Public invited to free Spring Concert

BISMARCK, ND — In 1972 a Mandan High School music director was gaining recognition in the state for instilling an enormous amount of pride and passion into his young band performers—marching band, concert band and jazz ensemble. His excellence showed in the quality of music his students were producing. That success drew the respect of then-Mary College President Sister Thomas Welder. So much so, she asked this director—Ernie Borr—to start for Mary what would be the beginning of one of the most heralded and prestigious band programs in the Upper Midwest.

Ernie Borr conducting the "Reunion Band" on campus in 2009

Ernie Borr conducting the “Reunion Band” on campus in 2009

“Ernie had an ability to arouse loyalty on the part of students, staff and the people he worked with as colleagues,” recalled Welder, now president emerita at the University of Mary. “Ernie instilled in others a loyalty to mission and the values of the University of Mary (Mary College at the time) and he lived those values. He was a really special man and the colleagueship and relationships he developed were strong and long lasting.”

There were qualities Borr promoted everyday as director of bands at Mary from 1972 through 1975 and through life until his passing just weeks ago in January.

Today, the University of Mary carries on this tradition of excellence started by Borr with the likes of past directors Bruce Schwartz, ’75-’82; Patrick Reynolds ’82-’87; and now current conductor, Dennis Gowen, ’87 to present, as it celebrates 45 years later the anniversary of concert band. The public is invited to attend this free commemorative concert Sunday, March 19, 3 p.m., in Our Lady of the Annunciation Chapel.

Concert Band1“I’m most thrilled to present Fisher Tull’s landmark band work ‘Sketches on a Tudor Psalm.’ Tull wrote this piece in 1971, the year before Ernie Borr started the University of Mary band program,” said Gowen. “It wasn’t perhaps known at the time, but “Sketches” would become one of the all-time top band works of the 20thcentury. I’m so proud of the Mary band for their skillful and impassioned excellence in rehearsing this piece over the last six weeks.”

Gowen added the audience will hear a number of great works, from the traditional band repertoire, to some stunning arrangements originally for piano or orchestra. Among the original band works is “Up” by Anthony O’Toole.

“I’ve programmed the very first piece Ernie purchased for the Mary band library – ‘Toccata’ by Frescobaldi (now attributed to Cassadó), said Gowen. “We’ll also perform an arrangement from Dvořák’s ‘Largo’ (from “New World Symphony”) in memory of Ernie. The movement is based on the old spiritual “Goin’ Home. We’ll conclude with ‘Conga del Fuego Nuevo’ by Mexican composer Arturo Márquez and Robert Longfield’s infectious edition of ‘Hungarian Dance No. 5’ by Johannes Brahms.”

Concert Band3Gowen recalls Borr visiting rehearsal from time to time when he asked him to be a guest conductor for the University of Mary’s “Reunion Band” at its 50thAnniversary Celebration.

“He was thrilled to be asked, and he rehearsed and conducted the group in ‘On the Mall’ by Goldman. Ernie always had a smile or a chuckle to share, as well as numerous stories of fond past music memories. He was a passionate conductor of music, and loved to share and encourage his passion for music from his musicians.”

Borr never turned down the opportunity to play. There is no doubt he would have loved to have been part of this anniversary celebration—his trumpet in one hand, his fingers snapping and feet tapping to the beat.