Choir honors female composers

A very unique program took place this past Sunday in the Walker Recital Hall. The Concert Choir and the Carpe Diem Chorale performed a program titled “Women of Note” that was made up entirely of music written by female composers.

The concert took place on Sunday, May 2, at 7:30 p.m. in Walker Recital Hall. Rebecca Ryan conducted the program.

Some highlights from the concert included “The Peace of Wild Things” by Joan Szymko, with poetry by Wendell Berry. This was an extremely beautiful piece, which was only performed by the women, and was full of references to nature both in the text as well as the music.

Szymko was born in 1957 and has released a large amount of choral music. She is well-known for her beautiful melodies and her attentiveness to the text. She has future plans to launch “Veriditas Music Press” later this year to become a self-publisher.

Another audience favorite was “If Music be the Food of Love” by Jean Belmont, poetry by Henry Heveningham. This piece included many sections where the women and the men had duets together, which made the harmony very beautiful.

Belmont is an American composer who was born in 1939. She tends to have a more spiritual sense in her music, with themes often including the Virgin Mary. Her compositions can be heard on many recordings by the Kansas City Chorale, and on recordings conducted by the late Robert Shaw.

The Carpe Diem Chorale sang all of their pieces in foreign languages, and their most memorable happened to be in German. “Wer will mir wehren zusingen” was written by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, with poetry by Goethe. It was a sprightly tune, and it was interesting that Ryan did not even have to conduct the group, for they were able to lead themselves.

Mendelssohn lived from 1805 to 1848 and fell victim to stereotypes about women. Because of this, she had her music published by her famous brother, Felix. It is thought that Fanny composed more than 450 pieces of music in her lifetime.

To close the concert, the Concert Choir ended with a performance of Lili Boulanger’s “Hymne au soleil.” This piece was extremely powerful, with huge waves of sound and a large number of parts sung at once.

Boulanger was a child prodigy. At age 19, she won the prestigious composition award, the Prix di Rome. However, she was plagued by illness her whole life and died at the young age of 24, only being able to complete a few magnificent compositions.

The Mercyhurst Choirs put on a special kind of concert this week, one that was full of different and emotional music. Women composers have voices, and they are sometimes not heard as often as they should be. Yet when they are heard, we hear amazingly beautiful things.