Festival Chorus Meets with Composer of "Calling All Dawns"

Submitted by Paul Wieman, Director of Academic Initiatives; Upper School Humanities Teacher

Each year, the Festival Chorus, directed by Mary Marcell, brings together students, parents, faculty, alumni, parents of alumni, and friends to perform as a combined choir and orchestra. This year, participants had the unique opportunity to visit virtually with the composer and hear more about his process and choices concerning this year's selection, "Calling All Dawns." Paul Wieman, Festival Chorus participant and RCDS faculty member, recaps this special educational experience:

A few days before the 24th Annual Festival Chorus Concert, the 150 member community choir met for one of its final rehearsals in Memorial Hall. Up until this point, the student and adult choirs had been separately rehearsing this year's piece, Calling All Dawns, a multi-dimensional song cycle featuring 12 different texts in 12 different languages, by Christopher Tin.

Shortly into rehearsal, Conductor Mary Marcell went over to the podium, clicked a couple of clicks on her laptop, and within seconds a figure appeared on the screen, quickly recognized by all as Mr. Tin, casually sitting in a room in his house, greeting us all with a wave and a smile.

After a few words of greeting, he offered to the Festival Chorus his inspiration for the piece... "I was hoping to stretch the boundaries of traditional choral music, and I wanted to draw on the singing traditions of many different cultures." He explained how he had to study the different languages and work with tutors and specialists to help him determine appropriate texts for the piece. Then, with Mr. Tin listening, the group performed a couple sections, and Ms. Marcell asked for feedback. "Just sit back and enjoy it," he recommended. "The piece is supposed to be fun, and now that you have learned the notes and the words, be in the moment and have fun as a group."

The students (and the adults) asked Mr. Tin some specific questions about how he went about composing the piece and why he made the choices he made, and after about fifteen minutes, Mr. Tin wished us well as he signed off.