Professor Makes Music in Malaysia

Dr. John Dennison led vocal and choral workshops during the summer trip

By: Kristi Spurgeon

Music is music, whether you’re in Walla Walla or Kuala Lumpur. The fact that music transcends culture recently allowed a Walla Walla College music professor to extend his many years of experience to musicians in Malaysia and Singapore during a series of popular vocal and choral workshops.

John Dennison, director of choral activities and conductor of the orchestra at WWC, was invited to lead the August workshops in Penang, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore by WWC alumnus Danny Oh, a plastic surgeon at Penang Adventist Hospital. During the vocal workshops, Dennison helped individuals and small groups improve their skills by providing vocal and interpretative expertise. In the choral workshops he listened to various choirs and then critiqued their performance.

“Every person with whom I came in contact was more than excited about learning how to sing better,” says Dennison, an accomplished conductor who has taught music at every educational level. “It was as if they could not get enough.”

The workshops in Penang culminated in a combined choir performance with the Penang Symphony, which Dennison conducted as a benefit concert Mount Miriam Hospital, Cancer Centre, one of the leading cancer hospitals in Malaysia. The concert was performed in the Dewan Sri Pinang Performing Arts Center, and was one of the most memorable moments for Dennison.

“Bringing an orchestra, a chorus, and then both together, up to performance level in just six days was exhilarating,” he says. “And the people welcomed us so warmly. Before and after that concert I was inundated with requests for my autograph, while my wife, Vivian, was treated with great consideration, kindness, and respect.”

Other parts of the trip were just plain fun. “The most amusing anomalies were evident when teaching them to sing an African-American spiritual,” adds Dennison. “Their decidedly British accents didn’t quite fit with the earthy pronunciation needed for the piece. It resulted in some really fun moments for us all.”

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