BROWNWOOD – October 25, 2012 – Howard Payne University is known for providing unique educational experiences, but quite a few people on campus are still in awe of one such opportunity presented to students this summer. One of the most discussed events of the summer, the 2012 Olympic Games, was held in London and HPU students not only were in attendance – they were on stage.
Winds of Triumph, HPU’s highly lauded instrumental ensemble comprised of 13 students and recent graduates, was invited by the Greater London Authority to play in a number of venues throughout London in conjunction with the Olympic Games. HPU was one of only four university musical groups invited to perform.
“The students were selected to represent Howard Payne University, the state of Texas and the United States of America as musical ambassadors at the Olympic Games,” said Stephen Goacher, professor of music and director of Winds of Triumph.
Though a few months have passed since the performances, the memories are still fresh. Before arriving in London, the group traveled to Paris to play the Arène de Montmartre.
“In both Paris and London the students received standing ovations and had requests for multiple encores,” he said. “We were told that people in London were very reserved and never asked for encores. But they did for our group.”
The students were strengthened and encouraged by the audiences.
“We were the smallest group performing,” said Allen Andrus, a senior from Anson. “We were worried about how we would sound against the bigger bands in an audience situation. But the crowd was very responsive, very receptive. We were playing spiritual pieces and I could see people mouthing the words.”
London venues included Exhibition Road, Victoria Park and Olympic Park.
“The most memorable moment of the trip for me was at Victoria Park,” said Tyler Cooper, a senior from Brownwood. “It was a very special performance because it had been raining all day and it seemed like it was never going to stop. As soon as we played the first note, the rain stopped completely.”
According to Cooper, the group played the entire set without a drop of rain. When they played the last chord, the rain returned.
Said Goacher, “We really felt like God was caring for us and looking out for us. All of our needs were met.”
When they arrived at Olympic Park, the group was treated to a unique performing experience.
“We had the opportunity to play in the world’s first inflatable acoustic shell,” Goacher said. “Our ensemble fit perfectly in the shell. Though no microphones were used, our music could be heard throughout Olympic Park as if there were theater speakers right next to the ears of each member of the audience.”
By the time of their second performance at Olympic Park, word about Winds of Triumph had spread.
“Entire groups of Olympic Park workers took their break during our performance and came just to hear our band,” Goacher said. “It was a wonderful reception for our students.”
Goacher described a photo taken at that particular performance.
“People of every nation, every color, every land, every tribe were all seated on the grounds of the park listening to the music,” he said. “The music we played was to the glory of God and presented in an upbeat style with pleasant harmonies. The people were just drawn to it. Maybe that’s a scene of Heaven. The weather was perfect and people from every nation were gathered in a beautiful outdoor spot listening to the music that praises God.”
Goacher and the students expressed appreciation to the many people who made the trip possible.
“Obviously when you undertake something like this, it is fantastically expensive,” Goacher said. “Everyone shouldered the expense. We found we were greatly blessed and greatly supported by donors. The response was wonderful. In fact, it was overwhelming. We more than met our goal for fundraising.”
Tyler Matthews, a senior from Peaster, expressed appreciation on behalf of the students.
“As a group, we want to thank our faithful fans and new fans we received along the way,” he said. “Winds of Triumph would not be the experience it is for us if were not able to provide the music for them. Above all, I want to thank God because without Him this would not have happened.”
According to Goacher, the students proved to everyone, including themselves, that they are capable of great feats.
“What our students learned back in the classrooms and rehearsal halls in Brownwood, Texas, was still relevant on the world stage.”
In addition to Andrus, Cooper and Matthews, other performers on the trip included Elizabeth Bates, a May 2011 graduate from Austin; Christopher Burnett, a sophomore from Early; Mercedes Cardenas, a junior from Brownwood; Kimberly Collins, an August 2012 graduate from Bay City; Talitha Cook, a May 2012 graduate from Howe; Taylor Cook, a junior from Howe; Megan Irwin, a sophomore from Brownwood; Grant Newman, a senior from Springtown; Ethan Yeats, a sophomore from Big Spring; and Kyle Ziegler, a senior from Brownwood. Sponsors included Doris Goacher and Kevin and Jill Holamon.
Photo cutlines: Audiences gather to watch HPU’s Winds of Triumph perform at Olympic Park in London.
Winds of Triumph perform onstage at Exhibition Road in London.