Hesston College will celebrate its annual Hesston College Homecoming: A View From Everywhere Sept. 28 to 30. The weekend will feature alumni professionals, students and faculty in a performing arts showcase, including two original shows – “I Go On Singing” featuring Anthony Brown at 8:30 p.m. Sept. 28, and the one-time stage performance of the original radio show “The Fragrant and Velvety Air” at 8 p.m. Sept. 29. Both shows will be in the Hesston Mennonite Church Sanctuary.
“I Go On Singing” is an original tribute to Paul Robeson, all-American athlete, scholar, champion orator, international recording artist and star of the stage and screen during the 1930s and 40s, written for Brown by playwright Andrew Flack. Brown’s telling of Robeson’s story is a 75-minute song-filled, multi-media presentation that reveals him as a towering figure in 20th century American history.
Accompanied by collaborative pianist and Hesston College music faculty member Ken Rodgers, photo projection and a narrator, “I Go On Singing” is equal parts historical documentary and live concert experience. Using Robeson’s own words from his autobiography “Here I Stand” and comments from legendary peace activist and artist Pete Seeger, the show traces Robeson’s humble beginnings as a preacher’s son in Princeton, N.J., to his international celebrity and pioneering activism on the world stage.
Brown is an international promoter of peace, Hesston College sociology faculty member and artist in residence and founder of Peacing It Together Foundation, an organization that serves the global community as a resource for peace and social justice. He uses music and the spoken word to bring people together across the divides of race, culture and religion. His travels have taken him to countries such as Bosnia, Moldova, Northern Ireland, Uganda, Ethiopia, the Philippines, China, Japan, South Korea and Colombia, where he has seen music transform and heal.
“I Go On Singing” premiered to inspiring reviews in Princeton, N.J., in 2011 and Wichita, Kan., in 2012.
“The Fragrant and Velvety Air” is an original radio show in the style of Garrison Keillor’s “A Prairie Home Companion” written by Hesston College performing arts faculty members Bradley Kauffman and Laura Kraybill. The title is borrowed from a line in the Hesston College song written by Ursula Miller in 1926.
The show parodies Hesston College’s 103-year history and is filled with live music, reader’s theatre pieces, off-beat commercials, audience participation and humor. Primarily a work of fiction, the show draws on genuine characteristics of the college.
“The show is designed to celebrate Hesston College and show the culture of the campus over the years,” said Kauffman. “Our hope is that the college’s personality will come through and that the show will create a space where old and new memories can come together.”
Hesston College alumni, students, faculty and staff will be featured in “The Fragrant and Velvety Air,” including musical acts by Tim Shue, director of music at Central Christian High School (Kidron, Ohio) and member of the high-energy Americana band, Honeytown; Jan Garrett and JD Martin, Colorado-based multi award-winning independent singer-songwriters; and The Sunflower Trio, made up of Rebecca Schloneger on violin, Matthew Schloneger, tenor, and Ken Rodgers on piano and organ.
Advance tickets are available for both shows or can be purchased at the door on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets are $15 for “I Go On Singing” and $10 for “The Fragrant and Velvety Air.” To reserve tickets in advance, call Alumni and Church Relations at 866-437-7866.