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Literature Sessions

We are delighted to announce the following selected literature sessions for NCCO9:

Exploring Psalmody: Choral Settings of the Psalms by African American Composers

The psalter is known for providing a soundtrack to Christian scripture. Through the impactful writing of the psalms its readers encounter the varying stages of the human condition. As choral music finds much of its origin in the church, the texts of the psalms have been set to music for centuries. This session will offer an overview of the psalter- it’s history and makeup- highlight the contribution of African Americans to this specialized genre and offer pieces for mixed collegiate choral ensembles appropriate for liturgical or concert use.

Session Literature:

  • Psalm 1, Nathan Carter (SATB, organ)
  • Go Not Far From Me, O God, R. Nathaniel Dett (SATB div., baritone, unaccompanied)
  • Psalm 57, Betty Jackson King (SATB div., unaccompanied)
  • The Sixty-Seventh Psalm, Carl Haywood (SATB, unaccompanied)
  • Hymn of Consecration, Marvin Curtis (SATB div., organ and trumpet)
  • Let Everything That Hath Breath, Jeffery Ames (SATB, piano)

SPEAKER: Vinroy D. Brown Jr.

Vinroy D. Brown Jr.

Vinroy D. Brown Jr. holds credits in conducting, sacred music and music education. He is a member of the sacred music faculty at Westminster Choir College where he conducts the Westminster Jubilee Singers and teaches African American Choral Literature and is Lecturer of Music at Loyola Marymount University. He is director of music & worship arts at Elmwood United Presbyterian Church. Also, he is artistic director of Elmwood Concert Singers and of Capital Singers of Trenton.

The Sacred and the Secular in the Choral Music of Shireen Abu-Khader

There is a vast wealth of beautiful choral repertoire from Arab countries, but many choral directors feel daunted approaching it. Additionally, presenting sacred choral repertoire from unfamiliar cultures raises questions of customary practice, respect, and appropriateness, especially if informational and other resources are scarce.This session will provide an introduction to Arabic choral music by examining both sacred and secular works by Palestinian-Jordanian composer Shireen Abu-Khader. We will introduce the repertoire in the session from both a composer's and conductor's viewpoint, modeling collaborative interaction across cultures. We will pose questions for consideration and then address pronunciation and vocal style by exploring five choral pieces, one in Aramaic and the rest in either classical or colloquial Arabic, including new contemporary choral settings of traditional musical material. These varied settings present accessible examples of the many different genres, rhythms, scales, and musical styles within Arab vocal music, and are appropriate for multiple voicings and levels of choral ensembles.

We will begin the session introducing the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus. This composition will incorporate traditional melodies that originated in the secular genre of the qudud in Aleppo, Syria, and traveled to Lebanon and Egypt where they were used by the Maronite and Coptic communities. We will learn these melodies and offer assistance and teaching tips for tackling the pronunciation to render it approachable for English-speaking singers. As a transitional piece, we will explore an aleatoric composition based on the proverb “Il Jar ʔabl id-Dar” which offers sinɡers the
freedom to enɡaɡe as co-creators in the compositional process. We will then explore three new contemporary SATB choral settings of traditional musical material. We will begin with the folk song “Yumma mweil il hawa,” which will provide further practice with Arabic pronunciation. Next we will introduce the muwashah “Ya ghusna naqa,” which provides an opportunity to sing the characteristic three-quarter step found in many Arab maqamat, and utilizes a different rhythmic pattern. Finally, we will introduce an arrangement of the folk tune “Tal3a min beit abouha” that features an engaging jazzy rhythmic variant and fun vocal ostinati. These varied settings present accessible examples of the many different genres, meters (iqa3at), scales (maqamat), and musical styles within Arab vocal music, are appropriate for multiple levels of choral ensembles, and can easily be adapted to SA, SSA, or SAB voicings.

For each song, we will not only cover historical and musical context but also give participants substantial experience singing the music. Both IPA transcriptions and English translations will be provided for all four songs, and we will present additional resources and advice on seeking assistance in developing respectful performances. Through these experiences and resources, we hope to equip choral directors with tools for approaching other repertoire in Arabic as well.

SPEAKER: William Culverhouse

William Culverhouse

Dr. William Culverhouse serves as Director of Choral Activities at Binghamton University where he directs three curricular choirs as well as the professional-level Southern Tier Singers' Collective. He holds degrees in choral conducting and music education from the University of Maryland and Oberlin Conservatory. He has traveled extensively in the Middle East collaborating with musicians and directing choirs, including on a Fulbright grant in 2016.

SPEAKER: Shireen Abu-Khader

Shireen Abu-Khader

Dr. Shireen Abu-Khader is a Palestinian-Jordanian composer and educator with degrees in music education and choral conducting from the University of Toronto, the University of Southern California, and Oberlin Conservatory. She has worked with the National Conservatory of Music in Palestine and the Dozan wa Awtar Music Establishment in Jordan. Based in Toronto now, she composes and collaborates with performers in introducing music from her native region.

Major Works by Black American Women

Over the past decade there has been a gradually increasing and long overdue interest in the music of Black American composers. There has also been a similarly slow and steady growth of interest in women and genderqueer composers, who are still programmed at dramatically lower rates than their male counterparts. Informed by Crenshaw’s work on intersectionality, this session aims to present the works of six Black American women. This session will focus on larger works, as it is particularly difficult for marginalized composers to get longer or concert-length works performed. (It is even harder for these composers to get commissioned to write major works, and the topic of commissioning will be discussed.) In keeping with the conference theme, half of these works have texts by or were dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Session Literature:

  • Margaret Bonds, The Ballad of the Brown King
  • Undine Smith Moore, Scenes from the Life of a Martyr
  • Tania León, Rimas Tropicales
  • Ysaye Barnwell, Truth, pressed to Earth, shall rise
  • Bernice Johnson Reagon, Anybody Here? Song Journey in Seven Movements
  • Rosephanye Powell, Cry of Jeremiah

SPEAKER: Allegra Martin

Allegra Martin

Dr. Allegra Martin is the Director of College Choirs at the College of the Holy Cross. Dr. Martin holds degrees from Williams College, Westminster Choir College, and the University of Illinois. Her research specialty is the choral music of Margaret Bonds. In June 2021 she presented on diversity in programming at the Oxford Conducting Institute's 2021 International Conducting Studies Conference.

Marginalized Masterpieces: Works by BIPOC Composers of Central and South America From Before 1800

Due to schedule conflicts, this session will not be offered during our virtual conference.

This session will highlight a wide variety of works by Central and South American composers from the Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical eras that were black, indigenous, or people of color. For centuries, the works of white men have been canonized and the works of gifted BIPOC composers have been pushed to the margins of history. This presentation will highlight many rewarding compositions that should absolutely be considered as integral to our canon, and which are accessible to a wide range of collegiate performing ensembles. Participants will have the opportunity to engage with some of the works in a brief reading session and hear exemplary recordings of others. After the presentation a virtual folder of PDF scores will be distributed for further study.

This session is informed by presentations I gave at the Mass ACDA Summer Conference in July 2021 and at UMass Lowell as part of the Department of Music’s Headphone Series listening sessions in Fall 2020. Additionally, the UML choirs devoted their entire Fall 2020 semester’s repertoire to “underrepresented voices,” which included a number of the composers that will be highlighted in this presentation.

Session Literature:

  • Juan de Lienas, Coenantibus autem illis
  • Francisco López Capillas, In horrore
  • Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Madre, la de los primores
  • Manuel de Zumaya, Celebren, publiquen
  • Esteban Salas y Castro, Un musiquito nuevo
  • Inácio Parreiras Neves, Salve Regina
  • Zespedes, Convidando esta la noche

(All works available in public domain editions.)

SPEAKER: Jonathan Richter

Jonathan Richter

Dr. Jonathan Richter is a Visiting Assistant Teaching Professor and the director of choirs at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. There, he directs three ensembles and teaches courses in conducting, choral methods, and voice pedagogy. Having worked for many years with adolescent and youth musicians, Richter has made the advancement of music education a focus of his work at the collegiate level. In 2019 Richter was the recipient of the Exceeding Excellence in Teaching Award at UMass Lowell.

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