This weekend is Earthtones: Songs From Many Cultures — the final choir concert of the year. Earthtones concerts maintain a tradition of celebrating diverse music from many cultures around the world. This particular Earthtones is also coupled with a celebration of Mary Oyer’s 100th birthday, which was on April 5.Vox Profundi and Chamber Choir director Dr. Scott Hochstetler stated that Oyer, a former Goshen College music and fine arts professor, “influenced a couple generations of Goshen College students, including music majors and many, many non-majors” during her tenure.
The focus Earthtones places on diverse music makes it an apt venue to celebrate Oyer. Voices of the Earth director Roz Woll noted Oyer is “profoundly committed to engaging with global music traditions with depth and rigor.”
“This was unusual and visionary in academia in her generation,” Woll added.
Hochstetler emphasized that Oyer’s work extended beyond the college to the broader Mennonite community.
“Her work in hymnology impacted the Mennonite Church greatly,” he said, “and she contributed so much to the singing of hymns throughout the United States in many churches of all denominations.”
In fact, Oyer introduced a setting of the doxology text, “Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow,” to the Mennonite church that has colloquially become known as the “Mennonite Anthem.” The choirs will be performing this hymn at Earthtones in her honor.
Music from a wide variety of countries and cultures will be presented by all the choirs, including places like Ukraine, South Africa, Indonesia and India.
Woll stated that she is most looking forward to “the opportunity to explore musical stories of the human experience from a global perspective.”
Hochstetler echoed this sentiment, stating that he “always appreciate[s] the variety of cultures represented at Earthtones through the great song choices and always love[s] how the singers and audience embrace music from around the world.”
This year, Earthtones will also include the performance of a composition by sophomore music major Victor Vegas, “Mil Voces.” The text of the song is a poem by GC adjunct Spanish professor, Nayo Ulloa. about the crying out of unheard voices.
Vegas spent five and a half months working on the composition, which he said “was definitely a challenge.”
“I really wanted it to be special and have really intricate harmonies to showcase the complexities of unheard voices,” he explained.
“Seeing it come to life with Voices of the Earth has been so rewarding and I’m really happy with how everything has turned out.”
Vegas is also looking forward to the ways in which Earthtones will showcase the talents of Ulloa, a renowned Andean classical flute player. In addition to writing the text for “Mil Voces,” Ulloa will perform a tenor solo with Chamber Choir and play traditional Andean instruments quena and charango in “Vasija de Barro.”
“I’m really excited for him and I think it’s about time he got the recognition he deserves,” Vegas added.
Earthtones also celebrates choir seniors and provides an opportunity for senior choral music education majors to conduct the choirs in a performance setting.
Two of the songs, “Vasija de Barro” and “Jigs,” will be conducted by senior music education major Cadence Lee. With the Chamber Choir piece “Jigs,” Lee has “been a part of the whole from teaching to conducting,” whereas with Voices of the Earth, she has taken on “more of a guest conductor” role.
“It’s been interesting being on both sides,” Lee explained. “[They are] both different but powerful in their own way.”
“Vasija de Barro,” the song Lee will conduct for Voices of the Earth, turned out to have a surprising connection with Lee’s Study-Service Term in Ecuador. She knew she wanted to conduct an Ecuadorian piece, but due to time constraints, Woll selected the song.
“By coincidence, it was related to Guayasamín,” Lee noted. Guayasamín was an Ecuadorian artist whose museum Lee visited with her SST unit.
To Lee, deliberately focusing on singing music from different “traditions and genres” gives a greater purpose to the concert and the choirs. These songs “unify the choir,” she explained.
Earthtones will feature Voices of the Earth, Vox Profundi and Chamber Choir. The concert will be on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are free for GC students and staff.