Southwestern Adventist University, located in Keene, Texas, broke a fundraising record as it celebrated the 24th annual tradition of "A Night at the Meyerson" with the world premiere of I Believe, the newest composition by renowned Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds. The words to I Believe were found on the wall of a cellar in the concentration camp in Cologne after World War II. I Believe is a testimony of faith, written by a prisoner who held fast to their belief in God in the midst of some of history's most appalling trials.
I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining
I believe in love, even when I am alone
I believe in God, even when he is silent
Ešenvalds was present for the premiere at the Meyerson Symphony Center in Dallas on Feb. 25, 2017. The concert at the Meyerson was the finale event of Southwestern's annual music festival. Ešenvalds attended several practice sessions with the music festival participants. "How many times do you get to hear from the composer himself what he was thinking or hoping for when he wrote the song," said Jonathan Wall, music department chair and choir director.
After the Meyerson concert more than 200 students lined up to get autographs and photos with Ešenvalds. "He touched their hearts," said Cherry Vogel, a parent taking photos of her children with Ešenvalds, marveling at the long line to meet him.
Ešenvalds is a much sought-after composer having received many awards for his work, including the Latvian Grand Music Award three times, first prize from the International Rostrum of Composers for his work The Legend of the Walled-in Woman, the New-Composer Discovery of the Philadelphia Inquirer, and two CDs that were awarded Best Latvian Classical Album of the Year.
In addition to hundreds of student musicians from all across the county, the concert also featured soloist Raehann Bryce-Davis, a native Texan and alum of Chisholm Trail Academy and Southwestern Adventist University. Bryce-Davis delivered several stellar performances at the concert. She is the winner of many awards, including the 2016 Richard F. Gold Career Grant, the 2015 9th International Hilder Zadek Competition at the Musikverein in Vienna, the 2015 Metropolitan Opera National Council Pittsburgh District, and the 2015 Sedat Gürel - Güzin Gürel International Voice Competition in Istanbul. Bryce-Davis is currently performing dynamic roles in Belgium as a part of the Opera Vlassnderen.
Proceeds from the evening, breaking a record with more than $50,000 raised, benefit the music department and the music scholarship finalists. The evening was made possible by sponsors and friends of the university. The Presidential Sponsor was Zacharias Real Estate; Concert Master Sponsors included Civitas Senior Living, Southwestern Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Texas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Texas Health Huguley Hospital, and Texico Conference of Seventh-day Adventists; Festival Friends Sponsors included Sue Hayes & Ben Chambers, Keene Seventh-day Adventist Church, Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center, Office of Cultural Affairs-City of Dallas, and Pinnacle Bank; the Printing Sponsor was College Press; and the Guest Accomodations Sponsor was Sheraton Hotel-Dallas.
— This article was provided by Darcy Force, Southwestern Adventist University director of Marketing and Public Relations.