Churchill Singers Will Sing to Light-up Rwanda in Concert on April 21st

Kicking off Alumni Weekend 2016, the Churchill Singers will present “Songs of the Earth” on Thursday, April 21 at 7:30 pm in the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermanbury.  The choir concert is on the eve of Earth Day and will feature songs, poetry, and prayers that remind us of the intimate relationship that exists between humans and our planet.

Dr. Natasia Sexton, Associate Professor of Music and Churchill Singers conductor, explains that “while the music for the concert runs the stylistic gamut, thematically it all points toward the delicate balance that we must strike between relying on Earth’s resources and nurturing and sustaining our world for future generations.”

Among the pieces being performed are folk ballads like “Down In the Valley” and “Shenandoah,” an arrangement of the communion hymn “Let Us Break Bread Together” and a country-blues arrangement of Huddie Ledbetter’s “Bring Me Little Water, Silvy” that features body percussion.

Additionally, three compositions written by contemporary American composers are considered favorites by members of the choir.

Kody Renner ’16, a tenor in the choir, finds solace in Eric Whitacre’s “Seal Lullaby.”

“The lyrics say ‘The storm shall not wake thee, nor shark overtake thee, asleep in the arms of the slow swinging seas,’ and this makes me feel like despite all of life’s challenges that something greater always has my back,” says Renner.

“Emerald Stream” by Seth Houston was written while the composer was on a canoe trip with his dad.  Freshman Ashley Rosinski and Mitch McGill ’17 both draw inspiration from this song that hearkens back to the shape-note singing style of early American settlers. Mitch McGill, who sings baritone, appreciates the “call for environmental stewardship” that is implicit within this piece, and Ashley Rosinski, an alto, describes how this song “opens my eyes to how we are responsible for this world, yet we take it for granted every day.” 

Frank Ticheli’s “Earth Song” is a favorite of most members of the choir.  Alyssa Marrero ’16, from the soprano section, sums up its appeal this way:  “This song is absolutely beautiful melodically, but it also has a powerful message.”  Jamey Lemon ’19, a tenor, steps in to clarify by saying, “the song personifies the Earth.  Lyrics like ‘the scorched Earth cries out in vain’ describe how we have treated our planet, and it makes me think about how we need to take better care of it.”

Members of the choir hope to do more than simply encourage the audience to think about our relationship with our planet and our responsibility to care for it.  The Churchill Singers are also partnering with Dr. Bob Hansen, Coordinator of Westminster’s Organizational Leadership Program, in an effort to raise awareness of and funds for a poverty reduction project in Rwanda.

The project, which provides solar lights to Rwandan students in remote areas without electricity, is managed through the international nonprofit organizations – Humanity for Children and Trees for Life.  Through the program, Rwandan children earn solar study lights through their care for local fruit orchards.

The program is also supported by members of The First Presbyterian Church of Fulton.  Although the concert on April 21 is free, a goodwill offering will be taken during the concert so that guests may help support this initiative.

Tess Fessler ’16, a soprano who has sung with the Churchill Singers for eight semesters, is confident that the concert has something to offer everyone.  Acknowledging that music is entertaining, she says, “Music also has the ability to heal and to create awareness. This concert gives great hope, and it awakens us to the wonders of our world.”

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