After a 19-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the University of Memphis Wind Ensemble made a grand return to the stage at the Levitt Shell on Sept. 26.

Partnered with Sound Fuzion musicians and vocalists, the wind ensemble dedicated its concert to healthcare professionals who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic.

University of Memphis director of bands, Albert Nguyen, chose the program’s pieces with a special theme in mind.

“These pieces represent all of the aspects of a healthcare worker’s job. They provide joy, laughter, healing, and hope,” Nguyen said.

Students like Olivia Remak, a junior flutist, also had personal ties to the event.

“I was really excited for [the concert] because my dad is a doctor and my stepmom is a retired nurse,” Remak said. “So, I was super excited about the message that we were conveying, and it’s also very important given the current times of the pandemic.”

First on the program was Leonard Bernstein’s “Overture to Candide”.The popular concert classic revolves around the story of Candide and his journey to reunite with his love in Venice, Italy.

The second piece on the program was Georges Bizet’s “Habanera” from the opera “Carmen."

Brianna Reilly, a second-year master’s vocal performance student, joined the wind ensemble as a vocalist. The mezzo-soprano sang the aria in French for the performance.

Aaron Copland’s, “I Bought Me a Cat," brought a whimsical and fanciful mood to the audience as tenor soloist, Philip Himebook, impersonated a cat, duck, goose, hen, pig, horse, and a cow.

William Plenk, director of athletic bands at the University of Memphis, joined the ensemble as a guest conductor for the next piece.

Percy Grainger’s, “Children’s March: ‘Over the Hills and Far Away”, brought a playful atmosphere to the Levitt Shell with its folk-like melodies and joyful piano solo.

The performance then switched gears, taking a sorrowful turn as freshman vocalist Yasrah Haseeb, who was accompanied by the ensemble, performed an original song called “Forever”.

“I was ten years old when I wrote this,” Haseeb said. “I was just in my math class. I was bored. I was thinking of this tune, and then I started writing lyrics for it. There was no heartbreak. Everyone thinks there was a heartbreak, but no.”

After that, the concert shifted into a more joyful mood with Al Green’s “Love and Happiness."

Vocalist Craylon Davis had the audience clapping along as he sang on.

The concert continued with its joyful theme with Omar Thomas’s, “Come Sunday."

The two-movement piece pays tribute to the Hammond organ and its central role in Black worship services. The piece is a celebration, bringing together blues, jazz, R&B, and classical Bach.

The ensemble closed out the concert with Leonard Berstein’s, “Make Our Garden Grow," featuring soprano and tenor soloists Desiree Soto and Philip Himebook.

Before the concert ended, Nguyen gave the audience a final message.

“I want to send us away with hope, with a prom,ise of much better things to come. As long as we work together,” Nguyen said.

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