Strings and Spring

Posted by Grace Plath on 4/3/24 9:19 AM

PHC's swing concert

The PHC Music Department will partner with the Shall We Dance Society for the first time to put on a concert of swing music on April 6, 2024.

The chamber orchestra will perform an assortment of classic numbers from the golden age of swing, assisted by the harp and flute ensembles. The concert will also feature swing dancers from the Shall We Dance Society (SWD). This performance marks the first collaboration between the PHC Music Department and SWD. Dr. Scott McCormick, director of the orchestra and harp ensemble, hopes to join music and dance to create a concert that is uniquely appealing to the audience.

“I’m a supporter of all art, but I think accessing the potential of sound through dance is something beautiful,” McCormick said.

Last year’s Celtic Blessings concert featured a small group of Irish dancers from a local studio. McCormick came up with the idea of a swing concert featuring SWD partly in the hope of giving audience members an experience as special as last year’s.

The Shall We Dance Society

McCormick also has a personal connection to swing music. His Canadian grandfather was an aviator in World War I. He met his Scottish wife while swing dancing in London before his deployment. McCormick’s grandfather was eventually shot down by the Germans and hidden by the free French for over a year before returning home. McCormick recalls hearing swing music at his grandparents' house, and memories of his grandfather are closely tied to swing. 

SWD event planner Anna Jankowski noted that the two styles of dance are very different. Swing dancing is social, free, and very improvisational, in contrast with more polished and choreographed forms such as Irish dance. These factors make swing dancing less suitable for choreography. However, Jankowski believes the freedom of swing has a unique joyfulness. “We don’t get a lot of opportunities to play here at PHC, but swing dancing provides that,” she said. That playful energy is what McCormick hopes to tap into at the concert.

McCormick sees swing music, and other genres, as a way to “get outside our box of classical, historical music tradition.” Swing was originally written for big bands. It features close harmonies and difficult rhythms that make the music a challenge for string players. McCormick believes in pushing the limits of his players’ capabilities, and choosing music outside of the normal classical repertoire is one way for him to do that.

Read about a student who conducted the orchestra

The concert will be a challenge for the musicians and the dancers. The dancers will be using a “jam session” style. Every couple will be featured for a certain number of beats, performing a short dance routine while the other dancers cheer them on. “People who do this need to be able to count and have the musicality to know when to enter and when to exit,” said SWD president Marlowe Carroll. “It takes a little experience with swing.”

Music and dance are both highly collaborative and dancing with live music is an even more cooperative experience, making trust between the performers a necessity. Carroll is excited to see how the partnership between the orchestra and SWD will play out. “When there’s good interplay between musicians and dancers, you can feed off each other’s energy and that’s really fun.”

Campus life at PHC


 Patrick Henry College exists to glorify God by challenging the status quo in higher education, lifting high both faith and reason within a rigorous academic environment; thereby preserving for posterity the ideals behind the "noble experiment in ordered liberty" that is the foundation of America.


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