Once again, newVoices choir will explore a social issue through a combination of musical performances and community events. The choir will present issue-based programming in concert on October 20 at the Lawrence Memorial Chapel in a performance entitled, “Please Stay: Listen. Care. Hope. Prevent Suicide.”
The annual fall concert is part of our commitment to presenting community engagement programming on a topical issue that affects the region. “I’ve wanted to address this issue for a long time,” said Dr. Phillip A. Swan, artistic director for newVoices. “We believe this issue should come out of the shadows and be discussed in a healthy way with music to frame the complicated issue. So often when words fail, music helps us express deep emotions and process feelings,” Swan said.
The concert will feature songs of power, pain, hope, and healing that reflect the personal struggle, the public outcry, and the communal efforts underway to stop suicide now. Far from a lament, the program will present choral music of hope and redemption.
The concert is divided into sections with music reflecting different elements of the issue and many selections are by contemporary, young composers. Sections include:
- Songs reflecting “Questions/Sorrow” including a powerful piece in which a mother laments the loss of her son and a major piece composed by Eric Whitacre that captures the pain of a father losing his son.
- The section “Seeking Perspective” features a work by Dale Trumbore, a young composer who provides a meditation on mortality by setting powerful poems to her haunting music.
- The section entitled “Reflection” features a soothing, melodic piece by Elaine Hagenberg. The composer will be in residence and will lead rehearsal with newVoices on October 7.
- The section entitled “You are not Alone” features affirming and uplifting music including a selection from “Dear Evan Hansen” and an audience sing-along entitled “I Need You to Survive.”
- The final section, entitled “Healing/Hope” presents hopeful music. One selection was composed in memory of a teen that took his own life and “Even When he is Silent” expresses hope in times of despair through rich melodies.
Speakers from the community will provide comments between sections, including healthcare professionals from Ascension NE Wisconsin – St. Elizabeth Hospital. The St. Elizabeth Hospital Foundation is the choir’s education partner and has provided educational information on suicide and suicide prevention for the singers and the community. Community partners and choir leaders want to change perceptions surrounding mental illness and normalize the discussion of suicide in order to preventsuicide. During rehearsals, professionals from Ascension NE Wisconsin – St. Elizabeth Hospital presented programs about recognizing the signs of suicide, regional support services, and support programs that are in use in the school districts.
“We want our community to know that okay to struggle with difficult emotions, but it is not healthy to ignore those thoughts and avoid seeking help,” Swan said.
As part of the choir’s commitment to community-based programming, newVoices is taking the music and the message outside of the concert hall to reach a larger audience this fall. In conjunction with artistic programming, the choir is hosting several public events around the issue of suicide.
October 2, 2018 “End the Stigma and Begin the Conversation,” a community-wide panel discussion on suicide.This event is hosted by community education partner, St. Elizabeth Hospital Foundation, and will take place from 6:30-8:30. The goal is to address the complexity of suicidal causes, how suicide affects our community, and how care givers are successfully bringing hope, connectedness, social support, resilience, treatment, and recovery to those that need it most. This event will be hosted in the Fowler Conference Rooms at Ascension NE Wisconsin – St. Elizabeth Hospital located at 1506 S. Oneida Street, Appleton. To jumpstart the discussion, newVoices will perform a sneak preview of the October 20 concert with music that captures the pain and suffering of loss, but within a context of great beauty and hope.
Monday October 8, 7:30 pm and October 15, 7 pm, FREE screening of the movie “The Ripple Effect.”This film is part of a global mission to help reduce the number of suicides and suicide attempts around the world through sharing stories of survival and recovery. The film documents Kevin Hines’ attempted suicide and his journey to better understand the ripple effects his attempt had on his family, friends, and the first responders who helped save him. He’s also working to shine light on inspirational individuals, families, and organizations that are using personal pain to help others find the hope they need to heal. The screening is co-sponsored by Lawrence University and will be held at Warch Campus Center Cinema at 711 E. Boldt Way Appleton.
Saturday, October 20, 6:45-7:15 Pre-Concert Discussion, Experts from our educational partner, St. Elizabeth Hospital Foundation, will hold a discussion prior to the concert about how suicide is affecting our community. You will hear first hand from our local providers how they are successfully bringing hope and support to individuals who need it most. This discussion will be in Room 156, Lawrence University Conservatory of Music (room is located behind the Lawrence Chapel).
Top high school singers join the conversation and music
The fall concert welcomes top young singers in the High School Master Singers program. Each year, regional choir directors nominate top choral students to practice and perform with the adults in newVoices. This year, students from 17 regional high schools are joining the concert in performance. For the young singers, their musical skills are challenged, they learn from a collegiate level conductor, and they realize that choral singing is a lifelong pursuit shared by people of all ages.
Due to the serious nature of the program, newVoices leaders took a proactive approach to educating teens on the topic of suicide using resources from the Northeast Mental Health Connection and Sources of Strength.Teen and adult singers participated in a series of workshops prior to rehearsals for the concert.
“Being part of a musical community can provide meaning and connection for these students,” said Dan Van Sickle. associate conductor for newVoices. “We wanted to emphasize that mental wellness can help prevent mental illness, so we have chosen to focus on the strengths that each individual can develop in order to create a healthy and meaningful life.” Van Sickle oversees the choir’s High School Master Singers program and is a choir director at Appleton East High School.
Past newVoices issue-oriented programming earned Chorus America’s education and community engagement award for excellence in community-centered programming. The fall concert is the choir’s ongoing commitment to taking music outside the concert hall to impact new audiences. For more information tickets are available at this link.