newVoices presents program on life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness
This year’s national elections may be remembered for some of the most hate-filled, divisive rhetoric in modern politics. That rancor prompted newVoices to focus programming on a more elevated, substantial political discourse in their concert “Voice your Vote: the power of one.” The concert will present music that underscores Americans’ opportunity to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Organizers were prompted to focus on music that reflects pride in America and participation in the electoral process after learning that many young people feel their vote just doesn’t matter. “Our educators shared that young people were turned off by the partisan nature of politics, so we wanted to present a program that reconnects people with American values of freedom and liberty,” said Kristopher Ulrich, executive director of newVoices.
As part of the programming, the choir collaborated with the League of Women Voters to help in National Voter Registration Day on September 27. Volunteers worked with citizens at schools and a regional dental clinic where new citizens took the opportunity to register. “It made an impact on me to see new Americans excited to give their opinion in a meaningful way,” Ulrich said. “They were thrilled to be part of something bigger than themselves.”
The season opener concert is also the time when high school singers join the chorus. More than 35 students are members of the High School Master Singers program made up top choral singers from 12 area high schools from Clintonville to Green Bay to Oshkosh. Teen-aged singers rehearse alongside the adult singers and learn that choral singing is a life-long pursuit. Concert organizers wanted to reach these future voters with the important message of participating in the electoral process.
Representatives from the League of Women Voters will present a pre-concert talk on Wisconsin’s role in voter rights and how each vote is critical, especially in congressional, legislative and local races.
According to the League, typical voter participation in Wisconsin is only about half of eligible voters. “Our goal is to inform, educate, and register all citizens so they can exercise their right to vote,” said Jacqui Klimaszewski, vice president of voter services, League of Women Voters of Appleton. “One vote may not seem important in a national election, but it is critical in local elections which are races that truly have an impact on our daily lives.”
What’s on the concert program?
On the concert program: selections of patriotic music from revolutionary times to modern interpretations of favorite songs. Audience members will hear settings of “America the Beautiful,” “This is My Country,” “Bless this House,” and new settings of traditional patriotic songs. Familiar folk songs like “Shenandoah,” “Oh Susanna,” “This Land is Your Land,” and others will be presented.
A special selection on the program is “Frostiana,” a marriage of poetry and music that is a distinctly American choral classic. Music by composer Randall Thompson is set to Robert Frost’s poetry that expresses domestic themes of American life in melodic settings. Many consider Frost the greatest American poet who ever lived and his poem “The Road not Taken” may be one of his best known. This, and six other songs alternate between lofty expressions of freedom and more playful snapshots of daily life.
“In these selections, the composer enriched the meaning of Frost’s iconic poetry with layers of distinctive music to create a sound that is purely American,” said Dr. Phillip Swan, artistic director for newVoices. “The genius of the music is the manner in which it mirrors the poetry.”
Songs for this concert were specifically selected for their interplay of words and music. “Some of the pieces take their text from the Declaration of Independence or memorable speeches,” Swan said. “The words reflect our shared experience as Americans by birth or by choice and all reflect a deep pride in freedom and our national heritage.”
This concert is supported by our season sponsor, Community First Credit Union.
Perhaps no patriotic song stirs such emotion as the “Star Spangled Banner,” also on the program. Pop singers have twisted the melody, forgotten lyrics, and proclaimed it “unsingable,” so newVoices will present a traditional setting of the national anthem. “The song is beautiful,” Swan said. “The words and melody represent our nation’s most enduring symbol and the ideals of freedom and liberty that it represents.”
The concert “Voice Your Vote: the power of one” will be Saturday, October 22 at 7:30 pm at the Lawrence University Memorial Chapel and is sponsored by Community First Credit Union and Schenck. Tickets may be purchased online at this link. http://newvoiceschoir.org/purchase-tickets/
The Fox Valley Symphony and newVoices choir announce that the U.S. Venture/Schmidt Family Foundation has granted $40,000 to fund a series of choral/orchestral masterworks. The U.S. Venture Masterwork Series will be a four-year commitment to present a collaboration of major works composed by renowned artists. This is the first time a multi-year collaboration of this nature has been undertaken by both organizations and the first major arts donation made by the U.S. Venture / Schmidt Family Foundation.
The series will begin with a live presentation of Ralph Vaughan William’s Sea Symphony as the culmination of the Fox Valley Symphony’s 50th anniversary season. Singers from newVoices will perform with the Symphony in this masterwork on May 6, 2017 at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center. Collaborative concerts will be scheduled for the ensuing three seasons for each group.
In awarding the grant, the U.S. Venture/Schmidt Family Foundation requested it be made in recognition of the volunteer work done by Mary Harp-Jirschele for both organizations. Harp-Jirschele served on the Symphony’s board of directors and has been a patron and member of the advisory council for newVoices. In 2009, she was the recipient of the Hanns Kretzschmar Award for Excellence in the Arts at the annual Celebrating our Volunteers event.
“The Masterworks Series is an opportunity to enhance the arts and culture of the Fox Cities,” said Greg Vandenberg, director of giving and community engagement for U.S. Venture. “The Fox Valley Region has been so good to U.S. Venture. We felt this was an area we could invest in so our community continues to attract and retain top talent. We are also thrilled this will expose these great works to new audiences, especially children. We know the benefits music can bring to the development of young minds and there are some kids who are unable to experience these types of opportunities.”
“We are thrilled by this investment in the arts,” said Jeff Amstutz, board president of the Fox Valley Symphony. “The arts are an integral part of a healthy culture, economy and community and this initiative will be instrumental in bringing a new musical experience to the region.”
“This collaboration will give life to classics that were meant to be heard and enjoyed in live performance,” said Jenna Stone, board president of newVoices. “Music connects us in powerful ways and a masterwork series will allow our organizations to share universal themes with the community.”
As part of the project, both organizations are working together to identify educational and participation opportunities for underserved youth. The Fox Valley Symphony’s Conductor, Brian Groner, and newVoices Artistic Director Phillip Swan are identifying future masterworks to present to the community.
We got the first look at our award from Chorus America at yesterday’s strategic planning meeting! We are the winner of the education and community engagement award presented annually by Chorus America at the national conference in Cincinnati. This award recognizes programs that expand a chorus’ role in its community through mission-based programming, music education, artistic excellence and meaningful collaborations.
The award selection was based on collaborative programming from our 2015-16 season which featured concerts on the issue of sex trafficking and Alzheimer’s/dementia. This is the first time in the ensemble’s history that we have earned a national award from Chorus America, the leading trade association for adult and children’s choirs. On hand for the presentation: our vice president of the board of directors, Jim Weiland and Artistic Director Phillip Swan.
At yesterday’s strategic planning meeting, members of our board of directors posed with the award and the $2,500 honorarium. Pictured are: Top row L-R:Phil Munroe, Vice President Jim Weiland, Abby Theisen, Jennifer Johnson. Middle Row L-R: Amy Flanders, Executive Director Kristopher Ulrich, Liz Sumnicht, Jenni Eickelberg, Past President Mary Schmidt. Bottom Row L-R: Christine Krause (with check), President Jenna Stone, Artistic Director Phillip Swan (with award).
Please join us in celebrating another accomplishment for Phillip Swan–now he can be called Dr. Phillip Swan! Phillip was awarded his DMA in Choral Conducting at the University of Miami (Florida) on May 5, 2016. Dr. Swan completed a doctoral essay focused on the choral works of Eric Whitacre, a composer we have featured in many newVoices concerts. In addition to his doctoral studies, Dr. Swan received his BA in music education from Concordia College, Moorhead, MN and his MM in Choral Conducting from UT El Paso. He is a member of the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music faculty where he is Co-Director of Choral Studies and Musical Director for LU Musicals. Swan co-directs Cantala and Concert Choir, directs Hybrid Ensemble (jazz, early, contemporary and world music); teaches courses in conducting, musical theatre and music education; and coaches student organized a cappella groups.
We are proud to have an educator and musician of Phillip’s calibre sharing his talents with newVoices, our singers, and our audiences. And we are very happy to call him “Dr. Phill!”
Ensemble wins Education & Community Engagement Award
(APPLETON, WIS.) April 14, 2016 – NewVoices is the winner of the education and community engagement award presented annually by Chorus America. This award recognizes programs that expand a chorus’ role in its community through mission-based programming, music education, artistic excellence and meaningful collaborations. This is the first time in the ensemble’s history that it has earned a national award from Chorus America, the leading trade association for adult and children’s choirs.
The award was based on collaborative programming for the 2015-16 season, which included:
Raising awareness and education about human sex trafficking through public forums, informational materials for music educators, a community book read, pre-concert discussion and a fall concert entitled “Facing the Music (the unfamiliar truth about Human Trafficking: awareness, education, and hope).” This project was presented in partnership with the Outagamie County Sexual Assault Crisis Center and the Sex Trafficking Steering Committee
Addressing the needs of those with dementia and Alzheimer’s in our community through a series of events in conjunction with the Fox Valley Memory Project. The collaboration includes a free concert for residents of memory care facilities and their caregivers, a pre-concert discussion on how music and singing affect those with dementia, and a concert for care partners and the general public to learn more about dementia care entitled “Wanting Memories: unlocking dementia through music.” In addition, choir members are volunteering to provide music for the Fox Valley’s seven Memory Cafes.
The award was also judged on effective management and fiscal integrity of programming. Independent panels selected award winners from among Chorus America’s thousands of members. The award includes a $2500 honorarium and will be presented at the organization’s annual conference in June of 2016.
“NewVoices is strongly committed to collaboration, not only with other arts organizations but with all sorts of mission-driven partners,” said Board President Jenna Stone. “We love to make music that matters—music that stirs the soul, but that also raises up issues and themes that our community cares about. It is wonderful to have our approach affirmed by this prestigious national award.”
The programming was a result of creative direction by the choir’s Artistic Director Phillip Swan. Under Swan’s leadership the organization has sought out more meaningful collaborations with regional non-profits.
“These are difficult issues to tackle in community choir programming, but choral music brings an exciting dimension to framing difficult discussions,” Swan said. “This was a an adventurous move in programming and I especially thank the singers and board of directors for trusting in this project.”
According to Stone, the choir’s board of directors and singers committed the organization to create a sense of community by sharing vocal music. Programming for this season was created to present vocal music as a unifying element to raise awareness of relevant topics and jumpstart a community discussion on often difficult issues.
Erik Loy is a baritone in newVoices and is an attorney for Manitowoc County. He shares his memories of his grandfather, George Olaf Loy.
My Grandpa was a quiet man. He worked for a machine tool company (Ingersoll Rand) and was very skilled. After he was retired, the company sent him all over the country to fix factory machinery because no one knew it better than him. He taught me to love baseball, coin collecting, and fantasy novels featuring Tarzan of the Apes and Conan the Barbarian. He had a set of about twenty Tarzan books that I read voraciously. Conan was a particular favorite of his that I still enjoy. Conan, for the uninitiated, is a very muscular dude who wears nothing but a furry pelt to cover his loins. He is very strong, a master swordsman, can climb anything, and (pelt and all) is incredibly attractive to women.
Grandpa started getting Alzheimer’s when I was about 9 or 10. The first sign was that he went for long walks. He was also agitated. He would sometimes get angry with my Grandma. After a while, he started walking and wouldn’t come back. Family would have to drive around and find him. It was like he was trying to escape from something that wouldn’t let him go. As time passed the agitation and walking decreased and he communicated less and less. The moments where he was himself became fewer and fewer. There were some things, though, that drew him out. He loved to show off his coins and he enjoyed books about Conan the Barbarian. When we gave him one, he would quietly read it, totally engrossed.
He continued to decline, eventually being confined to a wheelchair. My Grandmother took care of him at home and refused to let him go to a nursing home. After several years he finally escaped, and my grandmother proved to be as strong as Conan.
Monica Coenen is a soprano in newVoices, a member of our chorus council, and a freelance writer. She shares her thoughts on the upcoming concert “Wanting Memories.”
When you’re 5 years old and your Grandma is helping you brush your teeth and get ready for bed, you never expect that in about 20 years, you will be helping your Mom brush Grandma’s teeth and get her ready for bed. And that she won’t really know who you are. And sometimes she’ll be scared because she won’t understand why you’re wheeling her into the other room and changing her clothing. And sometimes she’ll fight it, try to push your hands away because she doesn’t want to do what you want her to do, which is often what she needs to do. Caretakers are truly saints among us.
It started with memory lapses in her 70s, maybe earlier. Forgotten words, forgetting what she went into a room for–and it progressed steadily, sometimes slow, sometimes alarmingly quickly.
When Grandma Joyce and Grandpa Wayne moved in with my parents, they were both starting to suffer from dementia and it was no longer safe for them to live alone. They struggled with what day or time it was, preparing meals, remembering names, remembering words in conversation. Grandma’s dementia was more advanced, and within a few years she was no longer mobile and struggled to verbalize. Many of her words were nonsense words. I will never forget the time she was irritated at my Dad for some reason and called him a “Groaner Coaster!” We have no idea what she actually meant to call him, but the inflection was pretty clear. You have to laugh at things like this, because otherwise you’d cry.
Grandma had problems with names for a long time, except for her sweetheart, Wayne, with whom she enjoyed nearly 65 years of marriage. She would ask for him whenever he wasn’t in the room. His was the last name she lost. I always had the impression that she understood we were related or connected somehow, but she didn’t know my name the last several years. When she called her caretaker, her daughter Marie, by name, she often confused her for one of her own big sisters. My mom took it as a compliment, because Joyce’s sisters always looked out for her and took care of her when she was young.
One of the last intelligible things Grandma said directly to me, as she patted my hand while I helped tuck her in for the night was, “You’re a good grand… woman.” The words weren’t quite perfect, but I knew what she meant.
She was quick to smile and laugh up until the very end. She loved babies. She was happiest when someone would sit next to her and hold her hand, and she had a doll that gave her great comfort. She would hold that doll all day long like it was one of her babies or grandbabies or great-grandbabies. I sang at her funeral last summer with my cousin Wayne. Our cousins Grace and Eva and our Aunt Amy joined in. I still miss her. But I started missing her years before she passed away.
Grandpa misses her too, when he remembers that she’s gone. He forgets sometimes, and then he remembers and the pain is fresh to him like it happened yesterday instead of almost a year ago. My mom read him this quote she found the other day, and they cried together “I can never lose one who I have loved unto the end; one to whom my soul cleaves so firmly that it can never be separated, does not go away but only goes before. – St. Bernard of Clairvaux.”
Grandpa’s memory has many holes, but he does remember songs. Grandpa was always full of music – whistling when he woke
Grandma Joyce & Grandpa Wayne dancing. That’s granddaughter Monica Coenen in the blue tank top in the background.
up with the sun, humming, singing his favorite old tunes and jingles. I heard stories that he used to have a bird friend that would greet him on the telephone wire every morning, where they would whistle back and forth to each other. “Let Me Call you Sweetheart,” “You Are My Sunshine,” and “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean,” were sung to his wife and taught to his children and grandchildren. He even occasionally remembers and sings songs in Belgian from his childhood. He only used to break out the Belgian when he wanted to use a curse word without Grandma knowing it and getting mad at him, but as other things slip away, more memories resurface. He misses Joyce so much.
Dementia is heartbreaking. Sufferers also experience anxiety, depression, and fear, and changes in personality that can be very upsetting or frustrating. But the beautiful souls locked inside those deteriorating minds and bodies are the same people you remember. When they are acting defiant or feeling depressed, hold their hand, smile, and share some memories and music.
We’re happy to announce special guests will join us for our annual Christmas concert. We welcome the Fox Valley Symphony Chamber Orchestra which will accompany us on several pieces including selections from the Christmas portion of Handel’s Messiah (including the Hallelujah chorus). We are thrilled to share the stage with them again and know their sound will enrich this special holiday performance for all of you!
Artistic Director Phillip Swan created a program that brings us historical, often ancient, music in the first half of the concert; in the second segment he programmed music from the New World as well as some new music.
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel is one of the oldest hymns dating back to the 8th or 9th century and was used as a chant at evening (vesper) services. O Come All ye Faithful was similarly used as a processional by Catholic monks.
The Coventry Carol had its beginnings in the medieval English Mystery Plays and was published in the early 1800s in a detailed history of the plays. Although Estampie Natalis was published in 1976, it sounds like a “modern medieval” work and is reminiscent of an estampie, a form of instrumental dance music of the 13th century. Blessed Be That Maid Marie is written in the style of the Rennaissance and the text and tune it is based on dates from the 1500s.
We will be performing selections from the Christmas portion of Handel’s Messiah, which is a baroque era masterpiece. Although the work was originally written as an Easter offering, the Christmas portion has become a rite of the holiday season. Choruses include:
And the Glory of the Lord For Unto Us a Child Is Born Glory to God Hallelujah Chorus
The second half of our program will present music form the New World inlcuding the African-American spiritual Roun’ de Glory Manger. Children Go Where I Send Thee is an African-American folk song discovered at a rural Kentucky school for black children. Although it sounds like a simple counting song, each number in the verses refers to a bible verse or story. The Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy is a Trinidadian folk carol with a distinctly calypso flavor.
We will close the concert with a series of songs celebrating the birth of the Christ child; simple settings that express the miracle of the Savior’s birth. In Sleep my Child Sleep, the gentle opening melody grows and swells as the text proclaims the baby will “melt away the sin of man/with thy perpetual light.” The composer, Zachary Moore, is a Wisconsin native who is currently studying music education at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire.
Still, Still, Still is a tender, poetic lullaby which is one of the most loved Christmas carols. We will end with a candle-lit procession through the beautiful Lawrence Chapel singing Silent Night with members of the audience. This simple melody is our favorite way to end our annual Christmas in the Chapel because it focuses on the miracle of Christ’s birth rather than the glitz and bustle of the season.
We hope to share this memorable Christmas celebration with you!
Many people have been asking us just how do you program a choral concert around the topic of sex trafficking? The answer was simple when left in the capable hands of Artistic Director Phillip Swan. Music for the performance will be presented in four segments: reflection on the dilemma with songs of personal struggle and searching; a glimmer of hope for another life, another path; songs that express freedom, truth and justice; and concluding with songs that are anthems for personal and community responsibility.
Swan chose the concert topic to musically communicate the many aspects within the human trafficking issue. “Choral music has a special ability to tackle delicate subject matter in ways that gently challenge our comfort level and passivity, and move us to action,” Swan said. “Themes of individual struggle and hope have been expressed through music for hundreds of years, and become so much more vivid when the lyrics are interpreted within the context of human trafficking.
Music genres include sacred music, folk songs, spirituals, contemporary compositions, and a cappella settings of familiar hit songs. Although the subject matter is intense, many of the songs are hopeful and have lyrical melodies.
The program within the reflection on the dilemma section includes pieces that are stark and mournful—and pieces in which beautiful melodies are paired with dramatic lyrics. The flowing melody of “If I Should Ascend” presents a biblical text in which lyrics caution that even secret sins are open before a loving God. The familiar, magnetic melody of “Wayfaring Stranger” tells the story of a wanderer hoping for better times in the afterlife.
Songs expressing a glimmer of hope include Morten Lauriden’s familiar “Sure on this Shining Night” in which the subject reflects on a life full of ups and downs yet still acknowledges the wonder of kindness in the world. A rich African-American spiritual, “City Called Heaven” tells the story of a life being abandoned and hopeless and longing for an eternal home. The musical setting is powerful and moving.
Songs of freedom and justice start with a familiar American classic by Stephen C. Foster. “Hard Times” has been an anthem for the Civil War, the Depression and here takes on a new meaning as it proclaims that hard times will not come again. The song “Al Shlosha D’varim” is a graceful melody based on Jewish morality laws which state that the world is sustained by truth, justice and peace.
The program will end with joyous songs that proclaim if we are to change the situation, we must become involved. The song “Beautiful City” is from the musical “Godspell” and delivers a hopeful message that despite being battered, we can build a better community. The final selection of the concert is a choral setting of “Do Something” by Matthew West, in which lyrics speak of how change requires action:
If not us, then who/If not me and you Right now, it’s time for us to do something If not now, then when/Will we see an end To all this pain/It’s not enough to do nothing It’s time for us to do something
We are thrilled to welcome new officers to our board of directors! Elected to president is Jenna Stone, a board member of newVoices since 2008. Stone leads the grants office at Lawrence University and is a 2000 graduate of the university; she also holds a masters in Philanthropy & Development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota.
Jenna has been a board member for our organization for many years and her leadership in best practices for non-profit management and governance has been transformational for our organization. Under her guidance, we recently completed a review of our bylaws and a strategic planning session for the next three years of artistic and organizational goals. Here are some thoughts from Jenna in her own words:
“There is something miraculous about music. Every culture on the planet makes music; it seems to feed the human spirit in some necessary way. Here in the Fox Cities, we are fortunate to have a vibrant local arts scene with an extraordinary number of high quality and affordable opportunities for performers and audiences to share live music together. I’m not a performer myself, but I love being an audience member and being part of the shared emotional experience that a great live concert can offer. I want everyone in our community to be able to have that experience. So I am grateful for the chance to serve newVoices and its mission of building community through choral music.”
Elected as vice president is Jim Weiland, a board member since 2011. Weiland is the retired president of Image Studios and has served on the boards of ACES/Xavier and the Boy Scouts. Most recently, Jim helped our singers in raising funds for individuals to take part in our tour of Italy. He is also a guitarist and loves all forms of music.
Elected as treasurer is Elizabeth (Liz) Sumnicht, an accountant at JA Huth & Associates. Abby Theisen, a family law attorney at Menn Law, will serve as secretary.
Mary Schmidt, the owner of Schmidt Communicates, is the former board president and will serve the board in the role of past president acting as counsel to the new leadership team.