Fine Arts

The Pirates of Penzance

Over the past month many of Bethel’s students have been working on the opera, The Pirates of Penzance. Our fearless leaders in this production were Chris Westover, John McCabe-Juhnke, Doyle Preheim, Danika Bielek, Ethan Koerner, and Soyoun Chun. As a concert choir member, I was in the chorus as a daughter. We wore long, high necked dresses with bloomers, pantyhose, slips, and anything else uncomfortable you can think of! The principals of the show put in many hours, and this past week, the whole cast met every night from about 6 to 10:30 pm. Most of this past week the cast was also joined by the orchestra members- who did an amazing job playing each song with us! This was an exhausting and at the same time exhilarating week. I loved spending time with all of the cast members, directors, and every other person that was involved. We performed this opera three times this past weekend on March 7, 8, and 9. Friday’s show was a great opening night– the audience was very alive and they were very receptive toward our humor. Saturday was a good run, and then we ended with a bang on Sunday afternoon!







Full cast

Full cast

Worship and the Arts Symposium

This past weekend was the Worship and the Arts Symposium. The event that I was a part of was the Saturday evening Accompany them with singing worship service. The concert choir (which I am a part of), along with the Women’s Chorus, Men’s Ensemble and many church choirs from around the area sang some pieces alone as well as also singing with the congregation in attendance.  It was a wonderful service. Not only was it fun to have John Ferguson come for the symposium to conduct us, or that I got to sing with, and at the same time listen to wonderful four part harmony, but Tom Long’s sermon also touched me. 

Tom spoke about the story of how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and focused on it in a way I hadn’t thought about before. What he really focused in on was the reaction of Martha when Jesus shows up four days after Lazarus dies and she says: “Lord, if you would have been here my brother would not have died.” This message along with his personal experience he shared that related back to his message was very touching. I won’t begin to try and explain the message because it wouldn’t do Tom’s presentation of his sermon justice! I do however, want to mention one thing that really hit home for me. He totally changed my perception of “time.” He said that instead of our lives running out of time, death is running out of time because we have eternity. Instead of justice running out of time, all the injustices are running out of time. Instead of all the good things running out of time, all the bad things are running out of time. I had never looked at time like that and seeing that new perspective was something very important to me.

I also heard from many people in the audience how much they enjoyed it and how special of an experience it was for them too.

It was a lot of work to put it all together, but it was a wonderful experience and I will be looking forward to attending the next one!

The Art of Conducting


Adam Voth conducts in BC Chapel service
Photo by Vada Snider

This semester, I’m enrolled in the conducting class at Bethel. We began the semester simply learning the different patterns and how to cue with our opposite hand. The first major unit that we had in this class was hymn leading. We practiced new hymns each class period. The rest of the class sang parts as one person conducted. There was also a video camera that recorded each class period. This allowed us the opportunity to watch ourselves and comment on our own work. This unit ended with one final opportunity to conduct hymns. Each member of our class was able to conduct a hymn at the hymn sing during chapel. Half of the class conducted a hymn that they had been preparing for a couple of weeks. The other half of the class waited for a request, and then decided whether they could conduct the hymn. This was a good experience for our class to conduct a hymn in front of a congregation larger than our class.


Christina and Michelle Naughton

Next, we moved onto an instrumental conducting unit. We looked at a number of movements in Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Again, we were able to practice conducting in front of our classmates. This time, a few students brought their instruments to class. Our very small orchestra was made up of a saxophone, bassoon, trumpet, two cellos, and piano. We also went to a rehearsal for the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. They were also performing The Rite of Spring. We got many tips from them and from watching their conductor, Bethel graduate, Dan Hege. We also were able to go to their performance this past weekend. Along with The Rite of Spring, they played Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe: Suite No. 2, and Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos, which featured twins Christina and Michelle Naughton.

Now, we are moving on to a choral conducting project. We each selected one song that we will rehearse with the class until it is ready for performance. We will get the chance to perform our pieces for an audience at the beginning of November. A conducting concert is schedule for Sunday, November 3 at 7:00 in the chapel in the Bethel College Administration Building. Come hear the hard work of BC’s Conducting Class!

The last portion of our class is focusing on Handel’s Messiah for the annual Messiah Sing that happens at the end of each fall semester in Bethel College Mennonite Church. As you can tell, we have had quite a busy semester so far, and it will continue to be busy as we head towards the end of the semester!

Messiah sing

Today was the last Convocation of the semester, which in the fall is always the Messiah sing. The tradition of gathering in Bethel College Mennonite Church for an hour of singing Handel’s Messiah with the community as the chorus goes back a quarter century. The music department supplies most of the work for this venture. The chamber orchestra and Karen Schlabaugh on the harpsichord supply the accompaniment, student conductors lead most of the pieces, and students perform the solos. It’s always fun to hear different people singing the solos, some of whom don’t frequently do solos in for events like this. I’ve had the privilege to play in the orchestra for this tradition the past two years and it has turned into one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. It’s a fantastic piece of music to play because we don’t play any of the really difficult parts and since everyone in the room is either conducting, singing or playing it’s very low pressure. In the midst of preparations for finals week, it’s a great way to let go for a little while and enjoy the holiday spirit.

Music, Music, and More Music

This weekend was a very busy weekend for choir members on Bethel campus.

On Friday the Concert Choir was invited to sing a few songs at the Día de Los Muertos service at the Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. Being a Mennonite who grew up in a town with a majority being Mennonite it was a very good experience to be able to be a part of – in attendance and in singing.

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The Children’s Concert!

Wow! It’s hard to believe it is already October! Only a little over a week ago did Memorial Hall have a hoard of young children with their parents and grandparents, the Bethel forensics students, the Bethel education students, the Bethel Wind Ensemble, and the Women’s Association for the first ever “Tales and Tunes — Adventures with Aesop” children’s concert. The Women’s Association had the idea to try out a concert just for children. The Wind Ensemble played a piece that included four of Aesop’s Fables that had a narrative part as each movement was played. Before every movement one of the forensics students told the story dramatically to the children and after the movement the elementary education students led various movement and craft activities that connected to the fable. Timothy Shade, the Wind Ensemble conductor, also talked about parts of the songs with the kids. For example, for the story the Tortoise and the Hare, he pointed out the different instruments that played the part of the tortoise and the instruments that represented the hare.

The turn out ended up being excellent. Since I was in the Wind Ensemble I did not get the opportunity to work with any of the kids but it sure looked like they enjoyed their afternoon. One of the little boys even tried to direct the Wind Ensemble during one of their activities! Even though it was a pretty chaotic afternoon it ended up being just another one of the awesome experiences Bethel has to offer.



I’ve blogged about music at Bethel many times before, and for good reason. Music is a huge part of campus life with a large portion of the student body involved in choir, wind ensemble, jazz band or orchestra. The end of the semester brings many concerts, including Masterworks, the annual mass choir performance. The choir is made up of the Concert Choir, Men’s Ensemble, Women’s Chorus and community members.

Usually the Newton Mid-Kansas Symphony performs with the choir but this year the program on Sunday included James Syler’s Symphony No. 1 ‘Blue’ which uses a wind ensemble instead of a string and wind group. The wind ensemble, comprised of students, community members and professionals, also performed Maslanka’s Symphony No. 4.

As a member of the wind ensemble, I was very excited to be a part of the concert this year. We had been preparing the pieces since March. The Maslanka piece in particular was huge-both musically and in number of players. A symphony written for wind ensemble is rare, and this one in particular is spectacularly awesome and worth looking up online.

The performance in Memorial Hall was unforgettable. For one thing, there is no air conditioning in the performance hall so that made everything more exhausting. With 80-some performers in the wind ensemble and 200+ including the chorus, the sound was incredible.

Masterworks happens every year. It’s a staple in Bethel’s musical tradition, but this year was particularly spectacular.


Wednesday was our free day in Minneapolis. It was fun to have a break from concerts and be able to explore the city. We stayed in a hotel that was within walking distance of lots of shops and restaurants downtown. People split up into groups and did all kinds of different things during the day. Some went to an art gallery, some explored the riverfront, and one group even said they walked about thirty miles throughout the whole day. Our group visited a huge library, with a 25-cent book sale and very impressive bookshelves that moved with the touch of a button. The day before, the whole choir had a chance to check out the Mall of America for a few hours. It was packed with not only countless stores, but also an indoor roller coaster! Dale calculated that almost half of the choir members left the mall with a shopping bag in hand.

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Mountain Lake, Minnesota

Monday night we sang at Bethel Mennonite Church in Mountain Lake, Minnesota. I had always wanted to visit Mountain Lake, seeing as it is one of what I might call the “Mennonite Meccas”. My high school church mentor, Robert Regier, is from Mountain Lake and and I am certainly looking forward to sharing my experiences with him. Also, my fellow choir member and friend Dmitri Bucklin is from this town. It was fun to see the place he grew up in. From the start we were greeted with hospitality. Even though the choir concert had to be shortened due to a local H.S. band/choir concert the crowd was warm and welcoming. One instance stands out to me: as the choir performed the processional, “This Little Light of Mine,” a man with Down’s Syndrome gave each singer a thumbs up. For me, this was a tremendous confidence boost. It was great to know our presence was appreciated.

Later on, our allotted time was coming to a close. Pastor Galen Kauffman stood up in the audience and insisted that we sing at least one more song. The audience unanimously agreed when Bill put it to a congregational vote. It was wonderful to see such support and it was just another example of the extremely gracious Mountain Lake Community. I will remember these experiences long after the tour is over.

-Kevin Leary

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Monday, March 19

Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Over the noon hour, the Concert Choir spent our time enjoying the interior beauty of St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Sioux Falls. St. Joseph’s was recently remodeled and looks immaculate. The walls of the Cathedral are lined with stained glass windows depicting various saints and there are many large, marble pillars. In the front of the church, there was a beautiful alter covered by a canopy. Our time at the Cathedral was a very treasured time for many of us, a time where we could relax, pray, think, reflect, or do whatever else we needed to do. After a while, Woven sang “Os Justi,” and the sounds of their song were extremely powerful. The choir then came together and we sang two of our selections, “O Magnum Mysterium” and “Ave Maria.”As we sang, we had the opportunity to step out of the choir and listen to the songs that were being sung in the incredible acoustical space. Sitting there, I couldn’t help but sob. The sounds were simply breathtaking. Open Road sang a song, “Lux Aurumque.” Finally, we closed our time at the Cathedral by lining the outer walls of the Cathedral and holding hands. We blessed the Cathedral by singing, “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.”

Since we were in Sioux Falls, we obviously had to stop at the actual falls. We only had 15 minutes to explore, but it was fun to climb around on the rocks and enjoy the falls, both the little flowing waterfalls and the huge vertical waterfall.

All in all, it was a very powerful afternoon and we all enjoyed our little break from the formal concerts.

-Kristin Unruh