On April 26th the Emeriti Association assembled for its third Spring Celebration and meeting on the campus of the University, first in the Kasser Theatre and later moving to the George Segal Gallery for the business meeting. The entertainment part of the celebration was the afternoon dress rehearsal for that evening's University Singers and MSU Chorale Spring Concert conducted by Heather Buchanan. The Chorale led off the program with a performance of Ralph Vaughan William's brilliant Dona Nobis Pacem, a cantata for soprano and baritone soli, double chorus, piano, and string orchestra based in part on the poetry of Walt Whitman. The work was first performed in 1936 and is a fervent prayer for peace as Europe was only three years away from the outbreak of the Second World War. A recurring motif is the Agnus Dei ... dona nobis pacem "Lamb of God...give us peace" from the Catholic Mass. Especially moving was the second part of the cantata based on the Whitman poem Reconciliation from his collection Leaves of Grass.
Word over all, beautiful as the sky,
Beautiful that war and all its deeds of carnage must in time be utterly lost,
That the hands of the sisters Death and Night incessantly softly wash again and ever again, this soiled world;
For my enemy is dead, a man divine as myself is dead,
I look where he lies white-faced and still in the coffin - I draw near,
Bend down and touch lightly with my lips the white face in the coffin.
After an intermission the University Singers performed a medley of songs by Joseph Smith, Joan Szumko, a world premiere by Ivor Gurney, and another world premiere by MSU student Martin Sedek.
Watching Dr. Buchanan, a member of the MSU Music Department, work with the choruses, orchestra, and soloists in the dress rehearsal was an amazing experience, in some way better than the actual performance since we not only heard the music but we could witness how a concert moves toward perfection. Here is where the expertise of the conductor came into play. Heather heard missteps where we in the audience heard nothing wrong.
During the intermission Heather met with the Emeriti discussing her philosophy of conducting and how she interacts with the students she trains. Our members were very impressed with her presentation as can be seen in the following appreciations.
Observing Director Heather Buchanan conduct a “dress rehearsal” of both the MSU Chorale and the University Singers was a most insightful experience. From the warm up exercises, to the phrasing, pacing and other musical improvement interventions, you appreciated the maestro-student rapport and the professionalism of both. It was clear that the prognosis for that evening’s performance would be for an outstanding one. Kudos to Director Buchanan for permitting us to be a part of her exciting work with her students as well as for the dynamic and informative time she spent in addressing us in between rehearsals.
Where do I begin to properly thank Heather for welcoming the MSU Emeriti Association members to Tuesday's dress rehearsal. I expected to hear great music from the Chorale and Singers and was not disappointed. Beyond the performances, observing her interaction with the singers was an extraordinary experience. The level of attention and mutual respect were exceptional. In short, she is the best teacher I have observed in many, many years. Thank you, Heather, for the model of pedagogy. As Carl Bredlau so aptly put it, "You are a Montclair treasure."
I thoroughly enjoyed the dress rehearsal; it was great for me to sit there and observe how the students could immediately pick up on the recommendations given by the conductor for whatever change or emphasis she wanted. To have all those students responding to the cues was really interesting. Regarding Heather's presentation, I can only commend and compliment her. She was so excited about what she was doing; she is a natural-born teacher. MSU has an outstanding educator in her! A Super Day!
Dr. Heather Bucannan's discussion with the Emeriti focused on how music has such a creative force on our mind and body, even stronger than other mental activities. She pointed out that there are scientific studies showing greater mental agility in seniors who are involved in music.
On April 26, our group enjoyed the University Chorale's dress rehearsal of Ralph Vaughns Williams' Dona Nobis Pacem. We felt the enthusiasm of students in both the choir and orchestra and appreciated Prof. Heather Buchanan's energy and musical interpretation. It was a pleasure to talk with her during the break and to hear about the many good things going on in the MSU community.
After the dress rehearsal the attendees moved over to the George Segal Gallery for the business meeting. David Kelly presided in the absence of Agnes O'Connell. He reported that four new retirees were granted Emeritus status by the Board of Trustees: Carl Bredlau, Dorothy Deremer, Suresh Desai, and David Weischadle.
The principal business of the meeting was the election of officers to serve a two year term beginning in September 2011. Counting the attendees who voted at the meeting and those who returned online or hard copy ballots fifty-eight percent of the active members cast ballots. The results were: President Agnes O'Connell, Vice-President David Kelly, Secretary Rosemarie McCauley, Treasurer Tim Sullivan, Membership/Nominations/Elections Ree Arnold.
The members then approved two significant additions to the bylaws on membership. 1. The Association will extend a one year dues-free membership to all newly appointed emeriti. 2. Spouses, partners, as well as surviving spouses and partners of Association members are considered to be Associate members of the Association. These changes to the bylaws will be submitted to the membership for approval.
The meeting was adjourned at 4:50 PM.