CHADRON – An original piece of choral music, commissioned specially for Chadron State College, will get its world premiere April 15 at Memorial Hall, thanks to a gift from an anonymous donor to the CSC music department.
“Three Nebraska Lyrics,” composed by David von Kampen with original lyrics by Becky Boesen, will be performed by the combined Chadron State College Concert Choir, Chadron Community Choir and Ogallala High School Choir during the concert, said CSC Music Professor Joel Schreuder.
Schreuder said the piece is classical choral, set in 21st century harmonies, and made up of three segments representing different aspects of Nebraska.
The concert starts at 3 p.m. April 15 and is free and open to the public.
“On the Ridge” is specific to the Pine Ridge region, “Underneath” is about the Platte River, and “The Planting Season” evokes an important time in the annual cycle of the state’s agricultural industry.
“It’s really cool how it all works,” said CSC Accompanist Bobby Pace, who will accompany the performance on piano and has been rehearsing the work with the two Chadron choirs. “‘The Planting Season’ is very jaunty and upbeat. The other two are slower and more melodic but those are the ones that get stuck in my head. You get the vastness of the terrain coming through in the music.”
Schreuder said he learned about a year ago of the donor’s desire to have a composition commissioned for Chadron State and contacted von Kampen about writing it. Von Kampen directs vocal jazz at the University of Nebraska and has written music for professional choirs, Schreuder said.
“I’ve worked with him a lot,” he said. “We decided on going with three pieces as a set. I wanted them all to be about Nebraska, and I thought it was important to include the Pine Ridge area, not just the corn belt.”
Finding appropriate Nebraska-themed lyrics to set to music proved difficult, so von Kampen got in touch with Boesen, a Nebraska poet and friend he had worked with previously.
Besides making the composition specific to Nebraska, Schreuder said he wanted it to be for piano and choir, and written at a level that an advanced high school choir could perform.
“I didn’t want this really difficult college-level thing that nobody would perform,” he said. “I wanted it to be accessible and performed.”
After receiving the finished piece, Schreuder also decided he wanted to have the premiere with a larger choir than he directs at Chadron State, so he invited CSC Music Professor Una Taylor, director of the Chadron Community Choir, to bring her group, and asked CSC alumnus Scott Reffert, who directs the Ogallala High School Choir, if he would like to participate.
“He is going to bring about 20 kids. It’s going to be kind of a multi-generational thing,” Schreuder said.
A combined performance by three independent groups that don’t practice together is going to be a challenge, Schreuder acknowledged. He plans to attend rehearsals of the Chadron and the Ogallala High School choirs in the weeks before the concert, and the Chadron State and Chadron Community choirs will rehearse together the day before the performance. The Ogallala choir will arrive Sunday morning before the concert and Schreuder said they’ll have maybe half an hour to put it all together.
Almost 80 singers will be joining to premiere von Kampen’s piece, which will take about 10 minutes of the concert program, said Pace.
“It will be really nice to have the fullness of everybody for that premier,” he said.
Having a piece of original music composed specifically for Chadron State is apparently a first, and quite unusual for a college of CSC’s size, said Schreuder.
“It’s amazing to have something written specifically for you,” said Pace. “Chadron State’s name will be on this this published piece forever.”
The identity of the donor who commissioned the work isn’t being revealed at present, and Schreuder said he doesn’t know if the individual will agree to be recognized at some point.
But von Kampen, who will be in Chadron prior to the concert to assist with interpretation of the music and work with the choirs, will be honored at a reception Friday, April 13.
“I’m trying to make this an event, rather than just a concert,” Pace said. “We’ll try to get as many people here as possible.”