Goshen College will be welcoming Alice Parker for a festival performance of her music at the College Mennonite Church-Chapel On Sunday, Nov. 18 at 7 p.m.
Parker, age 92, is known worldwide for her contributions to music, specifically in vocal compositions. Throughout her career, she has maintained close connections to the Mennonite community, using the traditional Anabaptist four-part harmony as the core of her work.
The multi-award winning composer will be in the Goshen area for three days. At noon on Nov. 16, she will be joined at Rieth Recital Hall by Mary Oyer, Goshen College music professor emerita, and Rebecca Slough, former dean at the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, for a discussion on Lifelong Learning.
Parker has long been a friend to Anabaptist musical tradition.
“Alice Parker was inspired by the musical heritage of European Mennonites who she encountered in the 1960's,” said Deb Detwiler, professor of music. “It profoundly affected her to the point that she introduced the 1992 Mennonite Hymnal: A Worship Book to her own non-Mennonite church in Massachusetts.”
Juilliard educated, Parker worked closely with American conductor and Juilliard professor Robert Shaw. Shaw and Parker began their partnership by arranging folk-songs, hymns and other religious choral pieces. Since those early days, her repertoire has grown to include cantatas, operas, string quartets and extended works, like the one to be performed at the Church-Chapel entitled Melodious Accords.
Planning for the event began last spring when Bill Mateer, music director of the Goshen Community Chorale, approached music professors Detwiler and Scott Hochstetler about inviting Parker to Goshen in a college and community sponsored event. The Goshen Community Chorale will be largely featured in the performance, with the Goshen College Chamber Choir and other local choirs also participating.
Detwiler is excited for this opportunity as it, “[offers] college students an opportunity to rub shoulders with a world-famous composer and music icon.”
Mateer says, “[Oyer and Parker] have been friends and collaborators for many decades and will be reminiscing about their times together. It should be a fascinating discussion — a time of remembering for folks who were a part of some of these occasions over the years and perhaps eye-opening for people who are unfamiliar with this history.”
Oyer is credited with developing a robust fine arts program at Goshen College, which served to normalize the study of fine arts within Mennonite liberal arts programs.
She is also known for establishing the hymn known to many as “606” as a sort of anthem within the Mennonite church.
This conversation will be moderated by Slough, who is also a member of the leadership group for the new hymnal, “Voices Together.” Detwiler said this event is, “a conversation open to the public, especially students, that Alice and Mary Oyer, Goshen College professor emerita, will be having about music, friendship, and meaningful aspects of their decades of work in music.”
The love and recognition of the power of singing brought these two events to Goshen College’s campus.
“I'm hoping attendees will be as inspired by the viewpoints of these two musical icons as I have been over the years,” Detwiler said. “They have so much insight about how music works, what it means for people's hearts, and what transpires when people sing together.”