For many, music is a way to connect. However, this connection goes beyond being able to relate to the lyrical aspect. For some, it is important to connect music to a tangible experience. And the Keene State College Chamber Singers have done just that.
Since the beginning of the fall semester, the Chamber Singers have worked with the Monadnock Conservancy. Every year, Dr. Sandra Howard, assistant professor of music, said the Chamber Singers have picked a local organization to work with throughout the semester.
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“One of the important things for us to do is to get off campus and see what is going on in the community and how we can impact the world that we live in,” Howard said. She commented that for her students, working with a local organization is an easy way for them to attach the lyrical work to something tangible.
For this year’s concert, which was held on Dec. 1, 2012, in the Alumni Recital Hall of the Redfern Arts Center, Howard chose the theme of “Earth, Spirit, and Soul.” During this performance, a discussion panel was held prior to the event, which introduced audience members to the cause, and allowed them to build a connection with the theme of the concert.
“I think when you choose a theme for a concert, not every piece has to be the main connection,” Howard explained. However, Howard said that while some of the pieces may not possess as direct of a connection as others, the over-arching theme is what connects the pieces to one another.
“How do people find comfort or solitude? Or how do they relieve stress? What are those things that people go to? Some people go to the outdoors and go to the wilderness, some people go shopping, some people make coffee, and some people make music,” Howard said.
This year’s concert, which donates 20 percent of the ticket sales’ revenue, was a way to provide a common experience for those involved, according to Howard. She said that this year, the Chamber Singers will be donating enough money to preserve one acre of land.
Ryan Owens, executive director of the Monadnock Conservancy, said, “Our lives in the Monadnock Region are enhanced in so many ways by the natural landscape around us and those ways can be different for all of us–they can be conscious or unconscious,” he continued, “For many of us it is an intangible aesthetic.”
Owens said that the Monadnock Conservancy has been established for 23 years and during this time period, over 17,000 acres of land have been protected in 25 towns throughout the region.
“I’ve come to recognize as a singer myself that the land is a place that can inspire the creation of art and music and can inspire the passions that thrive in music or it can be a venue for the performance,” Owens said. But this cause served as more than just a source of inspiration, it was a way to convey meaning.
“With choral music it is really special because we have text to work with and we can express the poetry or lyrics to get a specific meaning across,” Howard explained. When choosing the repertoire, which the Chamber Singers have been working on since the first week of September, Howard said that it was important to include a variety of musical experiences through by encompassing different composers, time periods, and languages into the concert’s program. “Another branch is we are doing a world premiere on a piece. The theme was on conservation and preservation, so it [the world premiere] was kind of inspired out of the Monadnock Conservancy partnership and the winner was part of the Keene State College Call for Scores, which is through our composition division. The winner of this Call for Scores was composer Max Vladimiroff. Vladimiroff said he heard about the opportunity to submit a piece for the Call for Scores through an announcement by KSC’s Department of Music.
Vladimiroff selected two excerpts of poems from Gerard Hopkins (1844-1889), titled “Inversnaid” and “Ribblesdale,” which helped form his piece titled, “Let Them Be Left.”
“In terms of the connection between conservation and music, the idea of conservation is essential to our culture,” Vladimiroff said.
Vladimiroff said when looking for text to adapt to the music, he looked for something that would be artistic and beautiful, but was still relevant in today’s world. According to the concert program, Vladimiroff said, “The words expressed concern for the destruction of wild nature and sounded like a plea for our natural environment to be allowed to live on. We are once again reminded that our ‘sweet earth’ had been given to us and that we must take care of it.” Owens said that “we explore the many ways people connect. We found the diversity of that and we try to enhance that ever more through making the land meaningful and accessible.”
To help make the land of the Monadnock Conservancy more accessible, Howard said that the Chamber Singers helped build a trail to Porcupine Falls. Through this, Howard said that the members of the Chamber Singers were given the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
According to Howard, what this partnership provides is a way for the Chamber Singers to build connections throughout the community and find a way to make those connections alive. “We want people to feel like individuals, but we also want them to buy into their community as a group and think about what is better for the area as a whole, rather than being so insular. Sometimes, it is harder to get a wider view when we are on-campus the entire time,” Howard said.
Sam Norton can be contacted at