Where a volleyball net normally stands, the Symphonic Band settled into seats spaced out in the Sports Center Annex. School bags sat slumped over near each chair as a cacophony of music began to fill the room. As he approached the podium, director Nick Kozar paused to give pointers to his Pensacola Christian College student musicians before focusing the musical sounds into a cohesive whole. Health precautions may have pushed them out of their typical rehearsal space in the Visual and Performing Arts building, but the concert must go on!
There’s something about hearing a musical performance live that demands the audience’s attention in a way no simple sound speaker can. And, in early October, the fall semester’s concerts kicked off with an altered event—an optional Fine Arts Series concert featuring PCCymphony Orchestra’s performance Storytime at the Symphony. Students could choose to attend one of two showings in the Crowne Centre, which allowed for social distancing, by reserving their seats ahead of the event. The concert, which included performing arts faculty Josh Hutt as narrator, took the audience on fantastic journeys such as venturing the ports with Sinbad, dashing through the forest with Sleeping Beauty, and hunting the wolf with Peter.
“The music is very thematic, and we worked with the narration to paint a picture of the music that will help the audience imagine the story as they listen to the music,” said Dr. Charles Bombard, director of PCCymphony. “The hardest piece is Scheherazade (Op. 35), and the orchestra very much enjoyed the challenge of playing it, and the brass, in particular, enjoyed getting to play their theme over the rest of the orchestra toward the end of the selection.”
The night even included a special guest appearance—young Irish Tenor Emmet Cahill, who had originally planned to perform live at PCC this fall before travel restrictions prevented him. By way of a video recording, Cahill shared his powerful performance of “Go the Distance.”
The Mullenix Chapel, which regularly hosts a variety of concerts as well as other music and dramatic performance recitals, saw three concerts take advantage of its acoustics this semester—Choral Concert, which features Symphonic Choir and Chamber Ensemble; Chamber Concert, which features the brass, string, and woodwind ensembles; and Handbell Concert. Each concert made the chapel’s atmosphere their own by using a variety of inspiring songs and music that aimed to encourage audiences and point them to Christ.
Crystal Solomon (Jr., FL), a soprano in the Symphonic Choir, enjoyed singing such uplifting songs to the audience. “Our director, Dr. [Tim] Willingham, chose every song to remind us of how amazing God is and how He is always there for us. He encouraged the choir that even in hard times like these, we can take comfort in the fact that God will always be in control,” she said. “I enjoyed singing ‘God Is Our Refuge’ the most. It was energetic and fun.”
“The Mullenix Chapel is a truly fantastic performance hall with excellent acoustics. You can really feel the sound envelop you on the stage,” said Caleb Roskelley (Fr., WA), who played trombone in the brass ensemble. “Chamber Concert offers a fantastic way for students to experience small ensemble performance that exposes the audience to a wide variety of musical periods and styles. I heard quite a bit of positive feedback from the audience afterward. Many people commented on the excellent choice of repertoire, which I believe was very crowd-pleasing and enjoyable.”
During Concert on the Green, an annual outdoor concert, director Nick Kozar and the Symphonic Band welcomed the audience to enjoy the picnic setting of Eagle Field while listening to the performance. As sunset neared and cool air settled, students, faculty, and staff laden with snacks and carry-out meals spread out blankets and lawn chairs across the field. It wasn’t long before emcee Heather Booth, a graduate student, brought the crowd’s attention to the east side of the field.
With the concert taking place ahead of Veterans Day, much of the music featured patriotic pieces, along with favorites from John Philip Sousa and John Williams and a special appearance from PCC’s drumline group, Heart Beat. Veterans and those currently serving were asked to stand as their branch was honored during the performance of the Armed Forces Medley.
“[Playing in Concert on the Green] was a nice break for everyone and change of pace from how busy things normally are. The light music created an environment that helped people step away from classes for a moment to have fun and relax with friends,” said Julie Widner, a graduate student who played trumpet in the concert. “Mr. Kozar was great about making sure we were able to play the music well. It was a really great opportunity to learn some great music and to share with the student body what we were practicing.”
In spite of the unusual semester, each concert allowed audience members to take the journey to adventurous places and focus their sights on the God that never changes. “Music can do a lot of things for people—live music even more than recorded,” said Dr. Josh Mize, director of the brass ensemble. “Seeing students preparing some difficult music under difficult times, and enjoying what they are doing, can do wonders for lifting spirits!”