Music Department Hosts Gala

On Friday, April 1, Eastern University held its 13th Annual Music Gala in conjunction with the Church of the Savior’s 10th Annual Weekend of the Arts. The night was incredible, featuring 10 performing acts of the highest quality. Tickets are unfortunately a little more pricey than the usual on campus performances, but I think it’s definitely worth it. Attending Eastern’s Music Gala should be added to every student’s bucket list, joining the ranks of Midnight Breakfast during finals week and Spring Banquet. It’s a great chance to get dressed up with your friends and enjoy some high-class music.

This year’s gala in particular was exquisite. The night started with Erikson Rojas and Young-Ah Tak (both Eastern piano faculty members) on the piano, playing pieces that were written for four hands, and yet still sounded like one person playing. The only reminder for the audience that these two musicians didn’t share one mind and one body was their staggered bows.

Next, Rachel Yonan played a viola sonata beautifully and proficiently. Even her 3-year-old son was spellbound.

Eastern students took the stage and the University Choir performed under the direction of David Nicol. While the choir could use more men, the whole of the group impressed me by maintaining their quality of sound over varied dynamics. The a capella “I Am Not Yours” was my favorite of their pieces, with the traditional spiritual “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel” as a close second.

After a lengthy applause, Ron Matthews appeared, wearing pajamas and a bathrobe, reminding everyone that he had come out of sabbatical for this performance. He could have worn anything; his arrangements were so impressive they eclipsed all else. I know “Silent Night” ought to make me think of sleep, but this version felt more like the peace and joy of Christmas morning. Flawlessly, he slid into “Joy to the World!” which was arranged to begin with the chaos of a world that needs Jesus, entwining the familiar melody to remind us of the fact that Jesus has brought joy.

Next I heard guitar like I’ve never heard it before performed by music theory and guitar professor, Dr. Jeremy Harting. Guitar now has a new place in my heart.

The sixteen-year-old winner of Eastern’s 2016 Piano Festival, Shane van Neerden, closed out the first act. The fact that he had memorized such a complicated sonata blew me away, since when I was sixteen, I was memorizing the answers to my permit test.

After a brief intermission, in which I enjoyed a cream puff (that’s right, free food!), and a video presentation about Eastern’s music program, Turning Point took the stage and quite honestly blew me away. Their rendition of “Total Praise” was particularly inspiring, lovely, impressive, and beautiful. I would buy a recording of that song.

Nimrod Speaks then played the string bass with an arrangement of an old gospel song and a jazz piece, showing off his versatility.

In a brief pause between performances, David Nicol was named Music Alumnus of the Year. He received a standing ovation not only from the audience, but also from the choir he pioneered and directed for 35 years, the Christian Artist Singers.

This group then showed off their skills, a great tribute to Nicol with a terrific melding sound and multiple a cappella pieces. Their goal of performing at the level of professional musicians was truly accomplished.

Finally, the University Choir collaborated with the Christian Artist Singers to produce a final, beautiful act that was the perfect conclusion to a fantastic performance.

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