The last time Dr. Dan Lynn stood in front of a reunion mass choir at Union College, he remembers that it was “a magical experience.” On April 13-16, 2023, he’ll have the opportunity to relive that feeling when former choral students reunite once again for a special musical homecoming during this year’s ReUnion.
Everyone who was part of Union’s select choirs, including Unionaires and Testerman Singers, is encouraged to come back for a weekend of reminiscing, reconnecting, and — of course — singing. Because singing together, according to Lynn and his onetime students, was a major part of their college experience and one they’ve been dreaming of recreating ever since.
Lynn, who served as director for 27 years before his retirement, says he’s missed his students and connecting with them. “Rehearsals were always my favorite part,” he said. “Sometimes in a performance you make it, sometimes you don’t. But in rehearsals, we could perfect and experience the music and really hone things. We experienced so many magical musical moments in rehearsals. To perfect a piece of music and make it beautiful is one of the rare treasures of life. I get goosebumps just talking about it. Singing with a good choir and hearing a good choir piece, that is heaven to me.”
This April, he and his former choral students will have a chance to relive those memories and share their talents with others, just like they did as students.
“Union has a strong tradition of choral music,” Lynn said. “Music groups have always toured. They are a recruitment tool that bring beauty and artistry to churches that don’t always see or hear it, and to academies that learn from hearing it at a higher level.”
Lynn says many students throughout the years told him Unioniares was “the best hour on campus.” “It gave them a release, an outlet, and something completely different,” he sayid. “In music, we work with our emotional and artistic sides. With most other subjects, we’re working with the left side of our brains, but with music, we work with the right side, the creative and artistic side.”
Jessica Casebolt Scharffenberg ’04, who sang in Unionaires and the Octet under Dr. Lynn’s direction, says she’ll be back for the weekend. “The reunion for Unionaires was a big pull for me, since it is not an honor class year for me,” she said. “Music was such a big part of my time at Union, and still is an integral part of worship for me. It seemed strange to graduate and not be singing five or six days a week, and really caused a sense of withdrawal. I am really looking forward to catching up with friends and singing and worshipping together again.”
One of Scharffenberg’s many music-related memories happened on a tour to St. Louis. “The Octet performed a song a cappella,” she said. “We were on key when we started, but by the time we finished we were one or two keys too high. Being a first soprano, I usually have high notes toward the end of the song, and this one was no different. I remember looking around and seeing the faces of the other Octet members and us all giving knowing looks that this was going to be an interesting finish. Amazingly, we finished the song and left the platform with relief that we pulled it off and no one was the wiser.”
Dr. Lynn Wickham, director from 1972 to 1986, says his most treasured memories are tours and performances, such as when his group partnered with the Nebraska Chamber Orchestra. “It was unusual for the Unionaires to do that, so it was a big thing for us,” he said. He also remembers the thrill of their European tour during the summer of 1982, including being led by Dr. Melvin West, singing for renowned Swedish director Herbert Blomstedt in his Stockholm church, and performing in Notre Dame cathedral. “It was a grand tour,” he recalled.
Wickham has made plans to attend what will be his third choral reunion. “I’m excited to see my students,” he said. “I knew them when they were in their late teens and early 20s, and I hope I recognize many faces when I get there. The biggest draw for me is our memories of singing together and wanting to repeat that.”
Daniel Ikpeama ’17 knew he’d attend the choral reunion as soon as he heard it was happening. “Dr. Lynn is the big reason I’m going,” he said. “Even before I came to Union, he inspired me, and he’s one of my main inspirations for why I’m a musician now.” Ikpeama, who has a master’s degree in choral conducting and is currently pursuing his doctorate in musical performance, recalls how Lynn chose him to be a soloist at the first Union College Music Festival Ikpeama attended during his high school years. “I’ve stuck with music since that first music fest, and Dr. Lynn inspired me to keep moving and keep growing,” he said. “I’m excited to see him again. It’s been a long time, so I’m really looking forward to catching up.”
In preparation for a weekend of reconnecting over music, Lynn and others are working closely with Union’s alumni office to plan the event. They’ve chosen songs for each director’s choir and the mass choir, and sheet music and recordings are going out to participants who have already registered. The tentative weekend schedule includes a Thursday evening meet and greet in Engel Hall with a potential vocal warm up, practices on Friday and Sabbath, a mass choir on Sabbath, and the reunion performance on Saturday evening.
Dr. Lynn encourages all former choral students to come back for the ReUnion weekend. “It will be an opportunity to sing in a large choir that you’ll probably never have again,” he said. “Please come, relive old memories, and make some new music and new memories.”
To sign up or for more information visit ucollege.edu/reunion
by Lauren Bongard ’04