November 18, 2010
As a part of Oklahoma Baptist University’s homecoming week, the music department honored and celebrated OBU composers with the 2010 Homecoming Choral Reunion Concert Friday. In a near two-hour show, the concert featured performances by the Bison Glee Club, Bisonette Glee Club, Rhetta Hudson, Alumni Ringers, University Chorale and combined ensembles with alumni singers. All songs performed were songs either composed or arranged by OBU alumni. Through the performances the alumni were honored in their work.
Beginning the night was a humorous and talented announcement by four members of the Bison Glee Club, instructing the audience to silence their cell phones. The Masters of Ceremonies then introduced themselves to the audience in order to get things going. James Brown is a 1954 graduate of OBU who served on the music faculty from 1964-97. Rhetta Hudson served on the OBU music faculty from 1972-2009. Together they created a very humorous and laid back feel to begin the program.
Sherry Upshaw, a 1977 graduate, honored Robert Hobby by performing “When In Our Music God is Glorified” on the organ. Next, the 22 members of the Bison Glee Club took the stage and performed three songs. The all-tenor group impressed the audience by demonstrating their outstanding harmonies. After they sang “Praise the Lord Who Reigns Above,” Kade Goforth, the Glee Club president, welcomed guests and thanked Dr. Brent Ballweg for his hard work in leading the group.
After poking fun at Ballweg’s age, Goforth and friends then began removing clothes from Ballweg as they donned the classic blue suit the Glee Club wore back in the day. When asked how it fit, Ballweg said, “snug.” Goforth said, “Funny, we checked your records and that’s what it said your size was.” The audience erupted in laughter and continued to laugh, watching Ballweg conduct the group in a suit that was too small.
The Glee Club then featured Curtis Headrick as a soloist on the next song “Ev’ry Time I Feel the Spirit,” arranged by Moses Hogan. Their last performance was entitled “Praise Him!” by Michael Cox, class of 1970 and OBU music faculty 1972-90. The song had scriptural lyrics and beautiful crescendos. The Bison Glee Club did not disappoint.
The Masters of Ceremonies then introduced the Bisonette Glee Club and the 33 members took their place on the stage risers. Dr. James Vernon is the Bisonette conductor, accompanied by Taylor Thompson and Dana Ward on the piano. Cox was honored again as the Bisonette’s performed “The Master’s Touch.” “Have Thine Own Way, Lord” was a slow and simple song composed by Claude L. Bass, class of 1957 and faculty from 1965-77.
The song featured student Courtney Bryant with a solo. Jack Pearson, class of 1959, conducted the last song that he personally arranged, but was adapted and accompanied by Vernon on the piano. The song showed the beautiful voices of the women as it ascended into a beautiful climax. The audience seemed to love the women as they applauded.
The Master of Ceremony Rhetta Hudson then paid tribute to her personal friend Michael “Micky” Cox with her solo performance of “Rock of Ages.” Her powerful soprano voice penetrated the silence in Raley Auditorium with the prevailing hymn.
Mary Kay Parrish led the Alumni Ringers, which consisted of 11 graduates. She previously conducted the group for 20 years before retiring in 2002. Currently, the Ringer group is active again after several years of being non-active with Dr. Lee Henson as director.
The first song, “Praise Him with Cymbals and Drums” was a very fun song with a tribal feel. The ringers were backed on the timpani by Vernon. Two songs later, they played a song arranged by Parrish entitled, “Serenade for a Picket Fence.” The performance was a definite toe-tapper for the audience that created a joyful atmosphere. The various methods of ringing made for a diverse set of songs. Brown, Master of Ceremony, then jokingly told stories about Parrish and how he was never allowed to be in the ringers.
The University Chorale, conducted by Ballweg and accompanied by Keith Whitmore on piano, then performed three songs. The first song, “Praise the Lord Who Reigns Above,” was composed by Nancy Cobb Lippens, who had previously conducted the University Chorale for 17 years. The mixed choir consisted of 26 members. Also on the list of performances by the Chorale were “Jesus, My Lord, My Life, My All,” composed by Bob Burroughs, class of 1959, and “Sing Unto God,” composed by Paul Fetler.
Then, around 200 alumni from the audience joined all the performers on stage for a compilation of songs. Brown and Hudson honored all alumni as they revealed when they graduated and what musical groups they participated in when they were in school. Vernon took on the conducting responsibilities as the performers, overflowing off of the stage of Raley, performed “Great Is the Lord,” composed by Warren M. Angell and Rose Marie Cooper.
Susan Ballweg accompanied the song on organ, as well as Goforth and Sara Elliott on trumpet. Following that was “My God and King,” composed by Bass, and “A Prayer For This Age,” composed by Parrish. Hudson discussed how honorable Parrish is. “She is an accomplished pianist, soloist and composer,” Hudson said.
The groups then performed the Centennial Anthem “Grow in Grace,” composed by class of 1982 graduate Donna Butler Douglass. The song reflects a cry of the future of the university boasting lyrics like, “So they may grow in the knowledge of Christ.”
The song premiered February and is the song for the centennial anthem. Concluding the show was the concert version of “The Hymn to Alma Mater.” Written by Angell and Mary Ann Tisinger and arranged by Huggins, Ballweg took back the stage with conducting duties. The current rendition is the second version at OBU after the first version became a pep song in 1924.
The alumni proudly sang their Alma Mater for the conclusion of the show and the audience gave a standing ovation. Free ice was available in the Geiger Center following the show. Hudson expressed her thanks for the hard work of the music faculty for putting this event together.
“He [Ballweg] has so capably organized this event,” Hudson said. Cody Evans, 2003 OBU graduate and member of Chorale and University Ringers said, “Ballweg is doing an excellent job. The level of musicality is great.”