Wayland bids farewell to Spirit



PLAINVIEW – The Wayland Baptist University School of Music has bid a fond farewell to an iconic group that defined music and performance at Wayland for nearly four decades. On Saturday, January 27, Spirit performed its final show to a packed house in Wayland’s Black Box theatre.

The group began in 1974 as the Spirit of America Singers with 10 original members: Teresa Henson, Judy Sutton, Alba Wilcox, Carolyn Murphree, Leslie Haberer, Amy Fredricksen, Keith Longbotham, Gary Wilcox, Marvin Matthews and Walter Wright. Longbotham and Matthews went on to professional music entertainment careers and Wright became the director of the Plainview High School choir and Chamber Singers.
Saturday’s performance featured eight Wayland students: John Bocko, from Hart; Corey Godfrey, Omar Hernandez, Megan Robinett and Rachel Smith, from Lubbock; Tessa Kendrick of Big Spring; Chris Kirby, from Plano, and Jenna Swift of Aledo. The group performed two sets, featuring worship music in a traditional praise team setting for the first half of the performance. After the intermission, the group took the stage in costume and performed choreographed numbers to the music of George and Ira Gershwin.
Saturday’s performance concluded with one final song at which time Kirby took the lead on the special music with the other Spirit members providing back ground vocals. During the song Kirby’s girlfriend, Morgan Switzenberg, of Plainview, was called on stage where Kirby proposed. The night ended with a standing ovation to celebrate the engagement.
Dean of the School of Music Dr. Ann Stutes said the decision to disband the ensemble was a difficult one, but it was something they felt was in the best interest of future students.

“The ensemble has served this university well through the years, but changing times and new curricular requirements suggest that we modify how best to serve the educational needs of our students,” Stutes said.

Stutes said a new Choral Performance Lab course will be introduced in the fall of 2013 that will allow choral music education students to perform show choir music in addition to study musical theatre, vocal jazz and other types of curricula currently found in active public school choral programs. She also said the new praise that was introduced last semester is already giving students the opportunity to perform and lead contemporary church worship music as a formal course in the curriculum.

For highlights from the group’s final performance, long on to www.wbu.edu and click YouTube link at the bottom left of the home page. Or just log on at www.youtube.com/WaylandBaptist