St. Olaf Band 'Celebrating The Human Spirit' Through Midwest Tour

Oct 18, 2018

St. Olaf College in Minnesota is known for its traveling musicians. The band took its first concert tour to several small cities in the southern Minnesota and Iowa back in 1905. This year's tour includes stops in Elgin and DeKalb. On this week's Friday Forum, WNIJ's Jenna Dooley learns more about what goes into preparing these performances.

Madeline Kessler, of Sycamore, is a euphonium player with the St. Olaf College Band. She's says bringing the tour to her home turf is exciting because she can share the passion she feels for this year's program with her family and friends.

"There's a lot of music that we are playing that has a lot of  meaning to the composer, but you can also give it a lot of meaning to yourself in a completely different way," Kessler said.

Timothy Mahr, conductor
Credit St. Olaf

Conductor Timothy Mahr composed one of the pieces which is performed on this year's tour. Called "Symphony No. 1," he says it reflects the current culture of divisiveness.

"The partisanship, not being able to see eye-to-eye or find compromise, it's troubling to me," Mahr explained.

Trumpet player Ben Van Wienen, of Sycamore, says he also feels the piece can jump off of the page.

"Something I hope people would take away from it is kind of a call to action," Van Wienen said. "Each movement has this theme to it of coming together."

Since it is a tour, Kessler and Van Wienen say there are aspects of the performance that are reflected in the closeness of the band members.

"Each night, we hear a devotional from a senior before the concert," Van Wienen explained. "That often  frames the whole band's performance that night."

Conductor Timothy Mahr says that is a luxury. He says he has performed in ensembles where performers meet each other right before a performance.

"And it might be professionally clean and technically precise, but the heart didn't have time to develop like it can," Mahr said. "I think that is one of the hallmarks of the Midwest college touring ensembles, and we aren't the only college that does this. We get to know each other and love each other and you hear that in the music."

Local performance schedule:

Thursday, October 18, 7 p.m.
DeKalb High School
DeKalb, IL