UW-Stout choirs to incorporate American Sign Language; symphony to create musical moods

Spring concerts by Symphonic Singers, Symphonic Orchestra and Jazz band scheduled April 22, 23 and 29
Abbey Goers | April 18, 2023

UW-Stout choirs and bands will be performing three unique visual and audio experiences this spring.

UW-Stout choirs will present “Vision,” with select songs to incorporate American Sign Language. The Symphonic Singers, Chamber Choir and Devil Tones Acappella will perform at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, 910 Ninth St. E, in Menomonie.

The Symphonic Orchestra’s selections will contrast aspects of light and dark, encompassing references to visible light as well as moods created in music. The symphony’s spring concert will be at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 23, in the Memorial Student Center Great Hall.

And Jazz from Harvey will pay tribute to jazz legend Duke Ellington, with a performance at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 29, in the historic Harvey Hall Theatre.

Tickets for the concerts are available online, at the Service Center in the Memorial Student Center and at the door.

Music can paint a picture

The music performed in “Vision” will examine the power of seeing, be it to see a loved one or to see a new future for the world. Select pieces will include ASL and SEE interpretation by UW-Stout students and a professional interpreter, in collaboration with the Disability Services Office.

UW-Stout choirs
UW-Stout choirs will present “Vision,” with select songs to incorporate American Sign Language on Saturday, April 22. / Jonathan Gandrud

“There actually has been a movement in the United Kingdom, Germany and other countries, where choirs are formed with people of different hearing abilities; some will sing aurally while some will sing through signing. There are even choirs who are fully signing,” said Director of Choral Activities Jerry Hui.

Hui collaborated with student Dannica Borchardt to interpret select pieces in “Vision” through sign language. Borchardt, a junior in hotel, restaurant and tourism management from Rochester, Minn., is the president of the American Sign Language Club, as well as a long-time soprano in the Chamber Choir.

I think that the addition of interpreting music creates a completely different experience. It paints a picture that can otherwise be missed sometimes,” Borchardt said. “Music is meant to be a unifying experience that should never exclude anyone, even if they can't necessarily hear it.”

The interpretations used in the concert are simplified, “but the idea is to create a visual experience as well as auditory,” she said.

The Symphonic Singers and Chamber Choir will be singing and interpreting in ASL the chorus of two songs: “Witness,” a traditional spiritual arranged by Stacey V. Gibbs; and “Like A Mighty Stream,” a modern gospel with a message of social justice. The Chamber Choir will perform a 16th century English madrigal “Weep O Mine Eyes,” interpreted in Signed Exact English.

“ASL is its own language with a unique syntax. SEE is signing based on the English language, rather than being its own unique language. It is important to note these differences,” Borchardt added.

Contrasting light and dark, the fantastic and mysterious

In choosing music for the Symphony Orchestra, Director of Instrumental Music Aaron M. Durst considered contrasts in style and mood.

“As we emerge from the winter season, we have been in the dark and cold, looking forward to the increasing light of spring, which often brightens our mood as well. Bringing out that contrast was a natural fit for this concert.”

UW-Stout's Blazin Brass Quintet
UW-Stout's Blazin' Brass Quintet / Aaron Durst

Notable pieces in the symphony program include “Bright Light in the World” by Carol Brittin Chambers, with an obvious reference to light; followed by the dark, ominous music of Hector Berlioz’s “March to the Scaffold” from his famous “Symphonie Fantastique.” “Contraption” by Adrian B. Sims brings together both elements of dark and light in music that shifts in meter and mood.

“The Phantom of the Opera” commemorates the recent end of the longest-running show in Broadway history and its story of the shadowy Phantom.

“Lux Aurumque” by Eric Whitacre brings back a direct reference to light with his piece based on a poem about light.

Entertainment design graduating senior Homer Maltby, of Chanhassen, Minn., featured on accordion, will play “Pantomime” by Rémy Magliocco, which is mysterious and somewhat dark in mood.

Joining the concert will be the Tower Saxophone Quartet performing Erika Svanoe’s “Mary Shelly Meets Frankenstein,” which imagines a scenario where the young author meets her own creation.  The Blazin’ Brass Quintet will perform “Farandole” and the “Toreador Song,” both by Georges Bizet.

Jazz to inspire all musicians

The Jazz Orchestra concert will take place on the 124th anniversary of Duke Ellington’s birthday and will pay homage to the jazz musician with several works by Ellington and those made famous by him. 

“While we often think of him as a jazz composer, Ellington thought his music went beyond such simplistic categorizations and instead embraced the phrase ‘beyond category’ as a liberating principle and referred to his music as part of the more general category of American Music, inspiring all musicians,” Durst said of the importance of Ellington’s musical legacy.

Jazz band members Ben Janicki, Madisen Hullander and Kevin Blasiman.
Graduating seniors Ben Janicki, Madisen Hullander and Kevin Blasiman / Aaron Durst

Ellington’s songs played by the Jazz Orchestra will be “Take the ‘A’ Train” and “Johnny Come Lately,” both composed by Billy Strayhorn, writer and arranger for the Ellington Orchestra. “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be” was written by Duke Ellington’s son, Mercer. “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart” was an early hit for Ellington in 1938.

Ben Janicki, a computer networking and information technology student from Superior, will be featured on tenor saxophone playing the Ellington ballad “In a Sentimental Mood.”

Also, part of the concert will be music from the Jazz Embers jazz combo as they contribute their rendition of “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” to the Duke Ellington tribute.

With the end of the semester approaching, several graduating seniors will be a part of their final concert at Stout. Looking back on his time playing trumpet with the bands, food science and technology senior Kevin Blasiman, of Lake Geneva, said, “The best thing about the program is the fact that you can be involved in any capacity, whether it is going to rehearsal five days a week and being in every ensemble or coming one day a week for one of the smaller groups.”

Saxophonist Madisen Hullander, a psychology senior from Elk Mound, added, “Being in band has allowed me to continue performing and growing in music. I have never been a better musician, and I have met so many great people through the band.”


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