Dr. Guy B. Webb sat almost alone backstage, focused and composed.
The soloists, the choral ensembles and the symphony orchestra members had taken the stage at Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts. He would be last out.
Webb, the director of choral activities, was about to conduct his last concert on the MSU campus.
Webb’s last MSU project would be directing Concert Chorale performances in England and Scotland from May 17-28. Come June 1, he would be celebrating the birthday of his wife, Barbara, instead of helping Bears delve into music.
But first his attention was turned to the President’s Concert, MSU’s annual free presentation of a choral and orchestral masterwork.
He selected “A German Requiem” by Johannes Brahms. Requiems can be dark; after all, they are performed as a memorial after a death. But this one, Webb said, is different. It’s one of his favorites because it has beautiful text about comforting the mourning, as well as wonderful music that celebrates life.
A few days later, he would call conducting this piece the crowning achievement of his career.
Many former students and longtime collaborators joined him on stage for the concert. That’s not uncommon — community members are actively involved in MSU choirs, and Webb said he is going to work with the Springfield Chamber Chorus into infinity.
Melissa Scott, ’86 & ’10, was among the contributing voices. When she lost her father in her early 20s, Webb became a father figure. She and her husband, Dan, were backstage, encouraging people to give to a fund they have started. The Dr. Guy B. Webb Touring Scholarship will help choir students see the world.
Webb is loved, admired and respected, the Scotts said, and directly after the concert, the adoration was apparent. Students, peers and community members lined up in front of Webb backstage to shake his hand, whisper a fond memory, say sincere thanks.
When Webb conducts, Melissa Scott said, he takes performers to another place. During this final concert on campus, she wanted to soak up enough of his presence to last her a lifetime.
It was clear some of the other performers felt the same; throughout the hour of the requiem, people on stage and in the audience became emotional. Some looked down; some wiped tears.
As the last notes hung in the air, Webb put down the baton.
He blew a kiss to those on stage.
It was impossible to tell if the standing ovation was for this performance, or for all of the people he inspired in three decades at Missouri State.