Tuesday night Laura and I attended the Furman Singers’ concert. It was the last tour concert with Dr. Bingham Vick at the helm. This May Vick will retire from Furman after 40 years as a professor there.
In most respects the concert was typical of the Singers’ tour concerts. The first half featured major choral works, each 4 – 6 minutes long. There was some Orlando Gibbons, Brahms, and new works by Mark Kilstofe and Daniel Gawthrop. The Singers performed with their usual precision, and this portion of the concert was beautiful.
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It has been a Singers tradition to end the first half with Ringwald’s arrangement of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Former Singers are always invited on stage to participate. This being Bing’s last tour concert, it looked like the entire audience was moving toward the stage, as a hoard of Singers Alumni came forward.
The second half is always much sillier, with lighter works and jazz pieces. Some years the silliness really detracts from the music, but this time it wasn’t too bad. The penultimate piece was a fitting send-up of choral conducting, in general. Lastly came the traditional Brown Eyes, and with its sentimental notes the song left the house in tears. There was a reception for Bing and Judy after the concert.
And so an era comes to a close. Bing will continue to conduct the Greenville Chorale, so I’ll still see hm every Monday night at rehearsals. Hugh Floyd takes over as conductor of the Furman Singers next year. Hugh was at Furman the same time I was and has been director of choral activities at Oberlin College. He will bring some new blood to the group, but also an appreciation of its traditions.
My association with Furman Singers has always been a love/hate relationship. I loved the music, but never really got along with the Singers of my era. I don’t really know why. I just didn’t seem to fit in. I was never invited to go on tour with them, and was completely shocked when Bing invited me to audition for student conductor. I didn’t get it, but was flattered to be one of four invited to audition, nonetheless. Even so, I’ve not attended any of the Singers reunions, but have come back for the tour concerts.
After Furman I developed a good relationship with Bing and Judy through the Chorale and the Chamber Ensemble, and am glad that relationship will continue. Bing leaves behind quite a legacy of musical excellence with Singers and with Furman in general. 40 years is a long tenure, and his retirement is well-earned.