April 30, 2024

Spanish Composer writes song for Mount Mercy's Spring Concert

A simple email turned into much more when Director of Bands Jack Frank connected with Spanish composer Andres Alvarez. Now, the upcoming May 5 concert will feature several of the composer’s works and showcase him as a guest director as the band premieres a piece he wrote for Mount Mercy University.

When choosing music for the spring concert, Frank stumbled upon the work of Andres Alvarez, who had been labeled an up-and-coming artist by the World Association of Symphonic Bands and Ensembles.

Frank emailed Alvarez to ask if the band could perform his piece “Fortaleza,” and it only progressed from there.

"He sent me not only ‘Fortaleza,’ but a couple other pieces, and we started to converse as we were talking about his music and his compositional technique,” Frank explained. “From that the idea was formed: what if he came to Mount Mercy to see our concerts? What if we played all of his music? What if he composed a piece for our ensemble?”

Frank sent Alvarez information to help with inspiration for the piece, but one thing stuck out—the August 2020 derecho that shook the entire Cedar Rapids community.

Spanning from South Dakota to Ohio, the storm caused an unprecedented $7.5 billion in damages, with Cedar Rapids experiencing devastating straight-line winds of up to 140 miles an hour. Despite many coping with damages of their own, over 160 volunteers came forward to clean up campus in the following days in a show of resilience and strength.

Frank sent news articles, recordings, and a Mount Mercy Times article about the impact of the derecho and efforts by Mount Mercy students and employees to clear the wreckage from campus.

“He was just blown away by the derecho, the impact it had on the community, and how the university came together to overcome,” Frank said. “So, he composed this piece called ‘The Land Hurricane’ that we’ll give the world premiere of during our May 5 concert.”

The piece, Frank says, will further solidify Mount Mercy’s story and spread awareness of the historical storm.

“After we premiere this, other people will play this piece all across the world,” he said. “And every time they go to play it, they will have to learn about the derecho, Mount Mercy, and the mercy values the led us forward.”

Alvarez will also be working directly with music students to share his expertise and give a workshop on music composition. He will be featured as a guest conductor during the concert.

Eric Heitland ’25, a junior biochemistry major and principal French horn player in the university band, says excitement filled the auditorium when Frank shared the news.

“We just took off with it,” Heitland said. “We used recordings, sectional time, and a lot of patience to finalize the pieces. I can speak for the entire band when I say we are so excited to share this.”

Excited by the opportunity, Heitland looks forward to the opportunity to work directly with the Spanish composer who he admires.

“I think that this is an amazing opportunity for Mount Mercy as we can bring in conductors and composers to work with us. It’ll allow us to grow as musicians, and future collaborations can put Mount Mercy on the international map.”

Heitland has performed for several song premieres and loved every one of them. But he says the premiere of “The Land Hurricane” is special.

“This one feels different. I think this is going to be a big event and the future of Mount Mercy music is going to be that of greatness.”

The May 5 concert will feature musical performances from Mount Mercy’s band, choir, and strings ensembles. It will be held in the Prairie High School auditorium at 2:30 PM and is free to all who wish to attend.

Learn more about music at Mount Mercy.