Memories shared

Maryville College says farewell to Wilson Chapel, FAC in Saturday event

"Thanks for the Memory" isn’t a song listed on the program, but that will be the sentiment shared by more than 125 Maryville College alumni, community members and students who gather on campus May 5 to perform in a farewell concert honoring the Samuel Tyndale Wilson Chapel and the Fine Arts Center (FAC).

Wilson Chapel, named for the College’s fifth president and dedicated in 1954, and the FAC, which opened in 1950, both will be razed this summer to make way for a new civic arts center.

Held in the chapel auditorium and open to the public, the concert will begin at 8 p.m., but a special retrospective emceed by alumnus and former faculty member Arthur Bushing will begin at 7 p.m. in the auditorium. Jim Bloy, professor emeritus, Martha Hess, alumna and current registrar, and Robert Hutchens, theatre alumnus and assistant director of international services, will reflect on the buildings and their service to the College’s music, theatre and visual arts departments, as well as their service to the community.

Over the last half-century, the chapel/theatre complex has provided space for daily chapel, fine arts instruction and programming, convocation and commencement exercises and community services such as tutoring and the Public School ESL. The FAC has been the location for fine arts-related classrooms, studios, faculty offices and rehearsal and performance spaces.

It’s the important role that Wilson Chapel and the FAC have played in the life of the College that led Coordinator of Choral Music Stacey Wilner to plan the farewell events.

"I thought of all the music students and faculty and community members who had gone before and had wonderful experiences in [Wilson and the FAC], and I wanted to honor all those people - and the buildings," she said. "The spirit of the College is the people, but I know they feel emotionally connected to these spaces."

Approximately 85 MC alumni whose graduation years span 60 years will join the Maryville College Community Chorus, and members of Maryville’s Broadway United Methodist choir will blend in spirit and talent for the performance.

Also performing on the program will be the current Maryville College Concert Choir, an auditioned ensemble of 50 singers that performs choral literature of many styles. Since 1947, the ensemble has gone on tour every spring, serving as the main liaison between the College and various church and school communities.

Numerous states will be represented in the alumni choir. Wilner said she has been pleased with the response but not surprised.

"Alumni care deeply about the College," she said, explaining that, in her eight years as director of the Concert Choir, she has met hundreds of supportive choir alumni on the annual Choir Tour, which takes current choir members on the road for out-of-state performances in churches, schools and colleges. "That they will spend the time and money to have one last experience in the buildings speaks to the role of music and the fine arts program in the life of the College - and the important role these experiences have had in their own lives."

Former directors participating
Among those expected to make the long trip to campus is James Laster, a member of the class of 1956, who will be directing in memory of longtime Concert Choir director Harry Harter. Laster, a music composer and professor emeritus at Shenandoah University, will direct Harter’s arrangement of "The Twenty-Third Psalm" and John Finley Williamson’s famous choral piece, "O Magnify the Lord with Me."

Laster is one of five conductors with whom Wilner will share the podium. Each will be directing two classic pieces of choral literature that were meaningful during his tenure. Robert Ergenbright, who directed the Concert Choir from 1983 until 1989 and now serves as minister of music at Broadway United Methodist Church in Maryville, will conduct "He watching over Israel" from Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s oratorio "Elijah" and "I Hear a Voice A-Prayin’" by Houston Bright.

Kenneth Hawkins, choral director at Maryville High School and MC interim director from 1989 until 1990, will direct Johannes Brahms’ "How lovely is Thy dwelling-place" and Handel’s "Hallelujah, Amen."

Daniel Taddie directed the Concert Choir from 1990 until 1999. Now the academic vice president for the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Ark., Taddie again will pick up the baton for John Rutter’s "The Lord is My Shepherd" and "And then shall your light break forth," another selection from "Elijah."

"With the conductors, we honor the past, present and future of the fine arts program," Wilner explained. "I represent the present, and Dwight Dockery, a 2005 graduate of the College, is the future. He is currently in the graduate choral conducting program at East Carolina University."

Dockery will direct Gabriel Faure’s "Cantique" and William Dawson’s "Soon Ah Will Be Done."

Peggy Swafford Rogers, an alumna from the class of 1963 and organist at Maryville’s New Providence Presbyterian Church, will accompany the choirs.

Wilner will take the podium last, as all the ensembles join together to sing the "Hallelujah Chorus" by Handel, accompanied by Bloy on organ. She will also direct the singing of the "Lutkin Benediction," which has concluded every choir performance since Harter’s tenure.

‘Bittersweet’ experience
"I think the concert will be a little bittersweet for the performers," she said. "They’re excited about the new energy toward the fine arts, but clearly recognize that these buildings are still a part of us as a community."

Wilner said the quality of the fine arts program over the decades will be evident during the concert.

"We have many great musicians participating," she said. "This concert will be as much about the generations of musicians coming together as it will be about the buildings."

With that in mind, Wilner is encouraging alumni, faculty, staff, family, friends and members of the community to join the current Concert Choir on a "Presbyterian Heritage Tour" to Scotland in May 2008, and she’s asking choir alumni to watch their mailboxes for information on another choir reunion in 2009 - soon after the new civic arts center is completed.

Oral histories collected, memorabilia and art displayed
From 4:30 until 6 p.m., alumni, faculty, students and friends are invited to share their memories of Wilson Chapel, the FAC, fine arts programs and professors. Oral historian and MC alumna Millie Beard Sieber will be set up in the FAC’s Green Room (adjacent the Music Hall) to record audio files that will be added to the College’s archives collection.

In the colonnade, displays of photos and memorabilia relevant to the two buildings will be set up for public viewing before and during the concert.

Fine art selected from the Maryville College collection, along with work by current faculty members, will be on exhibit in the theatre. In celebrating the past and present of the visual arts at MC, attendees also are invited to view the senior art shows displayed in the FAC’s gallery.

For more information on the farewell events, contact Wilner at 865-981-8151 or stacey.wilner@maryvillecollege.edu.

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