The performance hall rang with applause. A sizeable audience had just heard the music of Joni Mitchell wonderfully and creatively brought to life by Hope College students.
This past Saturday evening, Hope’s folk ensembles gave a concert in The Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts. Each group had prepared pieces written by Joni Mitchell and arranged by Nate Roberts, the director of folk music.
Roberts opened the concert with a few light-hearted jokes. He reminded the audience to pick up one of the collectable stickers for a small donation. He related the popular stickers to patches on a Boy Scout’s uniform, encouraging audience members to put them on their instrument cases as many musicians do. Then the music began.
While several of the ensembles kept to arrangements that were similar to Mitchell’s original recordings, there were a few that took a different approach.
The Jazz Chamber Ensemble performed a rendition of “Dry Cleaner from Des Moines,” including solos on the saxophone and piano. There were ample rounds of applause for each of these, as the musicians’ talent came through. The Brazilian Drumming Ensemble performed a drums-only version of “Dreamland,” which gave the song a tribal feeling.
The Appalachian String Band performed arrangements that were most similar to Mitchell’s recordings. Justin Merriman (‘19) on banjo and Stephen Talaga (‘18) on mandolin played complementary solos in many of the songs, playing off of each other wonderfully.
The most memorable moment was the string quartet’s take on “Both Sides Now.” Graduating senior Linnea Hjelm (‘18) sang beautifully along to the moving arrangement. Prior to the song, she spoke briefly about how she initially felt that Mitchell’s songs were too melancolic. However, she discovered that “Both Sides Now” really was perfect for her senior year, with the completion of her undergraduate studies and coming future. Hjelm said she fell in love with it. Her feelings were communicated clearly as she sang.
She also recalled that the music building in its current form didn’t even exist when she first started at Hope. It was clear that she was grateful to perform in the space.
To end the evening, all of the ensembles gathered on stage to perform “The Circle Game.” There were many hugs among the members as the seniors had finished their last full concert performance at Hope.
If you missed this concert, there is still one more opportunity to see Hope’s folk ensembles on April 15 in the John and Dede Howard Recital Hall of the music building.