May 07, 2009 | Myrna Anderson

The lights in the FAC auditorium shine brightly one last time.

Following the final concert in the Fine Arts Center (FAC) auditorium, held at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 9, the familiar starry ceiling, made up of hundreds of incandescent bulbs, will go dark. The next time that it is illuminated over a concert audience, the starry ceiling will be composed of many hundreds of fiber optic lights. In between the two events there will be a lot of construction until the FAC reopens in fall of 2010 as the Covenant Fine Arts Center.

The final concert is meant to pay tribute to the original FAC as the site of many, many concerts, plays, lectures, chapel services and other gatherings—the place that draws an audience from well outside the Calvin community to campus: “For over 40 years, this building has been the front window of Calvin College,” said music professor Robert Nordling, the director of the orchestra.

"It’s safe to say there are very few dark nights in that auditorium,” agreed the coordinator of musical tours Jeff Schra, of the venue, which has hosted over 18,000 musical events since it opened in 1966.

Four ensembles, 200 performers

The final concert, titled “A Concert of Covenant,” will feature four Calvin musical ensembles: the Calvin Orchestra, the Calvin Alumni Orchestra, the Campus Choir and Capella. “There are well over 200 performers involved in this concert,” said Nordling. There will be three sections to the concert, and vocal and instrumental groups will play and sing both separately and together on works from Aaron Copland, Charles Villiers Stanford, Fidel Calalang, Jr., Z. Randall Stroope, John August Pamintuan, Reginald Unterseher, J. Aaron McDermid, Alice Parker, Moses Hogan, Johannes Brahms, Igor Stravinsky and Camille Saint-Saens.

"It’s a chance for those ensembles to grow with each other, to have respect for each other, to support each other. It’s a perfect image of what we do at Calvin,” Nordling said.

English professor Debra Rienstra, a violist in the Alumni Orchestra, thinks the combined orchestras will be powerful: “I think the effect for the audience is tremendous—that huge piece for that huge orchestra,” she said.

The theme of the evening is more than a nod to the future name of the new venue, which will encompass a new recital hall, practice spaces, instrument storage, a music library and a new art gallery within its 124,000 square feet.

Celebrating Covenant

“This is a concert that celebrates covenant looking backward, that celebrates the covenant we’re in and that celebrates covenant looking forward,” Nordling said. That has long been the idea behind all the activity in the FAC, he added: “All this building does is keep covenant. It’s professors keeping covenant with students and musicians keeping covenant with composers.”

Rienstra, who has played many times in the old FAC is wondering what it will be like to play in the new one: “I think the first time we play in the new FAC, we’ll have this dual response. And one will be, ‘Wow, that will be cool,’ and the other will be: ‘I miss the old one.’”

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