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Susquehanna Chorale premieres new Chilcott piece

Written by Cary Burkett, Arts & Culture Desk and WITF Host | Apr 28, 2016 1:10 PM

 

Linda Tedford, founder and conductor of the Susquehanna Chorale, has long been a fan of the music of English composer Bob Chilcott.  She has followed his career since the 1970's when he was a performer in the renowned King's Singers.

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Bob Chilcott

Since he became a composer, his music has been performed by choirs around the globe. Tedford says she thinks, "he's in the top ten of composers that we've done over and over again."

When the Susquehanna Chorale wanted to commission a new piece to perform, it was only natural that they would approach Chilcott to compose it.  

But the piece actually began with the text, a poem by Mary Anne Morefield, who lives much of the year in Central Pennsylvania.  

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Mary Anne Morefield

Morefield began writing poetry in high school and had her first poem published nationally while she was still in high school. She served as a pastor at First United Methodist in Carlisle and as Chaplain at Dickenson College. Since her retirement, she's had more time for her poetry. A collection of poems called Earth, Grass, Trees and Stone was published last year.

In 2009 she attended a concert and heard a choir singing a Requiem in Latin --a mass sung as a memorial for those who have died. As she listened to the familiar Latin phrases, she says she began to find words forming in her mind.

"I grabbed  those little pew cards and pencil that are back there so you can make notes, " she recalls, " and I used up quite a lot of pew cards with just little fragments and sentences."

Later, she took the fragments and crafted them into a poem which she titled Requiem. The poem would be published the following year in Chautauqua journal.

In spite of the title, she says she did not write the poem to memorialize a loved one who had passed on.  It was simply her response to the music.

Yet when her husband, John A Morefield Jr., died in 2012, she read the poem at his memorial service.

John Morefield was the longtime president of Morefield Communications and a community leader. The couple had been supporters of the Susquehanna Chorale. Members of the group sang at his memorial service. There Linda Tedford heard Mary Anne read the poem.

"After the service," says Tedford, "I said to Mary Anne, that was beautiful I think it should be set to music."

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Linda Tedford

Years later when a donor provided funds for the Susquehanna Chorale to commission a new work, Tedford remembered the poem and approached composer Bob Chilcott with the idea of setting it to music.

The result is Chilcott's new work, Chautauqua Requiem, which will be premiered by the Susquehanna Chorale in their upcoming Spring Concert, which is titled "Sing Me to Heaven".  Performances are Friday, May 6,  at 8:00 p.m. at the Derry Presbyterian Church in Hershey and Saturday, May 7 at 8:00 p.m. at Messiah College, High Center, Grantham.

The full text of Mary Anne Morefield's poem, Requiem, is included in her collection, Earth, Grass, Tress and Stone. 

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