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Congratulations Dr. Phillip Swan!

Posted on by newVoices

Dr. PhillPlease 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!”

NewVoices Choir Honored with National Award

Posted on by newVoices

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.

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A personal reflection on dementia

Posted on by newVoices

By Erik Loy

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 6B39490C486843919B430EC4CCF43F9Dswordsman, 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.

A personal message on dementia

Posted on by newVoices

By Monica Coenen

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.

35259_1308204157469_1601520100_30679896_7291934_nWhen 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.

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.

Christmas at the Chapel gets even better!

Posted on by newVoices

FVSO 2015 (1)

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.

NewVoices_Dec-2014_030 (1)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 LordNewVoices_Dec-2014_008
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!

For your convenience, you may purchase tickets online at this link.



Posted on by newVoices

NewVoices_2013-Oct_040 (1)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


newVoices announces new Board Officers

Posted on by newVoices
Jenna Stone, Board President, newVoices

Jenna Stone, Board President, newVoices

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.

newVoices season opens with “Facing the Music”

Posted on by newVoices

NewVoices_2013-Oct_008This season, we use the power of music to unlock important issues that face our community. As an organization, we believe there is an important role for music to play in building awareness and empathy for topics that might be difficult to discuss. Choral music goes to the heart of humanity—words intertwine with music to express the human condition in both harmony and discord.

We have a tradition of looking to current community issues and needs to inform our programming, and this year we are creating two ambitious programs (our fall and spring concerts) that will bring deeper meaning to difficult issues.

Our fall concert is entitled Facing the Music (the unfamiliar truth about Human Trafficking: awareness, education, and hope). We will partner with the Fox Cities Sexual Assault Crisis Center and the Sex Trafficking Steering Committee to put together a choral concert and educational/outreach activities around the issues of prostitution and human trafficking. This is a risky project, but we believe through music, we will give voice to a topic that has been silenced by fear, shame, ignorance and the assumption that “it could never happen here.” Songs of power, outrage, hope and healing will proclaim that our community’s children are not for sale.

As of this writing, we are finalizing some details such as dates and locations, but our programming will go beyond the concert hall. Activities are being created in collaboration with the Sexual Assault Crisis Center and will include:

Panel Discussion: Sex Trafficking in the Fox Cities
Monday, October 5, 7:00 p.m., Appleton Public LIbrary
Members of the Sex Trafficking Steering Committee will discuss the issue of child sex trafficking in the Fox Cities and take your questions. Representatives from the Sexual Assault Crisis Center, law enforcement and the courts will be on hand to review the problem. FREE to the public.

Pre-concert discussion
Saturday, Oct. 24, 6:30 p.m. in Rm 156 in the Lawrence Conservatory
Members of the Sex Trafficking Steering Committee will talk of the scope of the problems in the Fox Cities and we will screen the short film “Chosen,” an anti-trafficking documentary about teens lured into the dangerous life.

Community book discussions
Join us for a community read of the book Girls Like Us by Rachel Lloyd and group discussions online and in person throughout the region. Book discussions will be held at the Appleton Public Library on these dates:
Monday, October 12 at 1:30 p.m.
Tuesday, October 20 at 7:30 p.m.

Developing music around this topic has been a challenge, but one that will leave you with a wider vision and deeper understanding. As we always do, our concert will feature a mix of genres including early sacred music, American folk songs, current compositions and songs from Godspell and some contemporary choral pieces. We will leave you with the words of one of our favorite pieces on the program, entitled “Do Something” by Matthew West:

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

Church Choir Workshop a success!

Posted on by newVoices

Exactly HOW do you get 200 singers on the stage of the Lawrence Chapel? Very carefully!!

Thank you to the 120+ church choir singers from regional churches who attended our first ever Church Choir Workshop and to HEID MUSIC for sponsoring the event. Sessions included a master class in vocal instruction, tips on sight reading and rehearsal technique and a massed rehearsal with newVoices. The culmination: all church choir singers joined us onstage for the final concert of the season, a joyous hymn sing. Special thanks to Lawrence University instructor Karen Leigh-Post for sharing her talent and wisdom with the singers. Also thanks to newVoices singers Erica Hamilton and Assistant Conductor Dan Van Sickle for teaching the workshops (both Erica and Dan are LU grads!). Some candid photos of the event follow.

DSC_0724 DSC_0725 DSC_0739 DSC_0745 DSC_0751 DSC_0790 DSC_0803 DSC_0806 DSC_0815 DSC_0820 DSC_0835 DSC_0854 DSC_0864 DSC_0876 DSC_0882 DSC_0884 IMG_1565

More than 100 church choir members join for final concert

Posted on by newVoices

NewVoices_Dec-2014_036The final concert of newVoices’ 2014-15 season will end with a community-wide hymn sing and a program of familiar hymns and sacred music. Area church choirs will participate in the ensemble’s first Church Choir Workshop that day AND perform with newVoices in the evening concert, OneVoice – An Ecumenical Community Celebration in Song, Saturday, May 9, 2015, 7:30 pm at the Lawrence University Memorial Chapel, Appleton.

The vision of a “hymn sing” is a non-denominational event to bring church choirs, audience members and singers in newVoices together to praise in song. Program selections include traditional hymns, modern praise music and contemporary compositions.

Central to the program is the presentation of “Lux Aeterna” by Morten Lauridsen—or Eternal LIght. This choral masterwork weaves the text of eternal light throughout five movements and will be presented when singers from newVoices tour Italy this summer. The rest of the program presents familiar hymns and workshop members will join the choir for three selections.

According to conductor Phillip Swan, the “Lux Aeterna” holds special meaning for him because he rehearsed this piece in 2000 with a church choir while he was doing doctoral work in Miami. At the time, this was only a few years after its premiere. “It made an immediate and lasting impression on the choir, the congregation, and me due to the deceptive simplicity of the work yet the difficult, tight harmonies,” Swan said. The work is characterized by deep, sonorous harmonies and beautiful layered melodies.

“This is a very personal work for the composer,” Swan said.  “His mother passed away while he was writing the work. Consequently, the composition is influenced by this emotional period, as he weaves a message of hope through this work about Eternal Light,” Swan said.

The choir has never hosted a community-wide hymn sing, but these are popular in other communities and in churches. In a program such as this, familiar, sacred songs are performed and audience members are encouraged to sing along. For this concert, newVoices will also perform: Blessed Be the name of the Lord, Give Me Jesus, If I Should Ascend, The Majesty and Glory of Your Name, Total Praise, O Clap Your Hands, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing and more.

Church Choir Workshop reaches new audiences

The half-day workshop for regional church choirs and music directors will provide opportunities for improving choral singing, individual singing techniques and conducting. Individuals will then join newVoices to perform in the evening concert. The workshop is sponsored by Heid Music.

“We have wanted to provide this learning experience for regional church choirs for a very long time,” said Executive Director Kristopher Ulrich. “Many of our audience members are active in church choirs and would like to sing with us, so this gives them the opportunity,” he said.

The workshop will feature presenters from within the newVoices ensemble, many of whom are music teachers or church choir conductors. Attendees will participate in a vocal master class, learn sight reading techniques, rehearsal techniques, and attend presentations from Heid Music.

“Many of our church choir singers have never had the benefit of vocal instruction and sincerely want to learn how to be better musicians,” said Phyllis Klee, a longtime singer in newVoices and a member of Appleton’s Faith Lutheran church choir. “This is a wonderful opportunity for them to put their instruction into practice and perform on the stage of the Lawrence Chapel.”

Registration for the workshop closes April 27 and the $25 fee includes the workshop, dinner, gift cards to Heid Music and a concert ticket. Workshop details are as follows:

  • Saturday, May 9, 2015, Lawrence University,
  • Registration starts 11:30, Workshops noon-4:30, dinner 5 pm, concert 7:30 pm
  • Cost: $20 per person before April 6, 2015, and $25/person afterwards until April 27, 2015.

Tickets for the concert are $20 for Premium seating and $18 for Non-Premium seating.   Senior, student and group discounts are available. Tickets may be purchased by calling newVoices at 920-832-9700 or online at www.newvoiceschoir.org.