Andrew has been singing professionally since he was 8 years old. So fourteen years later, it comes as no surprise that as we celebrate his graduation from Brown University, the weekend has been filled with his music.
(Editor’s Note: This is the second of two posts about the commencement weekends as the twins graduated from college. I treat my blog like the 21st century version of letter writing, in that I can write one item and it can go out to family and friends everywhere. These blog posts are all about family. If you don’t want to read about how wonderful my children are – then stop reading. Note…you’ve been warned!)
Candice, Claire, and I arrived home on Tuesday from Claire’s graduation just in time to fall into bed, get up the next morning to run errands and wash clothes, and then pile into the car on Thursday to drive to Providence to be with Andrew. As one friend said, “You all must be approaching exhaustion, but what a lovely way to get there . . .”
We connected with Andrew on Friday and began the necessary task of packing the dorm room. Andrew benefited by being the second twin in this regard. We came prepared with boxes, supplies, and a plan! Two hours later we were well past the halfway point and walked down to celebrate over a lunch of Greek delicacies at Andreas – one of Andrew’s favorites along the commercial core – Thayer Street – that cuts through the college campus.
The first of four musical treats came later in the day, as the Brown University Madrigal Singers held their Commencement 2015 Concert in the beautiful St. Stephens Episcopal Church, located in the heart of the college campus in Providence.
Andrew was one of two graduating seniors in the Madrigals, and he also served as the music director for the year. (Alex Warstadt, the other graduating senior, had that role his junior year.) The group performed a wonderful 60-minute concert, beginning with the beautiful Ubi Caritas by Maurice Duruflé.
The selections were varied, with several holding personal meaning for three of the singers. Alex introduced a Kyrie that he had composed for a contrapuntal composition class. Sami Overby noted that two of the songs – from Ogden Nash’s Four Animal Poems – had been set to music by his great-uncle, Rolf Overby, while at St. Olaf’s College. The Termite – with a “knock, knock” going on behind the main lyrics – was a crowd favorite:
“Some primal termite knocked on wood
And tasted it, and found it good!
And that is why your Cousin May
Fell through the parlor floor today.“
Then Andrew floored me with the introduction to Orlando Gibbons‘ Magnificat (Short Service). He said it was important to him to have this piece included in the concert because he had heard it as a young boy on a recording of his father’s early music group Canticum Novum*, and always loved its simple beauty. He noted that I was in the audience that evening, and then the Madrigals sang this wonderful composition – bringing memories from my heart and tears to my eyes.
(*Note: If you go to the link above, check out Lesson #37)
After a delightful Now is the Month of Maying, and a tune performed for the seniors, Andrew announced that the traditional ending for a Brown University Madrigals Concert was John Clements’ Flower of Beauty, and he invited the alumni from the group to join them.
It was a wonderful evening, and we were delighted that another Brown alumni – our dear friend Kristin Faust who, with her daughter Sojourner, moved from Silver Spring to Chicago last spring – was there to share it with us. Andrew and Claire then left to go to the “The Campus Dance” (along with 11,000 of their closest friends) for a night of fun and fireworks, while Candice and I had a wonderful meal at one of our favorite Providence restaurants, Gracie’s.
Saturday dawned bright, clear, and cool in Providence, and we were up not too much after dawn! Andrew was one of two soloists for the morning’s All-class Memorial Service, a very moving remembrance, led by The Reverend Janet Cooper Nelson, Chaplain of the University. Our good friends from Silver Spring – Dolores McDonagh and Jamie Karn – joined us, as they were in town for Dolores’ 35th reunion at Brown. (Andrew has now figured out that he’ll see Kristin and Dolores at each of his major reunions in the future. Both have been very supportive of Andrew. Kristin, who heads up Neighborhood Housing Services in Chicago – has bonded with Andrew over his Urban Studies work, while Dolores – a fellow a capella aficionado – has encouraged him in his singing.)
In the early afternoon, it was time for the Baccalaureate Service, held at the historic First Baptist Church in America. Besides the music and Urban Studies communities, Andrew has many friends through his membership in the Alpha Delta Phi Society at Brown, and we were thrilled to see the seniors from Alpha Delta Phi processing down the hill together. This is a remarkable group of young men and women – as their website describes them, “a cozy, co-ed community of musicians, scientists, and philosophers.” Andrew has lived in the Alpha Delta Phi house on campus for three years, and we’ve enjoyed getting to know these remarkable individuals and their parents. (Plus, we always enjoy the Friday afternoon tea held during Parents’ Weekend!)
During the service, which we watched on the big screen in Sayles Hall on the College Green, Andrew joined the chorus in singing Randall Thompson’s Alleluia.
Following the service, we hustled down to the Grant Recital Hall for the 34th annual senior recital – The Carl and Dorothy O. Jagolinzer Memorial Commencement Concert. The Jagolinzer family – who sponsor the recital in honor of their parents – joined friends and family to hear two hours of wonderful music from music concentrators and others – like Andrew – who have studied extensively in the music department at Brown.
Accompanied by Simon Goldring – a very talented musician from Hingham, Norfolk, England – Andrew sang Mozart’s Del più sublime soglio, closing out his singing career at Brown with a wonderful performance. Afterwards, the family had a chance to meet Arlene Cole, whose Advanced Musicianship class ranks as Andrew’s most favorite and challenging class in the music department. He has loved his connections with Fred Jodry, Brad Fugate, and all his music professors at Brown.
I have to admit that when we woke up on Sunday morning for graduation day, I still didn’t understand how this “processional” from the College Green, through the Van Wickle Gates (where they processed in as freshmen), and down the hill to The First Baptist Church in America was going to work…and hold my attention for two hours. As we hiked up College Hill early in the morning, the stripe (in Brown’s school colors) and the barriers gave a hint that something big was in the works.
But Andrew (and our Brown friends) kept insisting that the processional was the heart and soul of the Brown commencement, and that we really wanted to experience it on-site, as opposed to watching on the big screens at the College Green. Andrew suggested we join the Alpha Delta Phi Society cheering section outside the Gerard House (an earlier house of Alpha Delta Phi, before they moved on campus) to get the full flavor. Oh my!
What came next was the most remarkable two hours of commencement I’ve ever seen – without any official speakers or conferring of degrees. Brown has a tremendous reunion culture, in part because the alumni get to participate in – and relive – the processional each year. The procession comes through the Van Wickle gates, led by the oldest reunion classes (75th, in this year’s case…remember, that’s a 97-year old individual!). The reunion classes then line the streets, creating a tunnel of humanity that is clapping, cheering, and generally having a wonderful time for two full hours. The classes are easy to spot – not only by the age of the graduates, but by the signs they make to tell the class of 2015 what Brown was like “back in the day.”
Once all the reunion classes are in place, then the students from the class of 2015 begin their walk down College Hill, and the cheering is incredible. Everyone is in a very festive mood.
When Andrew and his fellow seniors from Alpha Delta Phi came by our vantage point, the “cheering section” began to sing one of the society’s songs – with the soon-to-be-graduates joining in. Claire was my “spotter” in finding Andrew – and other friends – in the crowd, while she and Candice also took pictures and videos on their iPhones. At the bottom of the hill, the class of 2015 lines up along the sides of the road and then the alumni reunion groups process through them – to raucous cheering and singing. This goes on for almost two hours. On a picture-perfect weather day, it was magical.
After a brief ceremony on the lawn of The First Baptist Church in America, the class walks back up College Hill for ceremonies on the Green. As was the case last week, the two student speakers were outstanding, and the actual ceremony was relatively short. Because of the size of the graduating class, diplomas are given out by departments. The Urban Studies distribution ceremony and reception was held at the Brown Faculty Club, a fitting historic building for a program focused on the design and function of urban areas.
Program Director Dietrich Neumann is one of Andrew’s favorite professors – especially following a six-week class on Modern Architecture and Urbanism that he took in Spain the summer after his sophomore year. Professor Neumann (an expert on Mies van der Rohe – and yes, we did talk about flood mitigation at the Farnsworth House!) was the MC for the event, which recognized outstanding work by urban studies students. The 14 concentrators received their diplomas, and then all the parents and family toasted the new graduates.
Following the ceremony at the Faculty Club, we joined the other graduates and their families, plus the members of the faculty and staff of the Urban Studies program, for a lively reception full of hugs, pictures, and stories.
We ended Sunday night at another of our favorite Providence restaurants, The Salted Slate. The room was packed with celebratory families and friends – including a couple of Andrew’s friends – and we toasted the newly minted Brown University graduate.
Monday we arose for breakfast at Blue State Coffee (which, along with Ellie’s, ranks at the top of my list of bakeries and coffee houses), before completing the packing of Andrew’s dorm room. We then met up with our friends Kristen and Sojourner for a delightful lunch along Thayer Street. Because Providence is such a wonderful food town, we’re heading out again on Monday night for dinner at The Grange, a highly recommended Vegetable Restaurant, to close out our celebration of Andrew’s wonderful accomplishments.
The members of Alpha Delta Phi gave Andrew and the other seniors a remembrance of the years at Brown University. For Andrew’s, each member wrote something to describe him or to say what he meant to them. Over and over I read words such as kind, caring, passionate, talented, intelligent, and more. Several mentioned about how he was always there for them. I smiled, thinking of how these “musicians, scientists, and philosophers” had seen the same talented, sensitive and caring young man that we so love.
Congratulations, Andrew! What a wonderful accomplishment. Mom and I are so proud of you and we can’t wait to see what the next chapter brings!
With love and more to come…
Image: Andrew at Brown University’s Van Wickle Gates — part of the rite of passage of the Class of 2015