Stephen F. Austin State University

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SFA's choral ensembles celebrate works of Bernstein

March 1, 2018 - Robbie Goodrich
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - The Choral Union and Women's Choir at Stephen F. Austin State University will present the program "The Best of All Possible Worlds: A Bernstein Celebration" at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 6, in Cole Concert Hall on the SFA campus.

The concert's music celebrates the 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein, who is "arguably the greatest, and most diverse, musical mind in our country's history," according to Dr. Tod Fish, associate director of choral activities for the SFA School of Music.

"The concert will be a display of Bernstein's skillful fusing of styles over the course of his compositional life," Fish said.

Bernstein's style has been described as both "urban" and "urbane," as he was able to incorporate all the musical attributes laid before him as a conductor, performer, pedagogue and scholar, Fish explained.

"Bernstein was able to masterfully combine the forms and styles of European composers with the driving rhythmic impetus of urban America to create a style he described as 'unashamedly diverse,' consequently 'the best of all possible worlds,'" Fish said.

Members of the SFA voice faculty will join the ensembles to sing a choral setting of an arrangement by Robert Page of "Make Our Garden Grow" from "Candide."

Dr. Kristin Lyman, assistant professor of music education, will accompany as percussionist the Women's Choir and Choral Union's performance of "Chichester Psalms."

"This work was important to Bernstein," Fish said. "He took a 15-month sabbatical from his conducting duties with the New York Philharmonic from 1964 to 1965, using the time for soul-searching and reflection to see whether or not he was out of touch with modern trends and to decide in what direction contemporary music, particularly his own, was heading. In the end, he decided he still had something to say and would achieve it through tonality, which bucked the trends of the time. 'Chichester Psalms' is the result of this decision and was premiered in 1965."

Other guests joining in the performance of "Chichester Psalms" are music faculty member Dr. Christina Harmon and her student, Polina Golubkova, who will accompany the combined choirs on the organ. Harpist Rachel Clark, student of faculty member Emily Mitchell, as well as percussionist Briley Patterson, student of Dr. Bradley Meyer, director of percussion studies at SFA, will also perform.

The ensembles will combine to perform "Sanctus" from "Mass" as the concert's finale.

"With this, Bernstein created a work that combined the liturgy of the Roman Catholic Mass, passages from The Book of Genesis, Hebrew benedictions, and Buddhists texts to create a work that focused upon ecumenism, human dignity and human rights," Fish said. "'Sanctus' serves as a strong example of the work's musical and ecumenical spirit, as it uses driving rhythms within different combinations of meter through the incorporation of both Latin and Hebrew texts."

The Women's Choir will perform arrangements of "America" and "One Hand, One Heart" from "West Side Story."

"'America' is going to be a dramatic display that will be blocked by Nita Hudson, a member of our voice faculty," Fish said. "'One Hand, One Heart' will also have Shelby Slacalek joining us for an interpretive dance."

Voice faculty performers include Debbie Berry, Emily Milius, Debbie Dalton, Nita Hudson, Ric Berry, Garry Leonberger, Scott LaGraff and Chris Turner, accompanied by collaborative pianist Hyun Ji Oh.

"This is going to be an exciting celebration of Leonard Bernstein," Fish said. "This music will display his gift for fusing styles together to create a voice of his own."

Tickets are $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and $3 for students and youth. For tickets or more information, call the SFA Fine Arts Box Office at (936) 468-6407 or visit http://www.finearts.sfasu.edu/.