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Experience Essence of Joy at the 2017 President’s Concert

Under the direction of Dr. Anthony Leach, Essence of Joy is one of the fantastic acts performing at the 2017 President’s Concert.

Essence of Joy practiceOn March 16, the 11th annual President’s Concert will be presented at the National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. The concert features varied performances from the Penn State School of Music including the Chamber Orchestra Strings performing Tchaikovsky's Serenade for Strings, the Graduate Brass Quintet with National Symphony organist and Alumni Fellow William Neil ’66 playing music by Giovanni Gabrieli and pianist Weiyan Li performing Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12 in C-sharp minor. Admission to the concert is free and open to everyone.

Also performing is Essence of Joy, a choir under the direction of Dr. Anthony Leach, professor of music and music education. For Ben Black, the choir’s president and a senior majoring in Asian studies and international affairs, singing at the National Presbyterian Church is “up there” with some of the other concerts he’s performed with Essence.

“As a person who’s seen the venue, I’m very excited for the background of the event and the amount of people that can fit in that venue, and the location in D.C.,” Black said. “I think it’s comparable to some of the things that we’ve done, especially when we travel internationally or travel to various cities for musical conferences or larger performances.”

Essence of Joy performs African and African-American spiritual and sacred music, according to the group’s vice president, junior chemical engineering major Ally Wright. She also noted that the ensemble is more than a gospel choir, something with which Black agrees.

Essence of Joy has built a “loyal following,” according to Wright. One reason why is that every concert opens and closes with the same two songs; starting with “Hear My Prayer,” written by African-American composer Moses Hogan and ending with “Anticipation” by V. Michael McKay, which Black described as a “meaningful” way to wrap things up due to the song’s deep religious ties.

Below is Essence of Joy performing “Anticipation”, courtesy of Dr. Leach.

Your browser does not support the audio element. You can find the MP3 file here:

As for what you can expect to hear from Essence of Joy at the President’s Concert, well, that’s still a bit up in the air. While Black said that the choir will know what it’s performing prior to the concert due to how formal this event is, Wright mentioned that plenty of options are on the table.

“The running joke in Essence is that nothing’s really out of the question,” Wright said. “So although [Dr. Leach] may give us a light outline of what we might be singing, he might throw something in or cut something—you never are 100 percent sure what’s going to be performed at a concert.”

While the choir may not be kept on their toes with regards to the President’s Concert program, you can be sure the performance will lead to you giving Essence of Joy a standing ovation.

A ticketed reception hosted by the Penn State Alumni Association and Penn State President Eric Barron will be held prior to the event. Tickets cost $25 for Alumni Association members; $40 for non-members; $10 for students 6–17; $15 for college students; and free for children five and under. At the conclusion of the reception, you will be escorted to your seat. If interested, please register here by March 9.

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