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Composer’s Festival Celebrates Music and Mentor

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Professor and Dean of Fine Arts Emeritus Dr. Louis O. Ball (front left) was honored by musicians whose lives have been positively affected by his service to Carson-Newman and the field of sacred music. Composers include (front, l-r) Bethany K. Smith ’05, Linda R. Lamb ’66, Matt Limbaugh ’71, Sandy Wilkinson’76, (back, l-r) Jeff McGaha ’91, Mary McDonald ’78, Tim Bounds ’83, Mark Hill ’85.

The Ball Institute of Church Music’s Composer’s Festival last week offered C-N’s music program the chance to celebrate its graduates, who, in turn, celebrated the legacy of Dr. Louis Ball, longtime dean of Fine Arts.

“This has been a dream of Dr. Ball’s, to invite our music published alumni back for a featured event,” said Mary McDonald, president of Monarch Music. “He mentioned it to me nearly a year and- a-half-ago and I was delighted to chair planning for the festival.”

The teacher and former student examined potential guests from the last 50 years, ultimately developing a list of 16 invitees. The committee McDonald chaired asked each graduate to send up to three of their favorite works, from which members worked to design a program around for the capstone concert.

“Two music ministers suggested we broaden the scope of our festival to make it more appealing to music ministry,” said McDonald. “We invited publishers to send us sample octavos for two reading sessions (and) six mainstream publishers agreed to donate 75 copies of their choice anthems.”

Conference sessions examined the anthems, and then gave McDonald an opportunity to provide a glimpse into the world of music publication. A closing afternoon session gave the eight composers in attendance the opportunity to discuss their career paths, share testimonies and reflect on what C-N has meant in their lives. Each was also afforded time to share another composition.

“We sang new anthems, hymns, listened to new piano arrangements, and enjoyed hearing from Jim Pethel, who had taught most of us choral arranging,” smiled McDonald.

The evening concert featured an array of C-N groups, including Men's Chorus, Women' Singers, A Cappella Choir, Redemption, and the Wind Ensemble. Angie France ’79 the Handbell Choir of Jefferson City’s First Presbyterian Church. Each group presented a composition form one of the guest composers’ works. The event included the premiere of McDonald’s soon to be published, new choral anthem from the institution’s official hymn, “God of Beauty, Truth and Goodness.”

McDonald enlisted co-conspirators to surprise Ball as a way to thank him for the significant role he has played in the lives of graduates, the impact on the institution’s mission and reach, and on the music department. She said she used the movie “Mr. Holland’s Opus” as inspiration, noting, “He had a significant role in every graduate who graced that stage. His and Mary Charlotte's legacy lives on in the lives of their students.”

Each composer presented him with a letter to convey the appreciation they felt or him and his late wife, Mary Charlotte Ball. The couple worked together to serve C-N, local churches and the larger church over more than five decades. Their efforts included the classroom, the sanctuary, denominational service and the public arena.

McDonald said the partners in both life and music were instrumental in her calling.

“Beginning C-N as a home economics major, it was (Ball’s) willingness to accept me - an untrained, unskilled, "by ear" musician - into the department,” praised the music publisher. “The Balls had the gift of being able to see potential in their students, and to find creative ways to enable us to craft who we were capable of being. I would not be where I am now in music were it not for their insight, fortitude, and patience. I owe them a debt of gratitude, and I thought this (was) the perfect opportunity to say so.”

The concert finale featured “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” which Mary Charlotte had commissioned McDonald to write in 2000 as her gift to her husband for their golden wedding anniversary.

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