The Homecoming concert at Mount Mercy University was last night, and I wish more of my portal class students, who need cultural events, had attended.
I though it went very well.
I’ll admit I get a little tired of “Wichita Lineman,” but it’s a fine song, sung well by the men of the choir. And women did a very stirring rendition of “Morning Has Broken.”
I have a slightly complicated relationship with that song because it was a Cat Stevens hit back in the 1970s, and I’m an ashamed owner of a Cat Stevens album with that song on it.
Some of your musical tastes, formed when you’re young, are life-long. The Beatles are forever cool. Some change. I really didn’t like Elvis when I was young, but appreciate his voice and performance more now. I’m not exactly an Elvis fan, but I certainly find Elvis tolerable.
Another example of change. Maybe for 10 minutes back in 1970, Cat Stevens was cool to me, but not so now. And I’m not put off by his conversion to Islam. It’s just that I don’t care for that particular style of singing or that voice anymore. Something about it irritates me.
It’s not you, Yusuf Islam. It’s me. I’m sure you’re a musical giant compared to me. But taste in music is like taste in food—it’s OK for us to like what we like and not like what we don’t like without apology, as long as we don’t demonize those of other tastes. I liked white bread cubes and English muffin-catsup-Velveeta pizzas back in 1970, too. I won’t touch any of those now.
Anyway, despite the fact that Cat’s recording of “Morning Has Broken” is not a favorite of mine, I really like the song. It perks me up whenever that hymn comes around at church, and the ladies of the MMU choir belted the heck out of it, and it was sublime. A look at another choir, performing what seems to be pretty much the same arrangement to my uneducated ears.
The concert also featured Tony Nickle on piano, always an auditory treat. And the band played songs that, for some reason, always have me picturing John Wayne on a horse against a beautiful western background—the sweeping sounds of the MMU band put me in mind of orchestral scores of old movies, somehow. Since I still like old western movies, that’s a pleasant association.
And then there were the bells. We only played two numbers—one was the finale, one verse of the MMU Alma Mater. What can I say about the Alma Mater? Anyway, between the choir and band and the bells, I think we did OK, but who knows? Probably nobody heard us.
Our solo number was “Bwana Awabariki” an African hymn. According to Google, the title roughly means “Praise the Lord,” although the translation does not have the direct article in it.
It’s a song that involves almost every hand bell trick there is—chimes, bells and mallets. On the other hand, there’s not much banging on the table, and that’s a blessing. The song has a slightly unusual rhythm. It’s in 4-4 time, which is my favorite time signature, but a few measures toss in some eighth notes in a confusing pattern. Our director told us to just think “ba-ba-ba-baa-baa” for those measures, and it worked. It was a little odd to be there mumbling to myself “1-2-3-4” and then “ba-ba-ba-baa-baa,” but it kept me on track. My job, to some extent, was just to keep counting during long sequences in the middle of the song when no bass G or A appears in the score so that my big ol’ G or A could ring on time. I think I mostly succeeded, as did the rest of our ringers.
All in all, it’s not a particularly difficult song, but pleasant, and I would like to hear it. The odd thing about being in the hand bell choir is that my own bells ring so loud, and I’m right in the midst of other ringers, that I really only have the vaguest idea of what our songs actually sound like.
It seemed OK Sunday night. Here is a video of another bell choir playing that same song, accompanied by one drum, as we were.
It was a fun concert. As I say, I only wish more people had been there to experience it. Still, it went well, which is a nice start to this year’s hand bell season.
So, MMU students, I bet there’s room for more ringers in our group. Haven’t you always wanted to be called a “ringer?” If you ever wanted to play some music in a group, this is probably about the easiest ensemble to join at MMU—no experience required.
Take my word for it. I did it. If I can do it, trust me, you can, too.