Tabor to premiere cantata by Warkentin

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Piece commissioned for college’s centennial

By Grant Overstake, Tabor Communications

The premiere performance of “Sun, Moon and Stars,” a cantata for mixed choir, baritone solo and orchestra, will highlight the Tabor College Centennial Spring Concert, to be held at 7 p.m. Sunday, May 10, in the college gymnasium. Admission is free and the public is invited to attend.

The new cantata was written especially for the 100th anniversary of the college by distinguished Tabor alum, composer and pianist Larry Warkentin of Fresno, Calif.

Warkentin, professor emeritus at Fresno Pacific University, was asked by the late Jonah Kliewer, Tabor College professor emeritus of music, to write a piece for choir and orchestra for the historic concert. Kliewer’s request was made on behalf of the Tabor Centennial Committee, which commissioned the work.

Warkentin has composed numerous works for vocal solo, piano solo, chamber ensembles, choir and orchestra, which have been performed by the Fresno Philharmonic, The Tulare (Calif.) Symphony, the Festival Quartet of Canada and by many choirs in North America and Europe. His piano piece Academic Variations won first prize in the California Music Teachers Association competition.

The centennial work encompasses seven sections, is 30 minutes long and includes a baritone solo, to be sung by Justin Moore, a junior from Hillsboro, Kan. The piece concludes with the combined choir, orchestra and audience singing Great is Thy Faithfulness.

Warkentin, who was born in 1940 in Reedley, Calif., arrived at Tabor in 1958, where the young pianist was chosen to accompany the Tabor Choir under the direction of musical giants Herbert Richert and Paul Wohlgemuth.

“The musical idea for the composition comes from my experience as accompanist for the Tabor Male Octet during the years that Richert was music director,” Warkentin says.

In 1962, Warkentin earned his degree, married his Tabor College sweetheart, Paula (Berg) Warkentin of Wichita, Kan., and moved back to California to begin teaching at Fresno Pacific College. He went on to earn his master’s degree at California State University, Fresno, and his doctorate at the University of Southern California. He taught piano performance and music composition at Fresno Pacific for 40 years before his retirement in 2002.

In retirement, Warkentin has performed in recitals at FPU, including an appearance with renowned flutist, Paul Fried, and bass soloist, Andrew Funk. In 2004 he presented an all-Chopin recital in Gdansk, Poland. In 2007, with baritone soloist Milton Friesen, he performed his own compositions entitled Eleven Little Love Songs, which is now available on CD.

The Warkentins, who have two adult children and two grandchildren, enjoy traveling and attend North Fresno MB Church, where he still serves on the Music Committee and accompanies the choir.

When the time comes for the premiere of his centennial cantata, the composer says he will be more than happy to let Dr. Vogel conduct his new piece. “I want to relax and enjoy it,” Warkentin says.

In addition to the cantata, the Centennial Concert includes performances by the Tabor College Symphonic Band conducted by Richard Cantwell and Tabor College Concert Choir conducted by Bradley Vogel and pianist Sheila Litke with the Community Orchestra conducted by Cantwell.

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