Three days of band, choir and strings

Stephanie Hollman, Staff Writer

This past weekend, UND hosted its annual Honor Band, Choir and Strings Festival, which showcases the diverse talents of individual and ensemble musicians.

The three-day festival began on Friday Jan. 20 at the Chester Fritz Auditorium with a concert 12 featuring groups, each musicians from around the country who have auditioned for a sought-after spot.

The crowd was a mixture of people from the Grand Forks community—including President Kennedy and First Lady Debbie Kennedy—and musicians who would be performing later in the festival.  Elizabeth Holzkamm, 17, and Ebony Musonda, 15,  high schoolers from Scranton, N.D., were in Grand Forks for the weekend and were excited about getting a chance to listen to other performers when they themselves were not singing for the UND Honor Choir. 

“I really enjoyed how balanced the wind ensemble was,” Holzkamm said, “but overall, I liked how this concert had a mix-up of songs.”

The songs played by the variety of choirs and ensembles featured ranged from the classic compositions, such as the works of Beethoven by the UND Saxophone Quartet, to more popular songs, such as the Jazz Combo’s rendition of “The Girl from Ipanema.”

No matter the song choice, the musicians of the concert were sure to personalize their performance with stellar showmanship or a remarkable ability to come together with others in an ensemble.

As far as the smaller musical groups went, Keith Teepen and Nariaki Sugiura delighted the audience with their concerto in four hands and highlighted high-caliber individual musicians that comprise of ensembles and groups. In their concerto for four hands—which they performed alongside one another on one piano—one grounded the other’s allegro and complex part with a more rhythmically—consistent piece on the lower octaves.

Surprisingly, the musicians were not the only ones whose talents were highlighted during the concert. Conductor of the Vivo Choir, Melanie Popejoy, broke from concert norms by introducing her choir’s piece “Peace be to this Home” as having been written by Vivo’s accompanying pianist, Jonas Fisher.

Popejoy explained that after her mother’s passing, Fisher wrote the composition and gifted it to her and the choir. This performance was the debut of the song. Thoughtful and moving, the piece was well-received by the audience and garnered plenty of applause and standing ovations.

True to their usual charisma and contagious energy, UND’s very own Varsity Bards was the perfect choice to end the first concert of the festival. Their performance of the Varsity of Songs of UND included seamless harmonizing, entertaining showmanship and a cameo from a singing pizza man.

All the acts of the night succeeded in showcasing the talents of the various musicians in UND’s music program. Whether it was through the university, or through the honor ensembles that enable high school students, like Holzkamm and Musonda, to preview the collegiate music experience at UND and take it into consideration when choosing a college to attend.

While the university is in the midst of budget cut talks for the next academic year, the music festival emphasizes the importance that music education has on its current and prospective students.

Stephanie Hollman is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]