Phillips County News - One Nation, Under God

By Mark Hebert

Mr. Swingen's Swan Song


Mark Hebert

Malta Public School long-time music teacher Larry Swingen recognizes his wife, Barb, at the school's Spring Concert last Tuesday, Swingen's last concert at Malta, as he sets to retire.

From being scolded in kindergarten for humming years ago to being serenaded by his final high school choir class at his last high school choir concert last Tuesday, Malta High School's choir teacher Larry Swingen is always surrounded by music.

Tuesday, May 8, was the POP Concert at Malta High School, featuring both the MHS Concert Band, Jazz Band, Jazz Combo, all under the leadership of Erik Engebretson, and the MHS Swing Choirand Concert Choir, under the tutelage of Swingen in his last hoorah at the school.

In-between songs by the bands, Engebretson spoke about Swingen who is retiring from teaching this year after nearly 40 years at Malta.

"I would like to thank Larry for the last 32 years," Engebretson said. "There has been a lot of water under the bridge, a lot of laughs, a lot of music making, and a lot of really good times. I am going to miss Larry a lot and I wish him the best."

Tuesday was not only the last concert for Swingen, but also the last show for Linda DeVries who has been the school's accompanist since before even Swingen started working for Malta Schools. Swingen thanked DeVries in a letter he wrote to her and read for the audience.

"To the music accompanist that I never expected or hoped for ...thank you for all these years, concerts, so much music, so many live performances, were you kept up with me regardless of where I took us," Swingen said. "I am so thankful to your enormous musical contributions through the years for all the Malta musicians, concerts, festivals, honor choirs, solos, duets, small groups, and also for the many behind the scenes rehearsals... on a personal note, thank you for your positive influence on my teaching, and on my family."

The choirs performed various songs on the evening -including Bohemian Rhapsody complete with lighting effects and a solo of the mariner's chant by Frank Werk which was warmly received by the audience - and in between songs, Swingen thanked the school administration (both past and present) at Malta Schools for supporting the music program and his wife of 37-years, Barb (who is also retiring from teaching at the conclusion of the school year.)

"I'd like to thank Barbara, because she is the rock in my life," Swingen said. "Thank you, my dear."

Ahead of the last scheduled performance of the night, MHS seniors Billie Orahood and Jacob Czereda presented Swingen with a retirement gift from the high school choir, a violin.

"We want to thank you for all the time and effort you have taken and given to each and every one of us," Orahood said.

"Barb is going to hate this," Swingen joked.

The last song at MHS under the tutelage of Swingen was Corner of the Sky, but it was not the last song of the night. As Swingen thanked everyone for attending the night's performance, he got a standing ovation from the crowd as the night came to a close. As the audience started to file out of the auditorium, the choir called Swingen back and asked him to take a seat on stage.

"Mr. E(ngebretson) helped us put a song together and we will be singing Good Riddance," Czereda said.

"It's something unpredictable, but in the end is right," the students sang the Green day lyric, "I hope you had the time of your life."


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