Nathan B. Ensign, Organist and Choirmaster
For my Continuing Education project this summer I am fortunate to be one of eight musicians from across the U.S. and Canada to spend a week with Alice Parker at her home in Western Massachusetts. I attended a one day workshop with her in Berkeley about 15 years ago and found her very inspiring especially in her enthusiastic way of encouraging people and congregations to sing. She offers 3 workshops a year but I have never been able to attend before. This summer we will be looking at her approach to melodies by exploring tunes from many centuries and countries, and asking: Why do we love certain ones? How are they constructed? What makes them last over centuries? Can we define a “good” melody? All of this through much singing, analysis and discussion.
I’ll tell you more when I get back but here is a short bio of Ms. Parker.
Composer, conductor, and teacher, Alice Parker says that she sang before she spoke. She began composing at the age of five, and wrote her first orchestral score while still in high school. At Smith College and the Julliard School, she studied composition and conducting, beginning her long association with Robert Shaw (Robert Shaw Chorale Director). Their many settings of American folk songs, hymns, and spirituals form an enduring repertoire for choirs all around the world. Through the years she has continued composing in all the choral forms from opera to cantata, from sacred anthems to songs on texts by distinguished poets. She has been commissioned by such well-known groups as Chanticleer, the Vancouver Chamber Singers, and the Atlanta Symphony, as well as hundreds of community, school, and church choirs.