Friday, April 30, 2010

Saturday at Duke // "Sparks of Divinity" World Premiere


Women's Voices Chorus (WVC)
will perform a spring concert titled “Sparks of Divinity” on Saturday, May 1, at 7:30 p.m., in Duke Chapel.

For more information contact (919) 684-3855,, or Tickets available at the door, $15 adults, $5 students. The concert explores themes of light, evening, death, and hope in music from Russia, Hungary, Finland, Canada, and the United States. The concert will include a world premiere of Lana Walter's “Sparks of Divinity” written for Women's Voices Chorus.

“Sparks of Divinity” was commissioned by Susan E. Brown for WVC, in celebration of the life of her mother, Janie Perrin Stevens Brown. Susan Brown, also a singer in WVC, took three years gestating the idea for the composition, but always knew she wanted composer Lana Walter for the job: “I love singing Lana’s work – she has a great sense of quirky rhythm and harmonies.” Before the collaboration was complete, it would turn out that Susan and Lana would share more than a love of choral music, but also the experience of losing a mother to Alzheimer’s disease.

After her mother’s death in 2006, Susan began searching for the right texts to honor Janie, who was born to American missionary parents in China in 1915. A person of deep Christian faith, Janie’s frequent moves exposed her to many different cultures and beliefs over her lifetime. Perhaps this explains why her daughter Mary Ellen described her as “the most nonjudgmental person I have ever known,” able to “see in all persons the spark of divinity, the image of God, and to accept their culture, creed, or human foibles and failings.” Taking her sister’s words as inspiration, Susan wrote a poem entitled “Sparks of Divinity,” and gave it to Lana along with texts from the Books of John and Matthew, and a poem by Mary Frye, “I Am Not Here.”

“The commissioning of new work for women’s voices is one of the bedrock principles of our group, and I’m proud that we’ve been able to meet this mission in these challenging financial times,” said WVC Artistic director Allan Friedman, who is also assistant conductor of Duke Chapel music.

For the rest of the concert, Friedman chose pieces from around the world that were particularly suited to singing at sunset in Duke Chapel, on the themes of light, evening, death, and hope. “Songs of Radiance,” comprising four pieces, are his own composition, commissioned by the NC Music Teachers Association. Deborah Coclanis will accompany on piano.

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