Newswise — Beginning with an Oct. 10 midterm choral concert featuring music singularly from female composers and sung by the University Chorus and the Creighton University Chamber Choir, Creighton’s vocal musicians will host three more performances highlighting the work of immigrant and refugee composers at Christmas, composers of color for a spring concert, and close out the year with a celebration of the works of LGBTQ artists.
“We’ve been looking at proactive ways to ensure the choral classroom is a place for everybody and ways to represent all of these composers in some way,” said A. Barron Breland, DM, chair of the Fine and Performing Arts Department and director of the Chamber Choir. “Looking into the work of these composers, we’ve found beautiful, vibrant music. There’s no lack of quality material when you seek it out.”
The choirs are also working with music from composers who are still living, creating something of a dialogue that’s otherwise unavailable when singing from the music in the established canon.
In rehearsing the present concert, Breland has twice had occasion to contact composers to alert them of note discrepancies in the music. He went on one composer’s website and another’s Facebook page and was able to enter a dialogue.
“With Mozart and Schubert, we’ll never know,” Breland said. “But working with someone living, who can answer these questions and who are interested in what we’re doing — one composer asked me to send her a recording of the concert — that’s an awesome opportunity. It’s not that we’re leaving dead white males behind. There is still plenty of room. We’re just looking at some of those voices that, for whatever reason, have been marginalized.”
The student singers have applauded the project. When Breland announced they were doing a piece from contemporary choral composer Dale Trumbore, the choir cocked a collective eyebrow.
“They heard ‘Dale’ and thought, ‘Well that could be male or female,’” Breland said. “When I told them the composer was a woman, there were cheers.”
Moreover, Breland said he’s trying to move students in the direction of thinking about singers not along gender lines, but along the lines of pitch. Sopranos and altos aren’t only females, neither are males strictly tenors and baritones. Students are appreciating the musical spectrum transcends gender.
“That’s a big part of making sure all voices are heard in the choral classroom,” Breland said. “It seems like a small thing, but it’s an acknowledgment we can make that opens the door at least a little wider.”
The Creighton choral season opens with the Oct. 10 concert at 7:30 p.m., at St. John’s Church. The University Chorus conducted by Adam Witte and the Chamber Choir conducted by Breland, with collaborative pianist Cecilia Jensen, will present a concert themed around faith, love, and loss, featuring all female composers including Shulamit Ran, Dale Trumbore, Hyo-Won Woo, Jocelyn Hagen, among many others.