Longing for normalcy: Power, persistence, and hope through Prof. Gregory Berg’s ’60 Years Young’ performance
Amid a pandemic and a lot of uncertainty, we are all looking for a sense of comfort and normalcy that can feel difficult to find. Our daily routines have changed, as have the ways in which we gather and get together.
Carthage, and specifically the Fine Arts Department, recognized this longing for normalcy and the need for human connection, so they decided to continue a variety of productions and concerts for the students, faculty, and staff. I was lucky enough to attend the first event of the year, a faculty recital titled “60 Years Young: Sampling the Greatness of Camelot, The Fantasticks, and Oliver.” The concert celebrated the 60th birthday of Professor Gregory Berg. Prof. Berg is well-known at Carthage. He teaches private voice lessons, accompanies the Carthage Choir, leads the Lincoln Chamber Singers, and oversees the opera workshop, while also teaching classes in opera history and vocal diction.
When I first heard about the concert, I was eager to attend but also wondered how such an event could be successful. I have attended many performances at Carthage but never in the middle of a pandemic. I did not know what to expect, and truthfully, I felt nervous butterflies as I walked toward the A. F. Siebert Chapel to the concert.
However, the second I began to ascend the familiar steps of the beautiful chapel, my nerves fell to rest. I was greeted by two incredibly kind Fine Arts Department workers, who looked both excited and prepared for the event ahead. They showed me where to find my seat and assured me that the show was going to be a great one.
When I reached the seating at the top of the chapel, I was amazed by not just the extraordinary view, but by the clear seating set-up. There were several people who already found their seats, and despite being 6 feet apart, they were talking, laughing, and expressing their excitement for the performance. The feel of the room was as buzzing and energetic as always, just from a safe distance.
The moment Prof. Berg entered the room, applause broke out. Everyone was thrilled to be back together at our wonderful campus, celebrating Prof. Berg’s incredible achievements. When Prof. Berg came on the stage, he addressed both the audience members in the chapel and those watching from home, noting “how good it feels to be in a room together.” He acknowledged that the times we are living in are uncertain but that we are incredibly lucky to have each other in these moments. Once Prof. Berg introduced us to the concert and what was ahead, he began his first song, which included the incredible line, “Thanks to the thousands of songs I have sung, I’d like to think I am 60 years young.” I have never had the privilege of listening to Prof. Berg sing before, but when he began the first song, I was blown away. The power of his voice filled the room and left everyone watching, from home and from the chapel, in awe.
As Prof. Berg moved through the concert, singing various excerpts from “Camelot,” “The Fantasticks,” and “Oliver,” the unmatched energy of the room only grew. Even though my peers and I were not sitting shoulder to shoulder, there was a new and interesting feel that the music brought. It was as if you had your own physical space to take in the music, sounds, and magic being created in the chapel. The variation in emotion, tempo, and tones of the various songs was breathtaking and filled my mind with nothing but peace and ease.
When the concert concluded, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride for the incredible accomplishments of Prof. Berg and his ability to share his talent with us. Although the concert was a celebration for Prof. Berg, he gave us a gift too. Through taking his audience on a journey of music and song, Prof. Berg gave us the gift of unity, normalcy, courage, and most importantly, hope.