Saturday, October 15, the 2005 "Piano Extravaganza" featuring Nyack alumni was performed in Pardington Hall during Homecoming. After five months of planning, words are inadequate to describe the result. "You really had to be there" as the saying goes.
On Friday, two wonderful 7-foot Schimmel pianos were moved in for the concert, compliments of Forte Piano in Paramus, NJ, adding to our two concert grands on stage. Our piano technician, Marat Burla from Hastings-on- Hudson, spent five hours tuning the four grand pianos on Friday. Perfect unisons with four pianos is a mighty task.
On Saturday, seventeen pianists rehearsed throughout the day leading up to the 7:30 p.m. program. Faculty, alumni, and students coordinated their efforts in what was arguably the most unique concert in the history of the School of Music.
Prof. Marion Howe generated the concept for this concert back in May. Homecoming concerts under her leadership for many years have included brass ensembles, flute ensembles, piano soloists, vocal soloists, etc. Dr. Tammy Lum developed the concept over the summer. She and Marion contacted piano alumni from the 1940s to the present. The interest was high and many were eager and willing to travel a long way to the campus to participate.
Tammy's knowledge of music for multiple pianos, coupled with her ability to organize very complex events, resulted in a program of music by Bach, Smetana, Weber, Dahl, Feldman, Milhaud, Sousa, and Liljestrand. The stylistic diversity was amazing—something for everyone.
Morton Feldman's chance music for four pianos was gorgeous and very
rarely heard. The Bach was accompanied by our string orchestra. And Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever was performed by ten pianists, snare drum, and two piccolos sipping pretty glasses of spring water on stage, picnic style!
Just before the final piece, Tammy invited Marion Howe to the stage of the full auditorium. Paul Liljestrand had composed Psalm 23 as a choral piece, accompanied by four pianos and dedicated it to Prof. Howe. Tammy read Paul's beautiful words of dedication and she presented Marion with the framed original manuscript signed by Paul.
The emotions of the moment were overflowing, and Tammy gave the
"downbeat" for this deeply moving composition. An ensemble of alumni soloists performed this premier performance with great expression in praise to the Lord and in thankfulness for Marion's profound contribution to the lives of thousands of students during her unprecedented tenure of more than five decades at Nyack College.
Dr. Elio Cuccaro pronounced the benediction with thanks to the Lord for Prof. Marion Howe, our colleague, friend, and spiritual mentor.
Please join me in thanking Tammy for her tireless efforts and expertise in planning and bringing to fruition the 2005 "Piano Extravaganza" concert.
Dr. Glenn Koponen, Dean
School of Music