The Montclair State University Singers recently surprised retiring President Susan A. Cole with a farewell concert in the Red Hawk parking deck. A tribute to her 23 years of leadership, it was also the first choral concert performed for a live audience on campus in more than a year.
But the concert itself wasn’t the only unexpected gift: Cole also enjoyed the world premiere of a composition written in her honor by Associate Professor of Composition Theory/Aural Skills Aaron Helgeson. “The Next Day” was performed by the University Singers, conducted by Heather J. Buchanan, director of Choral Activities.
A Cali School Masterful Musings conversation with Cole was the genesis of the piece, Helgeson says. “She gave us some incredible insight into leadership, legacy, education, our humanity and a little bit about her own life.”
Inspired and moved by Cole’s revelation about the impact that the Irving Berlin musical Annie Get Your Gun had on her as a girl, Helgeson relistened to the score and “was absolutely floored by its relevance to the moment right now – getting through hard times, loving something you’ve put your heart into, the difficulty in leaving and the thrill of what comes next.”
The result: “The Next Day,” which expounds on the can-do spirit of Annie Get Your Gun’s showstopper song “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” as well as the lyrical fragment “you’re broken-hearted, but you go on.”
“It was extraordinary,” says John J. Cali School of Music Director Anthony J. Mazzocchi. “Aaron gave Dr. Cole a copy of the score to follow along while they sang, and there weren’t many dry eyes in the room. That was really something special.”
“The Next Day” will be performed via live-stream along with all the music featured in the surprise concert for President Cole at the 2021 Choral Spring Concert “Music for Our Time & Place” featuring performances by three choirs – Red Hawk Chorale, Virtual Chorale and University Singers – June 11, 8 p.m. through Cali Live.
Story by Staff Writer Mary Barr Mann. Video by Christo Apostolou. Photos by Mike Peters