Perhaps the story begins when Dr. Primitivo Delgado began pastoring at Marion Baptist Church after migrating from Cuba. The young couples in his congregation would later mentor Bryant Moxley and sing under his direction. Maybe the story originates with J.P. Jardine, the BU music professor who lent his namesake to the on-campus plaza between Lansdell Hall and the Science Center. He taught Moxley’s father at Campbellsville College and later conducted Tim Sharp and other members of the Bluefield College Choir. From Dr. Delgado’s 1957 arrival as BU’s Professor of Bible to Moxley’s final bow as a BU music professor in 2014, God has orchestrated a series of events that will soon culminate in a Carnegie Hall choral concert featuring current and former Bluefield University students.
Over the past century, Bluefield University has been the epicenter of many stories, connections, and opportunities. This latest opportunity, a choral residency in New York City, begins on Friday, May 24, 2024. BU students, alumni, and guests will perform on the Perelman Stage in Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium on Monday, May 27, 2024. Current and former members of any BU choral ensemble are encouraged to register for the event before the October 1 deadline.
Bluefield University students first performed at Carnegie Hall in January 2006 under the direction of Tim Sharp, a member of BU’s class of 1974. Sharp is a recent addition to the MidAmerica Productions team behind these residencies. The 2024 event, titled “A Celebration of American Folk Hymnody,” will mark Moxley’s Carnegie Hall debut as a conductor.
“Tim invited me to go, and that’s why it’s so important to me that Bluefield music alumni are able to be a part of this,” Moxley said, “because I never would have had this invitation to conduct a choir on the stage of the most famous performance hall in the country—one of the most famous in the world—were it not for my experiences at Bluefield and the things the students did to help me grow as a conductor and the music we experienced together.”
Next May, Moxley will conduct Ryan Murphy’s “Simple Gifts,” Dan Forrest’s “There Is a Fountain,” Alice Parker’s “Hark, I Hear the Harps Eternal,” Mack Wilberg’s “Bound for the Promised Land” and “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” and his own arrangement of “When I Can Read My Title Clear” written in memory of Dr. Delgado, which was first performed by BU’s Variations choir at his memorial service in 2006.
Participation is not limited to Moxley’s former students but open to all BU music alumni. As a professor, he said, he stood on the shoulders of those who came before him. “Some of them sent students. They came and supported. They donated. They were a part of the Bluefield College experience as alums, so whether or not they were part of my choir doesn’t matter at all. Any former or current Bluefield University music student is invited to be a part of this because it wouldn’t be happening without Bluefield,” he added.
BU music alumni will be joined by members of Moxley’s current choir at Wake Forest Baptist Church and choral ensembles directed by his former students, including the Mercer Christian Academy choir directed by Alandra Brannon, the Beale Memorial Baptist Church choir directed by Marcus Vaughan, the Magna Vista High School choir directed by Tehillah Munye, and the Cave Spring High School choir directed by Bradley Stump.
Brannon was part of the BU music missions team Moxley accompanied to New York in 2011. The team sang at the Lincoln Center under the direction of Milburn Price, which she described as “an eye-opening experience” that helped her realize the vastness of the world and appreciate her Appalachian upbringing. “I’m thrilled to be able to present my students with a similar opportunity,” she added. “They’ll experience the city, travel, singing in a group of over 100 singers, a Broadway show, tourism, ministry opportunities, and much more—all because music and choir opened a door for that!”
“New York is one of the best representative places of the US, a melting pot of cultures, a haven for arts, and a battlefield of broken souls and bodies, all aching for the good news of the Gospel and the good music we are capable of creating communally,” Brannon said.
Prior to the concert in New York, BU’s alumni and guests will perform the six selected hymns at Bluefield University’s Music Alumni Reunion, a tradition that Sharp and Moxley established. The next reunion concert will be held in BU’s Harman Chapel on Saturday, April 13, 2024. Moxley will direct a second regional concert in Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Binkley Chapel on Saturday, April 20, 2024.
The registration form for the Music Alumni Reunion in April will soon be available at bluefield.edu/alumni/alumni-events-services/. The registration form for the Carnegie Hall residency in May is available at bluefield.edu/alumni/alumni-events-services/carnegie-hall-concert-residency/.
“To be able to sing this repertoire of American Hymnody in a place like New York City and Carnegie Hall under Bryant Moxley is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Brannon shared, “and I hope to do it with many of my Bluefield friends from our Variations days!”
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