Dedicating Years to Music and Art - Spring Choir Tour 2016
March 22, 2016
After three years in the making, composer William Averitt’s “Where Dreams Fly” will premiere during the Texas Lutheran University School of Music 2016 Spring Choir Tour. School of Music Director Dr. Douglas Boyer often includes premiering pieces in concert programs to expose the students to the process of creating and performing new works, but none have been to this extent. Like many of the works commissioned over the years, Boyer dedicated the piece to an important person who has changed his life. This time he wanted to honor the role of visual arts in our lives and that of a colleague in his.
“There’s something about taking inspiration from visual cues we have in life everyday,” Boyer said. “Visual arts connect with music.” And what better way to embody that notion than with an artist whose professor once praised his work with “Now your colors are singing!”
The works of Marc Chagall, a 20 th century artist known for his breadth of both style and medium, carries the original inspiration for the work. With an exploratory eye and a deep personal passion evident in his work, Chagall tapped into the singing nature of vibrant colors and made a name for himself in fauvism. From select Chagall paintings, Robert Bode, artistic director for Seattle-based Choral Arts and professor of choral music and director of choral activities at University of Missouri at Kansas City, wrote poetry based on each painting, which then inspired Averitt’s composition. “Where Dreams Fly” is a six-movement choral work inspired by original poetry with each movement as varied as Chagall’s style. From grand sweeping crescendos to carnival-inspired staccato to love ballads, the new work not only encompasses Chagall as an artist, but the arc of his near century of life.
One month to the day of the concert to kick off the Annual Spring Choir Tour, the Texas Lutheran University Choir members gathered for a special rehearsal. Boyer enlisted his good friend and colleague, Professor Landa King, to share her professional insights about Chagall’s life and works to give the students a deeper understanding of what they were singing. Admittedly excited to have this rare opportunity to drill down this deeply into an artist, King spent the better part of an hour and a half discussing Chagall’s upbringing, his love life and mysteries surrounding his work. After she presented each work and the new discoveries revealed upon closer examination, Boyer would conduct the corresponding movement. The choir sang as the piano four-hands accompaniment was performed by Deb Mayes and Cristina Castro, followed by a shower of applause and compliments from King.
Before the rehearsal concluded, Boyer explained the years journey of creating the work and that he often dedicated newly commissioned pieces to those who have changed the trajectory of how he lives his life. He then announced that the piece was dedicated to none other than his dear friend and colleague of many years, Prof. Landa King. Shocked and emotionally overcome, King buried her face in her hands as the choir applauded and Boyer embraced her. He presented her with a framed copy of the first page of the score and she humbly thanked him.
“It’s so moving to me,” King said later. “It’s one of, if not the nicest things that’s ever happened to me. I was surprised and shocked and I feel totally unworthy.”
King considered the dedication a total honor, even more so when she had the chance to meet the composer and poet. “It’s such an honor to have my name associated with those musicians. I have a great premonition that the music is so beautiful it will be a great contribution to the world.” This would not be surprising considering several of Averitt’s commissioned works have gone on to be performed regularly at national music conventions.
Working so closely with Boyer and the other faculty members, she was surprised they were able to keep the secret so long. She was honored to have the opportunity to present Chagall’s work to the students, especially since professors’ schedules rarely afford them the time to appreciate the work of their colleagues. Experiencing a rehearsal was eye-opening for her as she was able to see firsthand the work the students and professors put into preparing a work for performance.
“It’s not as much about me as about how lucky TLU is to have such an amazing choir director,” King said. “I’m amazed at his elegance and grace. I tell the students they are so fortunate to have him because he’s so gifted.”
The experience has drawn them all closer, including the students. She hopes others can witness the artists working with the students behind the scenes as they describe the technique and meaning behind their work, giving a layer of appreciation we sometimes miss when we just experience the final piece.
Pictured: Robert Bode, Landa King, and William Averitt at a rehearsal for "Where Dreams Fly."
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