Recently, I re-discovered (while cleaning - because we all have plenty of time for that these days) a newsletter put out by the University Singers, the flagship choral ensemble at the University of Virginia. In it, was a short piece that I wrote reflecting on my short time leading the choirs there in Spring of 2019. Re-reading it and re-living the wonderful memories from that time is the stuff COVID-19 life is made of. It also made me realize that I hadn't yet taken time on here (as I did with my equally wonderful time at Whitworth), to reflect on those experiences. Below is the text that I wrote for that Newsletter. Also scroll down to the very bottom for a little video treat - a small taste of how thrilling a time it was to be at UVA!
Meeting as friends, but parting as family.
It’s truly hard to put words to my one, blissfully lucky term at UVA. Have you ever felt like you were part of something much bigger than you? From the institution, to the music department and of course the choirs, it felt like a community that shared a lofty vision for which to aspire on all fronts.
With the University Singers coming off of their monumental run of Bernstein’s Mass last fall, and the prospect of having nearly one-hundred singers with nimble voices (something I’m not totally accustomed to) we set out to create a program filled with mini-masterworks like Brahms’ a cappella motet Schaffe in mir, Gott, Eric Whitacre’s athletic setting of the e.e. cummings poem “Little Man in a Hurry” (UVA was an original co-commissioner of this work) and Johann Pachelbel’s Nun danket, alle Gott, complete with a complement of period wind instruments. With some extra thought given to the smaller works on the concert, I came up with the theme “The Journey of a Lifetime,” a title that was more than a little apropos.
For the class of 2019 it felt like something of a milestone, too; never in the history of University Singers “Exec” had there been a President and Ensemble Manager who switched roles for their 3rd and 4th years in the group, until Thomas Sumner and Katie Schneider. Granted, I have a limited scope, but it’s hard to picture the group without them. Other milestones this spring included a retirement celebration for Professor Emeritus Judith Shatin, for whom University Singers performed her own setting of Adonai R’oi on the weekend of her composer’s retrospective. Speaking of collaborating, I was also quite pleased to be able to include fellow UVA applied faculty members Adam Carter (violoncello), and Mike Rosensky (guitar) on the program as well. I would be remiss If I didn’t mention the stellar pianists who ably serve this program; Deke Polifka and Karen Dalton, I’m grateful both for your artistry, and camaraderie.
There were many other highlights: There was basketball run to a national championship, and the UVA Chamber Singers doing a stellar job tackling a challenging program of all a cappella music (an effort that I am particularly proud of). Yet, I am perhaps most impressed with the tight-knit community that exists within the UVA Choral program. Michael’s vision extends far beyond his musicianship and scholarly intuition in his desire to foster a choral community at UVA that espouses devotion to art and service to others. I have yet to find a choral ensemble the size of University Singers that encompasses the values of family and artistry in equal measure. I often quipped during “Exec” meetings that I was just a visitor here, to which I was corrected “no you’re not, you’re family,” and wouldn’t you know it – it truly felt that way.
My Jefferson cup sits on my desk at DeSales University where I am now an Assistant Professor of Fine Arts, along with a photo from our Winter 2019 retreat in Staunton. I treasure the memories of Spring 2019, and for every time I leave, I hope I return just as many times to [my now] dear old UVA.
The University Singers help send off the UVA Men's Basketball team ahead of their appearance in the 2019 NCAA Men's Basketball Final Four. UVA went on to win the National Championship, defeating Texas Tech 85-77. Go Hoos!