History-making music group for UMM - morris mn

History-making music group for UMM - morris mn
The UMM men's chorus opened the Minnesota Day program at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair (Century 21 Exposition).

Monday, September 24, 2012

Music enhances UMM's Homecoming wonderfully

I attended the UMM Homecoming concert Sunday, and the thought never crossed my mind I was missing a portion of the Vikings game.
That's a triumph. Many people are conflicted on how to approach football now. After the deluge of harrowing reports on the health consequences of the sport, should we watch anymore? I have read several online writers fearing there is some sort of "addiction" that needs to be overcome. That's truly sad. Maybe it says more about the lack of entertainment alternatives on weekends.
UMM's Homecoming concert was a wonderful entertainment alternative. It ought to be considered just as essential as the football game on Homecoming weekend. I don't even know if the Cougars won.
I can never erase from my mind the bitterness of having been around for the goalpost incident. It's receding in time now but it stays pretty etched in my thoughts. I actually wasn't present at the field when it happened. This was before Big Cat Stadium. UMM was playing on its primitive old field - actually it was quite acceptable - when it happened. I worked in the media then. I skipped around to various Homecoming events during the day.
I was at the football game in the first half. I would later be told by newspaper management I should have been there the whole game. I actually feel fortunate I wasn't there when the fatal incident happened. I was in the P.E. Center for the start of the volleyball match. The overlap was caused by the extended length of the football game, going past regulation time. The Cougars won which was probably unfortunate. It made the celebratory air excessive.
I wasn't aware of this incident until later that evening when I was dining at Pizza Hut. The rest of the weekend was one big nightmare. So it doesn't bother me at all today, missing the UMM Homecoming football game.
Do I hope the Cougars win? Given what we know about football's health issues, I think winning/losing should be the least of our considerations. So, on to music.
The Homecoming concert made me want to attend more musical events at UMM. I confess I have fallen out of the habit, perhaps becoming too much of a homebody. My interest this year was spurred partly by the reunion of the 1962 and 1964 men's chorus members who made the trips to the Seattle and New York World's Fairs. I was along for the 1964 trip. At age nine I could brag about having become refined by spending time in the Big Apple.
The reunion didn't attract as many alumni as we'd hoped. Maybe too much time has passed and people feel too detached. Frankly, maybe people become a little discouraged about the effects of aging as we deal with our mortal reality. Our "college selves" can come to seem like different incarnations. I know my "college self" had quite different traits.
I couldn't have attended UMM because I wasn't smart enough. Specifically I didn't have the sufficient aptitude to cut it in the sciences and math. Somehow I was able to slide through those courses at St. Cloud State and graduate there. It was a mistake for me to stick it out through four years of college. My mass communications classes didn't prepare me for working in the community press. The mass communications department there was sort of treading water in the 1970s. Higher education could get by being ossified back then. I'm sure the pressures for accountability are greater today.
We can be thankful UMM has a homecoming and that there's a homecoming concert. St. Cloud State has canceled homecoming. I only attended SCSU's once since I became unemployed. Today I'm delighted to attend the homecoming musical event at our University of Minnesota-Morris. My father Ralph E. Williams directed the men's chorus that made those trips in '62 and '64. The reunion attendees seemed absolutely delighted to be here. There was an afternoon gathering at Turtle Mountain Cafe and an evening dinner at Bello Cucina. Organizers prepared souvenir memorabilia including a DVD with images from the two trips. I'll never forget it.
The alumni joined in with the UMM concert choir during the Sunday concert.
I'm wondering: what happened to the term "band?" When I was a kid, the group with the trumpets and trombones was called "band." Today this stuff is called "winds" as in "symphonic winds." I'm reminded of Spinal Tap's "Break Like the Wind" tour. Anyway, I share this in a spirit of levity. The symphonic winds directed by Simon Tillier was (were?) terrific. As were the concert choir directed by the always-dynamic Ken Hodgson and the jazz ensemble directed by Jason Squinobal.
Jazz closed out the concert and there was a break for it to set up onstage. That turned out unfortunate because it seemed half the audience left and never came back. The musical fare of the jazz ensemble was quite agreeable for me. College jazz has been plagued (in my view) by too many "old turnip" arrangements that maybe could be retired in favor of new stuff. Squinobal led his musicians through charts (tunes) I hadn't heard before (although I was familiar with the melody to "Caravan"). Kudos.
I loved seeing the good old-fashioned rhythm guitar, stand-up bass and bass trombone. The group performed in a very tasteful way. It seems there is less emphasis today on jazz groups playing "loud." My generation of the boomers felt music had to be somewhat loud to be cool. And today we're having hearing problems.
I'm trying to accentuate the positive in this post but let met just assert the HFA recital hall is too small. There was a crammed-in feeling. How absolutely ironic, when just up the hill from the campus we have the Morris Area concert hall and its wide open space. UMM and the public school collaborate for Big Cat Stadium, so why not the same approach in music? I have heard the cynical response to this question, that UMM shies away from the concert hall because it might suggest that "Humanities Phase III" isn't needed. Oh my, I shouldn't utter such thoughts. Just like I probably shouldn't even write about the goalpost incident. Maybe I've just had too much caffeine.
I was struck by the paragraph in the concert program that gave guidelines on audience behavior. It's right in line with our society's trend toward "legalistic" understandings of proper vs. improper behavior. In other words, the paragraph sounded like a lawyer wrote it. It was almost intimidating. People are now being advised in writing about stifling coughs and sneezes. Really? Man, if someone has a bit of an allergy problem, I'm not going to be annoyed by his presence. We put up with crying babies in church. People are people and they have their problems. Rodney King told us we should all just try to get along.
"Latecomers will not be admitted until a suitable break in the program, or at the first intermission, whichever is more appropriate." Oh come on, it's just a homecoming concert. Maybe if the event weren't held in such a cramped space, these little issues wouldn't be annoying. They wouldn't annoy me anyway.
If you want to make an issue of lack of consideration, I think it was inconsiderate for so many audience members to leave before the jazz performance. But on the whole it was a wonderful event. Congratulations to UMM. And I still don't know if the football team won.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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