Tony Leach, professor of music and music education, is the group’s founding director. To watch him conduct the student singers is to watch a master in action. They are attuned to every nuance of his directions through his voice, his gestures, even the most subtle body language, and the respect and affection they feel for him as a mentor is palpable to all who observe them working together.
Before the attendees arrived and before they sing even one note, Leach runs them through a number of warm-up exercises, including shoulder massages…
…and techniques to relax their facial muscles…
When the audience started pouring into Schlow Library’s Downsbrough Community Room, it soon became clear we’d have a “standing room only” situation! People were eager to hear the acclaimed Tony Leach’s thoughts on the forms of secular and sacred music in the African-American tradition, and of course to hear the sublime sounds of Essence of Joy demonstrating the different types of music they perform.
What did the music sound like? The group was polished and positively soul-stirring, as made evident by the enthusiastic applause and the audience clapping along with the spirituals. (“Join in by clapping with the chorus,” said Leach, joking “but just don’t sing along!”)
We’ll be posting a professionally taped excerpt of the talk and performance soon, but meanwhile, check out this clip of Anthony Leach explaining the role music plays in his life.
In the words of one of our Research Unplugged regular attendees, Mr. Dick Kustin, a Penn State alum himself…
“You have certainly chosen a fitting Grande Finale for the Fall series of Research Unplugged with the concert by Dr Leach and the Essence of Joy students. The audience was thrilled to have had the experience and even those who have attended the concerts, regularly, recognized a certain spontaneity to this particular show…I think the smiling, singing, and dancing participants created a contagious effect that filled the hall with good humor!”
On that note, we at Research Unplugged will take a bow for the semester and will retreat to the conference room where we’ll be busy planning (let us hear your ideas!) six new community events for spring.
Ah, spring…now that’s a thought that makes me feel like singing!