Dr. Gordon VanWylenDr. Gordon VanWylen

A work for organ and trumpet commissioned as a tribute to former Hope College President Dr. Gordon Van Wylen will be performed on Sunday, May 8, during a concert that is part of Holland’s May 7-15 Tulip Time Festival.

Van Wylen, who died on Nov. 5, 2020, at age 100, served as the college’s ninth president from 1972 until retiring in 1987.  “Fanfare for the Nations” by composer Dr. Brenda Portman was commissioned in his honor by Dr. Timothy Pennings, a former member of the college’s mathematics faculty.

“Gordon Van Wylen has been one of my personal heroes/role models. Since meeting and getting to know him when I came to Hope College for my job interview in 1987, I have held him in high regard, and kept up a friendship with him over the years,” he said. “So I thought it would be neat to dedicate the commissioned piece to him.”

Pennings noted that “Fanfare for the Nations” draws on “The Navy Hymn” (“Eternal Father Strong to Save”) and “We Gather Together,” with the themes having been chosen to reflect dimensions of Van Wylen’s life and service to the nation and college.  Van Wylen was a submarine officer during World War II, and the hymn “We Gather Together” is of Dutch origin.

Pennings emphasized, though, that the new composition isn’t only an amalgamation. “It incorporates the two hymns, but is much more than merely an arrangement. It is a new creative work,” he said. “I also appreciate that it allows each instrument to shine.”

“Fanfare for Nations” premiered on Friday, Nov. 19, at the St. Augustine Cathedral in Kalamazoo, with a performance the next day at Calvin University, which was Van Wylen’s undergraduate alma mater.

The May 8 concert in Holland, titled “Dutch Organ Music Old and New (1521-Today!),” will take place at 7 p.m. at Hope Church.  Tickets are $15, and are available through the event’s listing on the Tulip Time Festival website; if tickets remain, they will be sold at the door.

The program will feature Rhonda Sider Edgington, organist, and Jonathan Ruffer, trumpet.  Sider Edgington, who was an accompanist at Hope for several years, is an organist at Hope Church, an instructor at Calvin University and an international concert artist. Ruffer plays in the St. Andrew's Cathedral Brass band and is an instructor in the Department of Music at Hope.

Pennings taught at Hope from 1988 to 2012, and subsequently became chair of the Department of Mathematics at Davenport University.  He had previously commissioned works for the Hope College Faculty and Student Collaborative Ensemble (2016) and the West Michigan Flute Orchestra (2021).