By David Perry
As the final, electric notes of Elmore James’ “So Mean to Me” were fading into a thunderous applause, Prof. Alan Williams turned to his wife and bandmate, Darleen Wilson.
“This,” he said to her, “was better than I had dreamed it could be. Everything I wanted to happen, happened.”
And so it was on Sept. 23 as the Chancellor’s Celebration of Music kicked off to an enthusiastic crowd at Durgin Hall. The series was launched to highlight the university’s students, faculty and community partners at performances throughout the year and to raise money for music scholarships. The inaugural event featured Music Department faculty and showcased a broad array of talent.
Williams, chair of the Music Department, oversaw the first of four concerts to be held during the 2016-2017 school.
From adjunct faculty member Sovann Khon’s haunting traditional Cambodian tune “Laolik Bey Chon” to lecturer Ramon Castillo’s loop-filled guitar/percussion piece “Wonderland” to the renderings of a pair of complex Wayne Shorter-penned jazz pieces by a quintet led by Asst. Prof. Garrett Michaelsen, performances hit the perfect pitch with the audience.
Williams and Wilson’s folk-pop band Birdsong At Morning delivered two Williams originals backed by a string quartet. Adjunct music education Prof. Janet Welby (with Carol Epple on flute and Elizabeth Connors on clarinet) performed the original “Loons,” and John Morgan Bush, executive director of the UMass Lowell String Project, played French horn and led a wind quartet through a summer-themed Samuel Barber piece laden with challenging timing changes.
It all closed with a blues quartet, led by adjunct faculty member Ricky Berger on guitar and Prof. John Shirley on vocals and harmonica.
“I really had no idea what to expect,” Kevin Reilly, a sophomore sound recording technology major, said after the show. “I was really looking forward to Aaron Rosenberg’s performance. I was not disappointed.”
Rosenberg, who teaches music theory and keyboard, performed a particularly percussive original, “A Contrivance,” on his candy-apple-red toy piano, with the tiny keyboard perched on a pedestal.
“I’m really glad to see the level of musicianship,” said Reilly. “I think that with the high expectations that are there for us, it’s nice to see how amazing the faculty players are. And they proved themselves in front of the students. That’s risky and impressive.”
The series continues Saturday, Nov. 19, with “Reaching Out!”, an evening at United Teen Equality Center (UTEC) that focuses on the multiple partnerships the university has within the community.
Saturday, Feb. 25 features “Powering Up!” at North Campus’s Mark and Elisia Saab Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center. It will be a special evening with a deeper look at musical craft development at UMass Lowell, from sound recording technology to the new media program.
The series finale is March 31 at Durgin Hall, with “Showing Off!” focusing on graduating seniors and student ensembles showcasing their skills.