In 1919, Seton Hill University conferred its first two degrees, both in music.
A century later, the university celebrated 100 years of music history with its centennial concert, “Connecting the Generations,” on Sept. 30. The concert honored the Sisters of Charity for their “enduring support of the arts,” and featured music that was composed and arranged by the Sisters of Charity, previous SHU students and current SHU students and faculty.
“They are lifelong workers who do what they can to help support the students,” said Kathleen Campbell, professor of music at SHU. “I was so pleased that pulling some of the works of the Sisters from the archives was very meaningful for them and brought back many memories.”
The concert featured performances by the Westmoreland Symphonic Winds, Setonia (women’s chorale), Sinfonia at Seton Hill, Una Voce Chamber Choir, Faculty Jazz Combo and Commercial Music Ensemble, along with a cello solo by community music instructor Sarah Ferrell.
Opening remarks were given by Curt Scheib, dean of the school of visual and performing arts; Sister Susan Yochum, provost of SHU; and provincial superior Sister Catherine Meinert of the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill. All proceeds from the concert went toward the Centennial Campaign for Student Scholarships, which supports music students.
Among the arrangements from the Sisters of Charity were “Seton Marche” by Sister Frances Clare Evans (1892-1981) and “What Light is This” by Sister Cecilia Ward (1907-1993), which was featured in the text “Look to the Skies” that was written by Sister Mary Schmidt.
Ferrell performed her cello solo to “Monody,” which was composed by SHU student Elyse Jeanne Saraceni while she studied abroad in London with fellow SHU student Beth Ann Johnson. Saraceni and Johnson both lost their lives in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland on Dec. 21, 1988 while returning home.
Maria Long, a junior voice performance and music education major, composed and conducted “Prayer at Sunrise,” a poem by James Weldon Johnson.
“Hearing this piece sung completely for the first time was one of the most touching moments of my life,” Long said. “Witnessing the work and the intent that the singers brought to the music was both humbling and uplifting, and learning that I had also moved members of the audience with my music was even more special.”
Long also serves as the assistant conductor of Setonia and said she hopes to send her score to a publisher for consideration within the next few months.
“Being a part of the centennial celebration was truly an honor,” Long said. “Living up to the legacy of the Sisters of Charity and all of the musicians who have come and graduated before me is truly a daunting task, but I am thrilled to even have the opportunity to try to live up to that tradition. I had the unique opportunity to be both a performer and a conductor during this performance, and I was honored to be asked to have this level of participation in the concert.”
The alumni whose arrangements were featured include Jim Colonna (’95), Suzanne Rinas (’94), Luke Mayernik (’06) and Stephen Philip Harvey (’14).
Mark Boyle, associate professor of music and director of choral activities at SHU, composed “Caritas Christi” in honor of the Sisters of Charity and SHU’s centennial. The concert concluded with a performance of the Seton Hill alma mater that was arranged by Campbell.
“My intent was to reflect the theme of the concert of connecting generations, so what I was trying to do was connect generations of sound,” Campbell said. “I took the very traditional setting of the alma mater itself with a much more 100 year forward setting of the introduction and ending, so connecting the generations through the music.”
The concert also featured the Commercial Music Ensemble performing “Beginnings” by Chicago to introduce the new commercial music major that will launch next fall.
“When we started to talk about this, it never occurred to me that it was going to align with our 100th anniversary, but what a celebration for us to grant the first two degrees from Seton Hill in 1919 in music, and then 100 years later, be launching a new degree program that I think really reflects the 100 years forward thinking,” Campbell said.
“Musicians can and have worked in cultural arts and entertainment, but in higher ed., colleges and universities have only historically focused on the cultural arts,” Campbell added. “Why not embrace this aspect of our musicianship and prepare students to be able to work in both cultural arts and entertainment?”
The various SHU ensembles will have concerts and recitals throughout November and early December. More information can be found on the Upcoming Events page on SHU’s website.
“We want students and faculty and staff to always feel welcome to join us here for any of our events,” Campbell said. “We want them to be part of what we do here.”
Published By: Paige Parise