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November 29, 2018

By Asbury University Student Katherine Sheets ’20

Two hundred musicians came together to commemorate the bicentennial anniversary of a local college and the almost four decades of work for a celebrated Kentucky choir conductor. Asbury University’s Music Department collaborated with its counterparts at Centre College and Berea College for two special performances. Together, the universities performed combined concerts on Nov. 1 at the Norton Center for the Arts in Danville, Ky. and on Nov. 2 at Union Church in Berea, Ky.

According to Dr. Vicki Bell, director of Asbury’s chorale, the directors had been planning the program for about a year in order to honor Dr. Steve Bolster, director of Berea’s concert choir. He retires this year after 39 years of service. Additionally, Centre College observes its 200th year in 2019.

“The overarching theme is about making music with other people,” said Bell. “I want students to experience this music as an art form at its highest level, and want them to have some moment in the concert where the music is so beautiful they’ll remember it for the rest of their lives.”

The concerts began with five songs performed by the combined choirs of all three universities followed by the combined orchestras and finally an all-encompassing choir work with orchestral accompaniment. All five ensemble directors had a hand in deciding the music, but it was Bolster’s love for Brahms that inspired the grand finale.

According to Professor Nathan Miller, director of Asbury’s orchestra, bringing three music departments together was challenging, as each ensemble learned the music independently and met the weeks prior to performances to put things together, but the final product made all the work well worth it.

“[The Brahms finale] took a lot of methodical work to prepare since neither rehearsing conductor [performed] it,” Miller said.

Miller also believes the experience gave students the opportunity to play with people they traditionally wouldn’t have the chance to. “It’s good to get feedback from other conductors,” Miller added.

The concerts not only honored years of musical accomplishment and dedication to collegiate excellence, but also afforded the opportunity for both student and audience growth through varied literature and collaboration. “I want it to be an aesthetic experience that transcends music on a deeper level, where time stands still in a life-changing moment because of the beauty of music,” said Bell.