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A house divided: Maryville College’s Community Orchestra and Choir Spring Concert

In the months following Maryville College students’ return to campus after spring break, the members of both the Community Orchestra and Community Choir have been rehearsing for the spring concert. The theme of this concert is based on the Civil War, with both groups combining to play movements from “Those in Blue, Those in Gray,” written by John Purifoy, along with other songs of a similar style.

The concert, titled “A House Divided,” took place on April 30 at 7 p.m. in the Clayton Center for the Arts. The orchestra began the concert by playing songs such as “American Salute” and “Tell My Father,” the later containing solo performances from the choir.

After a brief intermission, both the orchestra and choir came together to play most of the movements from “Those in Blue, Those in Gray,” which told the story of the Civil War from the split of the Union, to the death of Abraham Lincoln and finally to the end of the bloody war. The seventh movement, “Letters to Sarah,” also featured solos from members of the choir. While the orchestra played the movements, the choir sang along in the background, relaying accounts from the war, facts about the battles, and even individual letters from soldiers. The overall effect of the combined orchestral parts and powerful lyrics combine to create a beautiful piece of music that the audience is sure to enjoy.

The orchestra and choir were also able to meet the composer of “Those in Blue, Those in Gray,” John Purifoy, on April 23 during one of their last rehearsals. The arrangement was composed in 2010 by Purifoy, and he based the work off of a poem written by Francis Miles Finch in 1867 titled “The Blue and the Gray.” The piece was premiered in 2012 in the Tennessee Theatre and has even been performed in Carnegie Hall.  Alan Eleazar, Adjunct Instructor of Music at MC and director of both the Orchestra and the Community Chorus, is a close friend of Purifoy. This is the second time the piece will be performed by a Maryville College ensemble.

The spring concert will also be the last performance that Eleazar will conduct for the community orchestra. Eleazar will still be at Maryville conducting the community choir but Dr. Eric Simpson, Lecturer in Music Education and Director of Bands, will be taking his role as conductor for the orchestra. Many community members are sad to see Eleazar leave the orchestra after working with him for so many years but are excited for Simpson to lead the group in the future.

The hard work that both the students and those from the community have put into this concert showed in their performance. As the year comes to a close, members of both ensembles are becoming excited for things to come next semester.

The community orchestra meets every week on Mondays from 7-9 p.m. and the community chorus meets every week on Tuesdays from 7-9 p.m. as well. Schedules for concerts will be released later on as the year progresses, bringing more interesting pieces for the performers to play.

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