Concert celebrates Larry Warkentin’s work and service as a teacher and composer at Fresno Pacific University

One of the pillars of the Fresno Pacific University faculty will be celebrated in “A Concert of Premieres.”

The music begins at 3 p.m. Sunday, February 24, in First Congregational Church, 2131 N. Van Ness, at the corner of Van Ness and Yale, Fresno. For more information, call the Music Office at 559-453-2267.

Larry Warkentin will be the guest of honor. Warkentin retires this spring after 40 years of service to the university, its students, the church and the community as a musician, composer and teacher. Admission is free and a reception will follow.

The program consists of the premier of three Warkentin compositions:

  • Sonata for Horn and Piano “Damascus” (2000), features Tom Hiebert, horn, and Lenore Hiebert, piano. The first movement alludes to the ancient account of Saul of Tarsus marching toward Damascus. The second movement reflects the mourning of a nation upon the death of their powerful leader. And the final movement is a tribute to two thousand years of Christian resilience and faithfulness in Syria, remembering that it was in Antioch, Syria, that the followers of Jesus were first called “Christians.” A melody used by Syrian Christians when they sing the Lord’s Prayer is quoted in the central section.
  • Sonatina for Piano (2002) will be performed by Warkentin. This lighthearted work is presented in gratitude to his colleagues of the past 40 years. The first movement is filled with energy and drive and is a tribute to the Baroque composer, Domenico Scarlatti. The second movement is a delicate waltz in the Romantic style of Johann Strauss, Jr. The final movement is a lively rag in the mood of Scott Joplin. Those who know the FPU alma mater may recognize some hint of it in the middle of this movement.
  • String Quartet No. 2 “The Voyage of Life” (2001) features Elaine Ikemoto and Cynthia Stuart, violin; Terry Carl, viola; and Shirley Douty, cello. This work was commissioned by, and is dedicated in gratitude to, Harold Haak, FPU president; Howard Loewen, former provost; and Steve Varvis, dean of the undergraduate college. The work is based on a series of four paintings of the same name by Thomas Cole that hangs in the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. The paintings are individually titled “Childhood,” “Youth,” “Manhood” and “Old Age” and describes life as a boat journey.

Warkentin began working at FPU in 1962 as a part-time instructor of piano and music theory while he studied for his master of arts degree at California State University, Fresno. He then completed his DMA in church music at the University of Southern California in 1966 and rejoined FPU head of the music department.

His first composition for large ensemble, “The Word,” an oratorio for orchestra, soloists and choir, was presented by the Fresno Oratorio Society in 1973. In 1978 Warketin was commissioned by the Mennonite World Conference to write an orchestral work for the assembly in Wichita, Kansas. This work was later performed by the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1984 his “Academic Variations” for piano won first place in the California Teacher's Association state competition. His Piano Concerto in G premiered at FPU, and Warkentin later performed the concerto as piano soloist with the Tulare County Symphony. His String Quartet No. 1 was premiered by the Fresno Arts Quartet in 1976 and has since been performed by the Fresno Orphesus Quartet and the Festival Quartet of Canada on a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) broadcast.

In 1987 Warkentin’s folk opera “Crazy Quilt” was staged at FPU, and his one-act opera “Practice Makes Perfect” was performed on campus in 1996. His ballet music for “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” was performed by the Cynthia Merrill Dance studio in 1983. “This is a Holy Day,” for organ, trumpets and choir was presented on a CBC satellite television broadcast. Several of his works for carillon have been performed at Duke University, University of the South and at Crystal Cathedral in Anaheim, California.

Hymnbooks used by the Church of the Brethren, the Covenant Church and the Mennonite churches in the United States and Canada include his hymn settings. Warkentin wrote both the words and the music for “God of the Eagle,” a hymn that won first place in the 1988 Winnipeg College hymn contest. His most frequently performed work is the Fresno Pacific College Song, which has been sung at graduation for more than 30 years.

Sonata No. 2 for Piano premiered in 1998. This expansive work in four movements pays tribute to Warkentin's hometown of Reedley, California. In 1999 he composed Sonata for Flute and Piano specifically for Jannette Erickson, principal flute in the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra and FPU faculty. In addition to several performances on campus, this work has been heard on KVPR public radio.

Articles by Warkentin have appeared in the Journal of the American Choral Directors Association, the Latin American Music Review, the Christian Leader and Direction Journal. For seven years he was the classical music critic for the Fresno Bee, writing more than 100 reviews. Warkentin has also written several books of poetry.

The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) has honored Warkentin with an annual award for more than a decade. He has received the FPU President’s Distinguished Faculty award and has been recognized by Tabor College as an outstanding alumnus. The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded him four Summer Stipends permitting him to study at Columbia University, The University of Texas and at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.

To celebrate their retirement and 40th wedding anniversary this summer, Larry and his wife, Paula, an elementary school teacher and resource specialist, plan a trip to Europe. Then they hope to enjoy a more relaxed schedule living in Fresno and enjoying their family, especially their grandchildren.

Fresno Pacific University is an accredited Christian university ranked fifth among best values among Western universities—master’s category by U.S. News & World Report. Located on a 42-acre campus in southeast Fresno, FPU has an enrollment of 1,900 students—half in graduate and half in undergraduate programs.  The university also enrolls 12,000 students annually in its professional development studies programs offered locally and throughout the world.