Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Guest Artists, Creative Collaborations, and Artistic Beauty Abound!

In the Department of Music and Theatre at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC), we sometimes proclaim "We are small, but mighty!" to try to describe the creativity, passion, and resourcefulness of the faculty and students to produce the many high quality events throughout each year, enriching the College community and the Wabash Valley. As an example, read about all of the wonderful events presented by "the little department that could" during the month of April.
McIntyre rehearsing the Chamber Choir
On April 7, 2016, Dr. John McIntyre presented his compositions in a diverse and exciting program, featuring a vocal ensemble of professional singers from four different states, the Indiana State University Brass Ensemble, and many more performers, including Michael Boswell, Associate Professor of Music, and Ron Maurey, Instructor of Music, at SMWC. This program brought an energy to the Conservatory and the campus and was very well attended. Below is one beautiful setting by Dr. McIntyre of the hymn "Beneath the Cross of Jesus" performed on this concert. 

Professional Ensemble Singers
following concert
Dr. John McInytre, composer, with
colleague/singer Michael Boswell
Then, on April 22, 2016, Guest Artist and Grammy winner Estelí Gomez, soprano, arrived on campus to begin rehearsing with the SMWC Chorale and Madrigals, along with Director Michael Boswell and Guest Artist Dr. Michael Boney, organ. The Department posted a couple of sneak peeks prior to the Spring Choral Concert on Sunday, April 24th, and Norwegian composer of the "Magnificat", Kim André Arnesen posted one of them on his own Facebook page.

Guest Artists with SMWC faculty M. Boswell
On Saturday April 23rd, Gomez facilitated a Voice Master Class in Cecilian Auditorium with three of our SMWC music students (Nathan Mensah, senior; Allison Payonk, sophomore; and Kristin Foster, freshman), one ISU music student and a student from Terre Haute North High School. The master class lasted 2 1/2 hours and the students commented that it went by too quickly! They learned so much in a short time and Gomez was able to provide some new context to pieces they have been working on all semester.
SMWC Music Faculty and Guest Artists E. Gomez and C. Davin
The Spring Choral Concert on Sunday, April 24th, titled Northern Lights: Exploring the Choral Music of Scandinavia, took place in the Church of the Immaculate Conception. The audience first heard Estelí Gomez, soprano soloist, on "Norwegian Trilogy" arranged by Margaret King. Estelí was standing in the balcony and took many audience members by surprise. Then, as SMWC music faculty Sharon R. Boyle described how Boswell was able to bring Gomez to SMWC and also introduced the next piece, the Madrigals moved to the balcony, where Michael Boswell conducted the "Magnificat"by Kim André Arnesen with Michael Boney accompanying on the organ. As her soprano voice rang throughout the church, the Madrigals' voices joined her, and the beauty was palpable in the soaring melodic lines and harmonies. During the 4th movement, "Et Misericordia", many audience members expressed emotions by taking deep breaths, tearing up, closing their eyes, or smiling. The entire piece lasted more than 40 minutes, and the audience was asked to just take in the music and listen in silence until the very end. During the 6th movement, "Suscepit Israel", Gomez was joined in a duet by senior Christina Pifer. Following the concert, Pifer's mother was in tears, stating how important the experience had been for her daughter. Many in the audience seemed to be transported somewhere else as they listened, while others appeared prayerful or in meditation. The concert ended with a rousing piece titled "Safari", which involved Michael Boswell, conductor, turning to the audience and singing an enthusiastic solo, which was then answered by Estelí Gomez' own. The Chorale and Madrigals energetically responded by singing, clapping, and stomping as Gomez improvised an incredible yodel-like vocal line over the top.
 Ring Song following concert
Gomez with Christina Pifer, senior

On April 25, 2016, Gomez was joined by acclaimed guitarist Colin Davin for a Guest Artist Concert entitled Destinations Unknown: Songs of Home and Travel in Cecilian Auditorium. The duo presented Spanish pieces by Manuel de Falla, German pieces by Schumann and French pieces by Duparc. In this concert Estelí demonstrated again how she is able to adjust her vocal tone and placement to suit any style or nuance of a piece. Davin wowed the audience with his clear intention of each note, his technical prowess on the classical guitar, and the beautiful voicing he presented in the guitar melodies. The audience was able to truly enjoy hearing some of the finest musicians ever brought to our campus. Below is a piece "Sevillanas Del Siglo XVII" from Canciones espanolas antiguas by Lorca which demonstrates the energetic pairing of voice and guitar.

         Guest Artists with SMWC faculty member 

Richardson performing during live concert recording
The final event of the semester was the live concert recording of Dr. Tracy Richardson, on April 28, 2016 in Cecilian Auditorium. Her concert included covers of some of her favorite songs over several decades, in addition to her own songs, written in a range of styles including country, blues, gospel, and pop. The live recording will be used to create a CD to hopefully help fund a future recording project. The mellow sounds of her rich alto voice with the elegant picture of her playing a Steinway truly demonstrate the diversity of music offerings from the Department of Music and Theatre.

In writing about these artistic offerings and as an audience member, I feel there must truly be hope for humanity, having the ability to create such beauty. Congratulations to everyone involved in all our concerts, recitals, and productions throughout the 2015-16 academic year!

Students learn about life as a professional singer
For more information about the Department of Music and Theatre, please check out our website!

- Sharon R. Boyle, blog author, is Associate Professor of Music Therapy and Coordinator of the Undergraduate Music Therapy Program.

*All Photo Credits: Sharon R. Boyle

Sunday, September 20, 2015

SMWC Homecoming Choral Concert 2015: There's No Place Like...Home

Pictured: SMWC Choirs with SP Schola Cantorum
Photo Credit: Anthony Dinkel
Another Homecoming at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College has come and gone, but the connections remain. The theme of this year's Saint Mary-of-the-Woods Chorale and Madrigals Homecoming Concert was "There's No Place Like...Home". The music chosen for the program by Michael Boswell, Director of Choirs, truly emphasized this theme in many ways.

The concert opened with a piece entitled "Hark! On the Windswept Breton Shore" by LaFarge. The SMWC Chorale was joined by the Sisters of Providence Schola Cantorum providing a musical representation of their connection. 
Pictured: Madrigals with Michael Boswell
Photo Credit: Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College

The SMWC Madrigals then performed two pieces. The first was "The Angels Will Guide You Home" by Eleanor Daley, describing a Heavenly home, and the second piece was a beautiful arrangement by Andrea Ramsey titled "Travelin' Home". This piece also featured Sharilyn Spicknall playing violin. The beauty of this piece is difficult to articulate, but as the choir sang the word home at the very end, the violin sounded a sustained note to create such a peaceful moment. Here is a short clip from the beginning of this piece during the rehearsal prior to the concert.

Pictured: Alumnae and Student Choir chat during rehearsal break
Photo Credit: Sharon R. Boyle
The SMWC Chorale and twenty-five returning Alumnae then came together to sing several pieces. Director Michael Boswell spoke a few words before they began:

"We have alum singers returning this year whose graduation dates range from 1968-2015, and I think many of them may still feel like their returning today is a return home. Faculty and staff may work here for decades, literally raising their families here, but they are often connected to other institutions and other geographical locations as well. Still, I believe many of us consider Saint Mary-of-the-Woods to be 'home.' So, what is it about this place that holds on to all of us? There is certainly a special spiritual element here. On that, I think we can all agree. But what else is it?...this is a place where you feel connected to others. This is a place where you feel like part of a community. This is a place where you have importance. I think that what we have that makes this place feel like home, is each other."

Pictured: Current SMWC music students
Photo Credit: Sharon R. Boyle
The first piece, "Come to Shore" by Audrey Snyder was followed by "Never Far From Home" by Mark Patterson. The full sound of the Chorale and Alumnae longingly singing the text "I leave the hills that I have known, the woods and meadows I have roamed. The journey calls and I must go, but I will never be far from home" brought tears to some audience members' eyes.

The final piece "Like a Tree", by Margaret Douroux/Arr. Lon Beery, was a gospel piece encompassing challenges to be overcome, but also spoke of not giving up and remaining strong:

Just like a tree that's planted by the water, 
I shall not be moved.
Pictured Hanna Mills and Sidnie Crowley
Photo Credit: Sharon R. Boyle
Though the winds are blowing all around me, 
I shall not be moved.
These winds will never last. This storm is sure to pass. 
This trial is just a test. So I shall not be moved. 

Though winds of affliction sweep over my soul,
And billows and storm clouds continue to roll, 
I shall not be moved!

Pictured: SMWC Chorale and Alumnae
Photo Credit: Sharon R. Boyle
The concert ended with the singing of the three traditional songs song every year at Homecoming:
Our Lady of Providence.........
by Rose Angela Horan, S.P./Cecilia Clare Bocard, S.P.
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Song......
by Gertrude Smith, S.P./Dorothy Newland '32
The Ring Song.....
by SMWC Class of 1962

As all other alumnae who were present in the church, along with all current students and Sisters of Providence, stood in a circle around the sanctuary singing "The Ring Song", one-by-one, each slowly reached out and held the hand of the person standing next to them. One-by-one, they began to link the circle by holding hands as the melody rang throughout the church. Those singing and those listening were filled with a sense of belonging to something special, of feeling connected to everyone in that space and all those who had come before...and some shed tears. There has been struggle and yet there is always hope for those who return year after year to reconnect and feel the true sense of community.

As we wait for our next return "home" to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College through a reunion or Homecoming, let us consider these words by Hildegard of Bingen:

Everything that is in the heavens, on earth, and under the earth
is penetrated with connectedness, penetrated with relatedness.

Pictured: Danielle and Roni O'Connor, alums
Photo Credit: Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
Photo Credit: Anthony Dinkel
Pictured: Accompanist, Ronald D. Maurey
Photo Credit: Sharon R. Boyle
List of students and alumnae present at Homecoming Concert

Rehearsal of Chorale and Alumnae Choir

Michael Boswell, Director
Ronald D. Maurey, Accompanist
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Maurey
Photo Credit: Sharon R. Boyle

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

SMWC Director of Choirs Part of Grammy-Nominated CD Project

To be nominated for a GRAMMY Award is something that very few people can cross off their bucket list. But you can now count Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) Associate Professor of Music and Director of Choirs Michael Boswell as one of those people. Boswell sang with Conspirare, a professional choral organization in Austin, Texas, on their album, “The Sacred Spirit of Russia,” which was recently nominated for “Best Choral Performance.”

To read more about this exciting choral experience, click the link below:
SMWC Director of Choirs Participated in Grammy-Nominated CD Project

Saturday, October 11, 2014

SMWC Homecoming Concert 2014: Music and Memories

The 2014 SMWC Alumnae Homecoming Choir
Photo Credit: Sharon R. Boyle
Sr. Marie Brendan Harvey rehearsing
Photo Credit: Anthony Dinkel
Photo Credit: Sharon R Boyle
Saturday, October 4, 2014, was a day to be remembered. The Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College Chorale and Madrigals Homecoming Concert "Music and Memories" was held in the Church of the Immaculate Conception and included many memorable songs, traditions, and people.

Generations of alumnae returned to sing together, to meet new students, and to remember the traditions of the SMWC Chorale and Madrigals. The program included songs with special meaning, such as the piece "Music, When Soft Voices Die" by Roger Quilter, lovingly dedicated to the memory of Marian Krajewska Bates, who was the Voice Professor at SMWC from 1970-2005. She sadly passed away this summer due to injuries sustained from an automobile accident. Her legacy lives on in each person who had the privilege of knowing her and for those who learned from her.

Music, when soft voices die, vibrates in the memory;
Odours, when sweet violets sicken, live within the sense they quicken.
Rose leaves when the rose is dead, are heaped for the beloved’s bed;
And so thy thoughts when thou art gone, love itself shall slumber on.
(Poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley)

Michael Boswell has taught voice at SMWC since 2005 and
 has been Director of Choirs since 2009
Photo Credit: Anthony Dinkel
Photo Credit: Anthony Dinkel

Aligning with the theme of Music and Memories, Director of Choirs Michael Boswell invited Sister Marie Brendan Harvey to return and conduct two pieces with the Alumnae Choir. Harvey began teaching at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in 1950, where she taught Voice, Chorale, and Chant. In 1958, she started the Madrigals, pulling the best voices in Chorale together in a group of twelve women, offering three programs a year. While Director of Choirs at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College for almost thirty years, she led many concerts in conjunction with many men's choirs which included Saint Joseph's College, Ball State University, and Xavier University. She also premiered Sister Cecilia Clare Bocard's well-known A Cycle of Psalms.
Sr. Marie Brendan Harvey, then and now
Photo Credit: Sharon R. Boyle
As a celebration of both Brendan and Bocard, the SMWC Madrigals, directed by Michael Boswell, performed 'The Lord is My Shepard' and 'Cast Thy Care on the Lord' from Bocard's A Cycle of Psalms at the Homecoming Concert.

Boswell made some remarks before the Alumnae Choir sang on the concert:

"The first piece they will sing, ‘In This Ancient House’ speaks of a place filled with memories, not so different than our very own Church of the Immaculate Conception! As they sing this piece, I encourage you to reflect upon some of your favorite memories in this special and sacred space." 
Rehearsing "In This Ancient House"
Photo Credit: Sharon R Boyle
As the choir sang this haunting piece, the church seemed to fill with memories evoked by the music. The voices blended to create yet another moment in time which would remain in the historic building long after the music ended. 

Sr. Marie Brendan Harvey then proceeded to direct the Alumnae Homecoming Choir in performing "Danny Boy" and "Blessing", as she was known for singing Irish songs when she served on the music faculty. The energy of this woman defied her years and the choirs reciprocated her energy! She instructed many students in her time at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, leaving them as part of her legacy to the world and establishing a standard of excellence in the choral programs. Also connecting the past with the present was the mention of Sister Susan Pietrus, DMA, who was a member of the Madrigals under direction of Sr. Marie Brendan Harvey when she was a Woods student. Pietrus went on to become Director of Choirs at SMWC in 1980 and served in this role until she passed away in 2008.
Sr. Marie Brendan Harvey rehearsing with the Alumnae Choir
Photo Credit: Sharon R. Boyle
Seniors singing "How Can I Keep From Singing"
Photo Credit: Anthony Dinkel

"How Can I Keep From Singing" was a rousing piece, featuring the current seniors, singing the solo part as a small group. The Homecoming Concert ended as Boswell ended the same concert the previous year, singing the Alma Mater "Our Lady of Providence" and "The Ring Song". Boswell invited all alumnae in the audience, as well as the choirs, to circle the church to sing, stating: 

"It's time for YOU to sing the songs of YOUR community. I would like to invite all current students and any alums that are here today to circle the Church for the singing of 'Our Lady of Providence' the Alma Mater and the 'Ring Song'. The words are available in your program. These are your songs, and your chance to feel the power of memories through music!"
Pictured: Jessica Claycomb and Patricia Walke
Photo Credit: Anthony Dinkel

And sing they did! Click here to enjoy the singing of Our Lady of Providence, by all who were present at the concert. 

Michael Boswell (L); Sr. Laurette Bellamy (C); Ron Maurey (R)
Sr. Laurette Bellamy, Professor Emeritus, taught on Music Faculty
(and served as Chair) at SMWC for many years,
starting the Music Therapy Program in 1983.
Ron Maurey has accompanied at SMWC
since the 90's and remains as Instructor of Piano
Photo Credit: Ron Maurey
Receiving a standing ovation following the direction of the Alumnae Choir
Photo Credit: Anthony Dinkel

From the Past to the Present: Sr. Marie Brendan Harvey (L); Michael Boswell (C); and Sr. Martha Steidl (R)
Sr. Harvey and Sr. Steidl started as Novitiates in the Sisters of Providence together
and both served on the Music Faculty at SMWC for many years.
Photo Credit: Sharon R Boyle

Rebecca Kloskowski, senior
Photo Credit: Anthony Dinkel
Dr. Tracy Richardson ('88), Chair of SMWC Music and Theatre Dept,
singing in Alumnae Choir
Photo Credit: Anthony Dinkel

Ron Maurey, Accompanist,
conferring with Sr. Marie Brendan Harvey
Photo Credit: Sharon R Boyle
Michael Boswell with Elizabeth Hunter ('08)
Photo Credit: Elizabeth Hunter
Ron Maurey with Sherry Bube ('14)
Photo Credit: Ron Maurey

Until we come together again for another Reunion or Homecoming Concert, consider these words by Mary Oliver. 

–––all of them were singing.
And, of course, so it seemed,
so was I.
Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn’t last

For more than a few moments.
It’s one of those magical places wise people
like to talk about.
One of the things they say about it, that is true,

is that, once you’ve been there,
you’re there forever.

(from "Such Singing in the Wild Branches" by Mary Oliver, from Owls and Other Fantasies: Poems and Essays, © Copyright 2003 by Mary Oliver.)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Day 9 and Day 10: The Home Stretch

Our group has had a great time on this tour, but we are TIRED! Many of us have remarked how we wish we'd brought pedometers to measure the distance we have walked since we left on March 6th. The early days of the tour seem like a distant memory, and the bus feels like a second home. There is something very unique about how a group comes together through a bus tour.

Day 9:
Yesterday we had the entire day to continue sightseeing in Washington, D.C. Because the weather was supposed to be a bit warmer than the previous day, a majority of the group chose to start with the memorials: Korean War Veteran's Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, and finally the World War II Memorial. All of the memorials are meaningful in their own way. The Korean War Veterans Memorial is striking as there are many statues of soldiers actively walking through the foliage.

The Lincoln Memorial is truly moving in that Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on those steps, facing the reflection pool and Washington Monument, as he gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. It is powerful because of its sheer size and while it can be imposing, the statue feels empathetic and thoughtful.

The White House
 The Vietnam Veteran's Memorial is thought provoking...and we overheard one tour guide telling a group that it was designed in a way to make it look like it is cascading names toward the center of the memorial...as if it is drowning in names. Interesting take on it, but regardless, it is powerful to look at this wall and see your own reflection among the many, many names of those who died in Vietnam.

The World War II Veteran's Memorial was truly stunning in size and scope...and in how it is placed. On one side you can turn and see the Lincoln Monument, turn 180 degrees and then see the Washington Monument. Each state is represented with a pillar and there is a wall of stars...each star represents 100 people, so you truly get a sense of the number of people lost. Each faction of the war (Pacific, Pearl Harbor, Normandy, etc.) is represented as well.
WWII Memorial

Students on steps of Lincoln Memorial
Following the Memorials, everyone headed to the museums they didn't get to see the day before, in addition to visiting the National Archives to see the original Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights. They are housed in an incredible building, with so much beautiful detail and design.
Vietnam Veteran Memorial Wall
We headed to dinner at Subway and Au Bon Pain on our way to the National Symphony Orchestra Concert at Kennedy Center. (Fun fact: Our bus driver and a few students who stayed on the bus during this time report that that they saw the President's Motorcade go by). The concert hall was beautiful and the music program was as well. The concert opened with two pieces from Debussy's Nocturnes, followed by Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op. 43" featuring Daniil Trifonov, pianist (he is in his early 20's and has already won several prestigious competitions). He played an encore after the audience continued to stand, clap, and yell "brava!". Kelley O'Connor, mezzo-soprano, performed with the orchestra on Falla's "El amor brujo" (no standing ovation there) and the evening concluded with the sublime Respighi "Pini di Roma" ("Pines of Rome"). The conductor, Rafael Fruhbeck de Burgos, is in his early 80's and walked out unsteadily each time he came to the stage, but as soon as he was on his podium, he exuded energy and vitality. That is why we were so surprised when numerous orchestra members stopped playing and lunged for him at the end of the 3rd movement as he began to collapse. He sat on the edge of the podium, raised his baton and indicated that the orchestra should continue. He proceeded to conduct from the seated position, resting occasionally and weakly gesturing as needed. In the 4th movement, in the Pines of the Appian Way, the music began to build and crescendo- suddenly he began to stand and resumed with more energy. It was riveting and as if the music itself picked him up, rejuvenated him, and allowed the entire audience to experience the moment between him and the marvelous orchestra. It was phenomenal and demonstrated pure professionalism for our students in attendance!
Korean War Veteran Memorial

Day 10:
Today we planned to go to Arlington Cemetery, but unfortunately there was a marathon this morning, and all roads leading to the Cemetery were blocked off. We decided to head on to Gettysburg. The battlefield is enormous and the group watched a movie about the Civil War and Gettysburg's significance, in particular, before then moving on to the Cyclorama where a 360 degree painting is installed and then the Museum. We stopped at the Cemetery on the grounds, saw the general area where it is believed Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address, and took a little time to walk around some of the monuments before getting back on the bus and heading to Bentleyville (yes, the same hotel with the wooden floors!) this evening. We are overwhelmed with history and significant events! Going from Philadelphia where our country was debated and formalized in documents to seeing those documents in D.C., and then to see how our country continued to persevere through the most trying conflict -with one another- has been inspiring.
Lincoln Memorial

Heading home 3.16.14 

Tomorrow we leave early and head back to Terre Haute, hopefully missing a majority of the snow which is headed east.

We thank those of you responsible for helping to get us here, and for following along with our travels. It has been a wonderful experience, but we are all ready to come home.
*Will try to upload more pictures from the trip after we arrive home!