On Saturday, April 13, families and students gathered in Brendle Recital Hall to watch Wake Forest voice students and orchestra pay tribute to James Dodding, a former director and visiting lecturer for the Department of Theatre and Dance. Dodding passed on March 25, 2018.
As the audience entered, the sounds of strings, woodwinds, trumpets and more filled the hall as the full orchestra warmed up. However, the quick trills of clarinets and loud chatter of the audience quickly silenced as the lights began to dim, signaling the beginning of the concert.
As conductor David Hagy lifted his baton, the orchestra began with The Pirates of Penzance (1879).
“It is very honoring because they are performing pieces that Dodding produced and directed, and I think it is incredibly touching to honor him in that way,” said Salem College sophomore attendee Molly Palmer.
The performance consisted of pieces from The Pirates of Penzance (1879), Guys and Dolls (1950), West Side Story (1957), and The Man of La Mancha (1965). As the music went on, friends of Dodding spoke between pieces. Department of Music Professor David Levy, Theatre Adjunct Instructor Michael Huie, Department of Theatre and Dance Chair Nina Marie Lucas and alumnus Christopher Young spoke throughout the performance.
Through their speeches, the audience was able to get a grasp on who Dodding was, why he was so special and how he left a mark on everyone that he came in contact with. Attendees also got a chance to experience the performances Dodding put on while he was at Wake Forest.
“Not a day goes by where I don’t think about something he said,” said Huie.
The emotion that was put into this performance did not go unnoticed. From the slow and lovely pieces to the upbeat funny ones, this event encapsulated it all. This showed the range that Dodding had as a director during his time.
Throughout this event, the audience was able to experience a glimpse of what it would have been like to work with such an adored man.
“He believed in me before I knew I was capable of putting on this show,” said Lucas, who was asked by Dodding to put on West Side Story.
As the muted trumpets began to fade, Young took the stage. Young was a theatre major at Wake Forest from 1987 to 1990 and concluded the show with a captivating performance of The Man of La Mancha. He said it was Dodding’s gift to set the stage and embrace the madness of life.
As the lights came back on, the crowd erupted in applause and a standing ovation. Sophomore attendee Hannah Betfort was overwhelmed by the powerful emotions that came out during this performance, especially from Young.
“This was my favorite event I have been to. I have attended probably around five or six performances since I’ve been at Wake Forest and this one was just the most emotional. I really enjoyed it,” Betfort said.
There was a reception that followed the event in the lobby of Brendle Hall. The performers and speakers gathered with family and friends as they celebrated the concert and the memory of Dodding.
“I think events like this are important because I personally believe in telling people how much they mean to me. I enjoyed how we were able to celebrate the impact Professor Dodding had on so many people in such a beautiful way,” said senior voice student Keighley Nemickas.