck by the cavernous nature of the hallway - the high ceiling. I'm assuming the energy cost is unreasonable. I once heard from a good source that this building was originally designed for a school in Texas, then it got transferred to here.
I would suggest the planning reflected misplaced priorities. A hallway is merely functional, a means of getting from here to there. Our UMM HFA has a performance facility for music that is too small and gets too easily cramped and hot. More than one director at this year's concert sort of joked about the hot (i.e. stuffy) atmosphere. The place seemed filled to absolute capacity. It's called  a "recital hall." A recital is a more low-key event than a concert.
UMM needs a full-fledged concert facility. I once heard about the "Humanities Phase III" proposal. Have people contributed money earmarked for that? It has become a totally phantom thing. A UMM-oriented person told me this project became unfeasible once our public school constructed its state of the art concert hall (although I think it could use an extra aisle or two). Morris is too small, this person told me, to have two massive concert halls, but this leaves UMM with the short end of the stick.
The HFA ought to have normal hallways with doors that lead into decent-size performance venues. I mean, St. Cloud State has this.
I felt the UMM choir under Brad Miller was the highlight of the 2016 UMM Homecoming concert. It finished up the program. UMM music seems to have an aversion to "encores." When the concert was given honoring my late father, the audience clapped loudly and persistently after the last tune, seeming to hint that an extra little ditty would be appropriate. But no. That concert had audience-pleasing offerings as opposed to the more esoteric fare that UMM often presents. I guess that was because of a hint from my family.
The Homecoming concert could have used a little encore, and I of course would suggest the two-minute-long "UMM Hymn" which drips with sentiment. Garrison Keillor loved that song. He started clapping before the singers let go of the last note, when his show came to the P.E. Center. This tune is conducive to encouraging audience members to open their purse strings for contributing to UMM, eh?
I would like to see Miller direct this tune once, partly so he could develop his own appreciation of it, and so he could be ready to direct it if it's requested. It was performed for Tom McRoberts' funeral.
My father directed the Hymn so the singers slowed down for the words "varsity." I don't think Ken Hodgson directed it like that, so you might wonder: do I have a preference? Oh no, I don't. Hodgson did it in a totally pleasing manner. Maybe Hodgson could guide Miller into it. Miller strikes me as brilliant as a choir director. His "5 o'clock shadow" seems to be a natural condition. As for me, I just don't shave very often. I don't need to shave because I'm unemployed.
I may be unemployed because of UMM, specifically because of the goalpost incident of 2005. I don't know why that was even my problem. The goalpost incident in which a student was killed happened on UMM property, so why couldn't UMM take full responsibility of telling the public all about it? Instead I was at my office all weekend with phones ringing incessantly. I felt I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders. I found a nice eyewitness description on the ESPN2 website. It was quite the national story, maybe even international. I got calls from the NBC Today Show.
I had been at the football game in the first half and then left. I returned to the campus for the volleyball match. But I was not at the field for the hellish goalpost incident, which apparently left many onlookers with PTSD-type symptoms. Is it true that the UMM mischief-makers were discouraged from doing their deed at the north goalpost? I have heard the story of the "mystery gesture" by a campus security person, seeming to indicate (according to legend) that the students ought to go to the south end. Go to the south end they did. A number of them climbed onto the goalpost, to where their weight eventually caused it to snap. A student named Rick Rose from the Pacific Northwest was killed.
When I finally saw video of the whole thing on KSTP-TV, I was struck by how bad it really was, i.e. out-of-control. It was worse than how I envisioned it.
Some sanctimonious types jumped on me after our paper came out. Perhaps I was scapegoated. Within a year I was gone from the paper, having felt an onslaught of duress.
I probably would have left the paper within a year or two anyway, given the increased need for me to be at home with my aging parents. Newspaper management wanted me to attend a Blandin retreat. This was asinine. Such things are meant for new people in the community, partly as a means for them to get acquainted. "Everybody knows you," Liz Morrison said to me.
Everyone knew my parents were getting to the stage where they needed me around, so I was uncomfortable about committing to the feel-good Blandin retreat. Initially I did commit but then I withdrew, risking the disapproval of management.
Thinking back to that Blandin event, I'm reminded of an old quip from a trombone-playing friend of mine, Leroy Bushing, who said regarding a National Legion convention: "That sounds about as necessary as having two assholes."
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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