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TCNJ Chorale honors late professor at fall concert

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By Julia Duggan
Staff Writer

Students sing ‘My Spirit Sang All Day’ at the event (Julia Duggan / Staff Writer).

TCNJ Chorale performed its fall concert in Mayo Concert Hall on Saturday, Oct. 12.

The performance, conducted by associate music professor and director of choirs John Leonard, was dedicated to Byron Steele and his wife Ernestine, who died in 2009 and 2018, respectively. Steele taught at the College from 1964 to 1983. His wife accompanied him and most of his students, both at the College and privately. 

Both honorees had donated a gift to the College to establish the Ernestine and Byron Music Scholarship Fund. This scholarship has already been awarded to several students at the College, some of whom participate in TCNJ Chorale.

The concert opened with the Chorale performing “Sing Joyfully” by William Byrd. TCNJ Chorale sang from the balconies above rather than onstage, surrounding the audience and creating this beautiful sound. The harmonies could clearly be heard throughout this song, which ended with the audience giving a warm round of applause.

“I always love hearing the chorale perform, and this concert was special too because of the dedication to the Steele family,” said Gaia Hutcheson, a sophomore music education major.

The members then moved from the balcony to the stage, where they performed “Music for a While,” which was written by Henry Purcell and arranged by Gunnar Eriksson. After the song, Maurice Hall, the dean of the School of the Arts and Communication, welcomed the audience and explained why TCNJ Chorale chose to dedicate the concert to the Steeles. 

Hall acknowledged guests in the audience who are colleagues and former students of Steele, as he explained how grateful the College was for the new scholarship. 

In addition to teaching, Steele began The Opera Workshop, which has now evolved into TCNJ Lyric Theater and TCNJ Musical Theater. 

The concert continued with the Chorale singing “My Spirit Sang All Day” by Gerald Finzi, “The Coolin’ (The Fair Haired One)” from “Reincarnations” by Samuel Barber and “Even When He is Silent” by Kim André Arnesen. 

The audience enthusiastically clapped after every song. TCNJ Chorale then performed “Amor, lo Sento L’alma” from Six, “Fire Songs” by Morten Lauridsen and “The Road Home” by Stephen Paulus. “The Road Home” featured soloist and soprano Brianna Carson, a senior music education major, who sang her part effortlessly as her voice rose above the rest of the voices in the group. 

Wayne Heisler, the chair of the music department, then took to the stage to show the audience a video dedicated to Steele and his wife. The video expressed the department’s gratitude and had a former student share a fond memory them. 

The concert continued with “No Mirrors in My Nana’s House” by Y saye M. Barnwell and “Exultate in Domino” by Hyum Kook. “Exultate in Domino” featured Jacob Ford, a sophomore music education major, on the Djembe, a wooden box used as a drum. 

As Ford sat down to play on the Djembe, he created additional texture to the music that encouraged audience members to sway along. 

The concert continued with a beautiful performance of “They Say It’s Wonderful” by Irving Berlin arranged and by Steve Zagree, featuring a solo performed by Kathryn Cole, a junior elementary education and music dual major, who was confident and collected as she sang her solo.

The concert ended by featuring a sextet. Six members of TCNJ Chorale were featured in the beginning of the final song with the rest of the group performing in harmony. They sang  “Ev’ry Time I Feel the Spirit” (with “Walk Together, Children”) arranged by Allen Koepke. 

After the performance, the audience broke out into a thunderous round of applause and did not stop even when the group had left the stage. TCNJ Chorale then returned to the stage to perform a brief encore of the final song, which audience members enjoyed, as they gave the performers another loud response.

Hutcheson said that as a part of the music department, she enjoys learning about its rich history, including the people that made it what it is today.  

“I think it’s important that we talk about the people before us every once in a while and remember them, because what the department is and the people who are in it wouldn’t be the same without them,” she said.


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