Our resilient ensembles - Kendall College of Arts and Sciences

Our resilient ensembles

The music hasn’t stopped because of COVID-19. The School of Music’s ensembles have persevered and found new ways to make wonderful music together.

Cappella Chamber Singers and TU Concert Chorale

By: Kim Childs, Professor of Choral Studies and Voice

Our students left The University of Tulsa last March just a month shy of a performance that was ready to go, and we are continuing in rehearsals of those works, which we will record in early 2021:

  • Antonio Vivaldi, Gloria
  • Ralph Vaughan Williams, Five Mystical Songs
  • Benjamin Britten, Gloriana Choruses

Our current rehearsal schedule is a hybrid model of both Zoom and in-person rehearsals. The first portion of our Zoom rehearsal is a sectional followed by a combined rehearsal of all voices. Each ensemble has a 30-minute socially distanced in-person rehearsal as well. Cappella has two in-person rehearsals per week, while Concert Chorale has one.

In addition to the recordings we will make in early 2021 of these three works, we were asked to join Tulsa Chorale (formerly Tulsa Oratorio Chorus) to join in a performance of Handel’s Israel in Egypt. This work is novel for its two-choir compositional model, and we are learning all of choir two for this performance. If a performance is held, it will be in early March 2021.

TU Symphony Orchestra

By: Richard Wagner, Director of the School of Music and Associate Professor of Music

The TU Symphony Orchestra also looks much different under the university’s COVID-19 restrictions. The musicians, divided into smaller groups, are currently working on three primary works:

Anton Arensky: Variations on a Theme of Tchaikovsky for String Orchestra, Op. 35

The TU Symphony strings have been meeting in smaller groups – primarily in sectionals – for the last six weeks. The Arensky is a demanding work, taking advantage of the full range of string orchestra colors and expressive possibilities.

Charles Gounod: Petite Symphonie (1885)

This work was originally composed for Wind Nonet (flute and pairs of oboes, clarinets, bassoons and horns). Our lineup is slightly different, with a violin doubling the flute part, and cello playing the 2nd bassoon part. The Gounod is a full four-movement symphony that is both a musical and technical challenge for all performers.

Camille Saint-Saëns: Septet in Eb Major, Op. 65

This work was originally scored for 2 violins, viola, cello, bass, trumpet and piano. Talented TU musicians — pianist Alina Ryzhkova and Nathan Hairston on trumpet, combining with our principal string players (our version doubles the string parts) — make it an effective piece for “chamber” orchestra.

TU Concert Bands

By: Andrew Anderson, Assistant Director for Sports Bands

The fall semester has been one of constant adaptation due to COVID-19 and associated safety measures, but the students of the Sound of the Golden Hurricane are still finding ways to make music!

Just before the beginning of the semester, TU’s Risk Assessment team determined that, out of caution, wind players would not be allowed to perform at football games, even socially distanced. This led to the decision to have the Sound’s drumline perform at games in the stadium stands and to the formation of chamber ensembles utilizing the wind players of the marching band.

Seven separate wind chamber ensembles were formed, ranging in size from 4 to 15 members, and they rehearse in spaces large enough to accommodate 10 feet of social distance. Each ensemble has its own literature, either chosen or specifically arranged for the group, and meets for one hour per week. The drumline also meets one hour per week and percussionists are separated into three different percussion ensembles, which also meet one hour per week. All wind players wear masks that are designed to be worn while playing, and brass musicians have been issued bell covers to further mitigate aerosolized emissions.

Despite the logistical difficulties in procuring rehearsal space, coordinating plans with the Risk Assessment team, and less frequent rehearsals, the students of the Sound of the Golden Hurricane have done an admirable job in preparing their separate ensembles during the semester. We recently were able to enjoy the drumline’s contributions at TU’s first home football game, and we plan to stream the students’ chamber music performances in mid-November. Repertoire will include the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Aaron Copland, Richard Strauss, Giovanni Gabrieli, Florent Schmitt, Frank Zappa, Percy Grainger, Johann Sebastian Bach and Pavel Tchesnokov.

TU Big Band and more

By: Vernon Howard, Director of Jazz Studies and Applied Professor of Music

The TU Big Band resumed live rehearsals during the fall semester. The 18 members have been meeting twice weekly for 30-minute rehearsals in observance of COVID-19 room capacity and time requirements. The band has been focusing on sight-reading various styles of jazz literature as well as jazz developing improvisation skills. Plans are being made for a second-semester recording project.

Saxophone instructor Steve Wilkerson presented a jazz masterclass and held a sectional for the jazz band saxophone section. Wilkerson recently returned to Tulsa after a lengthy teaching, recording and studio career in Los Angeles.

Jazz Bass Quartet

Bass instructor Dean DeMerritt organized a jazz bass quartet this semester. Bass enrollment in the jazz program is very strong this year and the quartet experience provides the players with additional playing experience in a very unique ensemble.

TU Jazz Combo

The TU Jazz Combo, also directed by DeMerritt, has been rehearsing and focusing on developing improvisation skills. Traditional and standard jazz literature is explored in the class and original compositions by group members is encouraged. A recording project and recital is being planned for the second semester.

TU Jazz Singers

The TU Jazz Singers is directed by Sarah Richardson. The singers have been studying jazz standards and songs from the Great American Songbook. Scat singing and solo performance is stressed in the class. The singers meet for both in-person classes as well as virtual private lessons. A recital is being planned for the spring semester

The Blue Hues

On Oct. 17, The Blue Hues, consisting of TU School of Music students, performed for the Arts in the Air series hosted by the Tulsa Performing Arts Center and Williams Companies. Read the full story about the event on The Collegian’s website.

Blue Hues members:

Caleb Ricketts (Lead vocals) – Senior, B.M. Vocal Performance
Wyatt Hargrove (keyboard, guitar, vocals) – Senior, B.A. with a minor in Music
Celyn Grigson (Keyboard) – Junior, B.M., Vocal Performance
Ryan Ganaban (Drums and vocals) – B.A. (’19) Music
Jacob Gates (trombone and vocals) – Senior, B.S. Mathematics, with a minor in Music
Joshua Demetri (bass guitar) – Senior, B.S. Computer Science, with a minor in Music