Laura Middaugh plays piano and Marta Valero sings during the concert for composer and former UM professor Luis Benejam. Photo by Hayden Dempsey

On Thursday, Oct. 28, the music department held a tribute concert at LeBaron Recital Hall in honor of former UM music professor and composer Luis Benejam.

Joseph Landers, associate professor of music, gave a short biography of Benejam at the start of the program.

Benejam was born on Oct. 30, 1914, in Barcelona, Spain. He would go on to found the national orchestra of Ecuador and also work with the Birmingham Symphony before coming to Montevallo in 1963 to teach. Luis Benejam died of cancer on March 28, 1968.

Benejam was given high praise during the opening remarks of the program. Steven Peters, dean of the college of fine arts, called Benejam a “prolific performer and teacher.” Landers said in his remarks that Benejam’s “musical message and compositional voice” is still strong.

After the opening remarks, staff accompanist Laurie Middaugh and classical singer Marta Valero took the stage.

Middaugh and Valero performed nine compositions that Benejam had set to nine poems that included “The Song of the Oar and the Sail”, “The Song of the Mermaid” and “The Curse of Love.”

Valero said the pieces were “very well written.” She could see the images in the music, and “every song had something special.” Valero said her favorite pieces were “The Trade of Love” and “Faery’s Song.”

The program concluded with two pieces written for trumpet, alto saxophone and piano performed by Joseph Ardovino, Lori Ardovino and Middaugh respectively.

David Jacobs, a freshman music major, said the concert “turned out really well.” David Pohler, sophomore vocal performance major, commented he “started crying,” saying it was an honor to hear.

A few of Benejam’s colleagues were present in the audience that night as well. Former University of Montevallo President John Stewart, no relation to the currrent president, was in attendance. He said Benejam had a “great sensitivity to the music” and was “a man of good character.” Robert Cowan, a former teacher of the music department, talked about how he and Benejam worked as equals and “appreciated every gift he had.” Benejam’s daughter, Nuria King, was also present. She said her father was “a gentle, kind soul.”