Shepherd College musicians don't need translation

August 21, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

The Shepherd College Music Department entourage hired bilingual translators to help break down language barriers it might encounter on their 10-day trip to Europe last month.

When its members performed, no translation was needed.

"We were separated by language in every town, but once the music began, we were all one people," says Mark McCoy, chairman of Shepherd's Department of Music and Theater.

The Jazz Ensemble and Concert Choir will be performing closer to home - in Harpers Ferry, W.Va., at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 22. The free concert at Hilltop House will reprise some of the music that was received so well by audiences in Switzerland and Italy.


The 17-member Shepherd College Jazz Ensemble was invited to perform at the 37th annual jazz festival in Montreux, Switzerland, one of the world's most prestigious jazz events. The competitive application process, which began two years ago, included submitting recordings of performances.

The Shepherd students performed at three different venues during the 16-day festival. The big band played on the two main outdoor stages; the five-piece combo performed in one of the festival's jazz clubs.

There is so much jazz at Montreux, McCoy explains, that the audience constantly moves from venue to venue - sampling a little here, a little there.

He was pleased to note that the ensemble's audience was bigger at the end of their gigs than at the beginning. People stayed to listen and appreciate the music.

The Concert Choir, conducted by Kevin Badanes, Shepherd's director of choral and vocal activities, also performed in Montreux - at two Anglican churches.

The Shepherd troupe traveled to Italy, where the choir performed in cathedrals in Assisi and Rome - including St. Peter's at the Vatican.

The Shepherd students, faculty and about a dozen members of Friends of Music, a nonprofit organization that supports musical excellence at the college, had memorable experiences in Bagnoregio, Italy, a little town near Rome.

The villagers insisted on showing their visitors Civita, an ancient city on a hill above their town. The Shepherd troupe was transported up the winding road in a tiny bus - 20 passengers at a time.

Later that night, the Jazz Ensemble and Concert Choir gathered in the town's square to begin a concert at 10 p.m. The entire town came out to see the Americans and hear their music.

The people asked for more and more music - until 12:30 a.m. Then the mayor opened a nearby store and brought out champagne to toast the two countries.

"It was great to serve as good-will ambassadors from the States," McCoy says.

The young musicians will reunite Friday to share a little musical good will on home ground.

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