In the fall of 2005, Voices commemorated the 25th anniversary of the chorus. The centerpiece of the observance was a new choral work by American composer, Gwyneth Walker, performed at a special celebratory concert. A 25th Anniversary Fund was launched in the fall of 2002 to cover the additional expenses of the celebration and to begin build an endowment to allow the chorus to broaden its scope in future years.
Voices discussions began about appropriate ways to celebrate twenty-five years of choral music under the auspices of the Voices, commissioning a new choral work quickly rose to the top of our list. What better way to foster the spirit of singing and neighborly collegiality than by offering an original composition to fellow choral singers that would bear the name of our chorus and find a national audience through publication?
Conversations ensued about the selection of a composer for the task and Dr. Gwyneth Walker from Braintree, Vermont was chosen. In March 2002, Dr. Walker served a weeklong residency at Meredith College. Dr. Sue Klausmeyer, Voices Director spoke with her there and conducted the UNC Women’s Glee Club singing two of her compositions in a concert in Carswell Hall. Her students loved those pieces; the poetic settings were expressive and passionate. There was ample opportunity for expansive singing and a heartfelt sincerity about the music.
Then, during the summer of 2002, when Dr. Klausmeyer had the opportunity to conduct the first ever summer session with Voices, the idea of an All-American program had strong appeal. Repertoire fell into place, including pieces from composers William Billings, Stephen Foster, Randall Thompson, Aaron Copland, and Alice Parker. Interestingly, the piece that pulled the program together, and became the theme for the event, was Gwyneth Walker’s setting of “How Can I Keep From Singing.” Her wide-ranging piano accompaniment made one keyboard sound like two. And the energetic and joyous development of the Quaker text made this a piece that no one could forget.
Our anniversary commission by Dr. Walker was a multi-movement work scored for chorus, brass, organ, and percussion. The composer attended the premiere performance by Voices and the work has been published by E.C. Schirmer. Poetry was selected that celebrates our heritage of music and captures some of the joy we feel in singing together in a community chorus.
To learn more about Gwyneth Walker, view a list of her compositions and hear samples of her music, visit her website: http://www.gwynethwalker.com.