News and Events
Pepperdine Hosts Ascending Voice: An a cappella Music Festival
The largest and most eclectic gathering ever devoted exclusively to a cappella music is scheduled to take place at Pepperdine University in Malibu from Monday, June 4, through Thursday, June 7.
Called Ascending Voice, the international four-day festival is designed for college, university, and church choir directors, as well as theologians, musicologists, church historians, singers, and the general public. Organizers say Ascending Voice will be of special interest to Mennonite, Eastern Orthodox, Reformed Presbyterian, and Church of Christ congregations, and other groups that maintain a cappella music traditions.
Pepperdine University provost Darryl Tippens and N. Lincoln Hanks, associate professor of music, are organizing the music festival. They have received inquiries from all over the United States, Europe, New Zealand, and South America. "We discovered, even during the early stages of our planning, considerable enthusiasm for the festival. In the words of Professor Mary Oyer at Goshen College, 'Such an ecumenical gathering on this subject is unprecedented.'"
Tippens added: "We are finding that sacred a cappella music is very broad, indeed global, certainly more so than I had imagined. We did not initially anticipate performing groups from Russia or Colombia—but the word got out and the interest has been surprising." Tippens also noted that due to recent encouragement from Pope Benedict XVI, there is a renewed interest in Gregorian chant and other historic forms of sacred a cappella music.
Tippens and event organizers have booked several world-renowned a cappella groups including the Grammy award-winning recording artists, Anonymous 4. The eclectic program will showcase a variety of musical styles with lectures upon or performances of sacred harp music, Orthodox chants, Anglican choral music, Amish "slow singing," Latin American choral music, African hymnody, and Taiwanese indigenous Christian music of the Bunun tribe. The multiple varieties illustrate the point that sacred a cappella music is enormously diverse. Says Tippens: "Pepperdine's conference—focusing on the theological and historical dimensions as well as performance—will be the first of its type, according to the music authorities with whom we have talked."
A particular feature of the music festival will be the multiple opportunities for audience participation. "Sacred a cappella music assumes participation by many voices," Tippens notes. Composer, conductor, and teacher Alice Parker, known for her choral arrangements with Robert Shaw, will lead singing, as will Kenneth Nafziger, professor of music at Eastern Mennonite University, a nationally known conductor, workshop leader, and clinician.
Robert Page, one of the most distinguished choral conductors in America and professor of music and director of choral studies at Carnegie Mellon University, is scheduled to conduct a clinic at Ascending Voice. Page's exhaustive body of work is available on 40 discs compiled by leading recording labels including Columbia, London, and RCA. He has received numerous Grammy nominations and Grammy awards for recordings of Catulli Carmina and Carmina Burana, a Grand Prix du Disque for Porgy and Bess, and an award for the world premiere of Shostakovich's Symphony No. 13. Page is enthusiastic about the Pepperdine a cappella music festival and is serving on the event's international advisory committee.
Other featured speakers include Frederica Mathewes-Green, Khouria of the Holy Cross Orthodox Church in Linthicum, Maryland, author of The Lost Gospel of Mary, and a frequent commentator on National Public Radio; Aurelio Porfiri, a composer from Rome, whose works have been commissioned by the Vatican and broadcast on Vatican Radio; and Everett Ferguson, one of the foremost authorities on ancient Christian worship.
Pepperdine's Ascending Voice symposium and music festival coincides with the annual Chorus America Conference which takes place from Wednesday, June 6, through Saturday, June 9, in Los Angeles, and will be hosted by the L.A. Master Chorale.
To learn more or purchase tickets, please visit the Ascending Voice Web site.
National Advisory Council
Dr. W. Everett Ferguson, Jr.
Distinguished Scholar in Residence
Graduate School of Theology
Abilene Christian University
Dr. Richard Hughes
Distinguished Professor and Senior Boyer Fellow
Father Columba Kelly, OSB
Director, St. Meinrad Gregorian Chant Schola
Saint Meinrad Archabbey
Dr. Paul Kilpatrick
Associate Professor of English
Dr. Kenneth J. Nafziger
Eastern Mennonite University
Dr. Mary K. Oyer A.Mus.D.
Emerita Professor in Music at Goshen College
Dr. Robert Page
Paul Mellon Professor of Music and Director of Choral Studies
Carnegie Mellon University
Dr. Jack Reese, Dean
College of Biblical Studies
Abilene Christian University
President of PSALM
(Pan-Orthodox Society for Advancement of Liturgical Music)
Choir Director, St. Anthony's Orthodox Christian Church
Anonymous 4, a professional folk ensemble of four women, is world renowned for interweaving music, poetry and narrative—their recordings on the Billboard Classic Top Ten have sold in the millions of copies. Their new CD Gloryland, a collaboration with folk star instrumentalists Darol Anger and Scott Nygaard, is a pilgrimage to the roots of Anglo-American vocal music, featuring lyric folk songs and religious ballads, shape-note tunes (in spare three-part harmony from 19th century hymn books), and spiritual and gospel hymns. Their version of religious ballads and folk songs replicates the performances of traditional singers from the Ozark and Appalachian Mountains.
Program: "Mt. Sinai, Frontier of Byzantium: Greek Orthodox Chant from St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai, Egypt." Cappella Romana appears in this program as an all-male a cappella ensemble directed by Dr. Alexander Lingas. The ensemble combines passion with scholarship in its exploration of the musical traditions of the Christian East and West, from the earliest notated medieval manuscripts to world premieres by living composers. Following last year's sold-out performances at the Smithsonian Institution and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Cappella Romana presents virtuoso medieval Byzantine chants from St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai, Egypt—music few have heard in over five hundred years—including psalms, hymns, and mystical chants from the Play of the Three Children in the Fiery Furnace, Byzantium's only liturgical drama. This program was described as "robust and intriguing music" by The Washington Post. The ensemble, which has a flexible membership of both men and women, has toured extensively throughout the United States and Europe and has recorded eight compact discs, including Music of Byzantium, in cooperation with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Click here for more information.
Program: "O Cathedral." The Concord Ensemble of Los Angeles presents an experiential program of a cappella mystical and sacred music by ancient and contemporary composers. Featuring the personal and penitential Miserere mei Deus by Josquin des Prez and Stephen Hartke's sublime Cathedral in the Thrashing Rain, the all-male vocal chamber music recreates the sacred spaces of vast transepts and intimate radiating chapels. The Concord Ensemble gained international recognition in 1998 when it won the Early Music America/Dorian Records Recording Competition. Since then they have recorded two CDs under the Dorian label, touring worldwide with performances of music of Medieval, Renaissance, and contemporary periods. They have collaborated in performing and recording projects with such premier early music groups as Piffaro and The Folger Consort, and most recently joined international pop sensation Sting and Bosnian lutenist Edin Karamazov on stage at Disney Hall in Los Angeles, performing music from Sting's new CD, Songs From the Labyrinth. Click here for more information.
St. Andrew's Academy Choir
This choir, directed by Fr. Brian Foos, is one of the very few liturgical choirs in the Anglican tradition in America that actually sings the daily offices every school day during the year. This, along with the composition of the choir (kindergarten through 12th grade and faculty), makes the choir unique in the primary and secondary school arena. When the choir travels long distances, only middle and high school students make the trip with faculty to sing "hymn, and chant, and high thanksgiving" from the great Anglican Choral tradition. The choir is a member of the Royal School of Church Music and has recorded its first CD, Heart Rejoicing: Evensong with St. Andrew's Academy.
Spiritual Music Ensemble
Composer Konstantin Zhigulin of St. Petersburg, Russia, brings his original music compositions, based upon the Psalms and other texts of Scripture, to the U.S. Various Russian symphonies, including the Novosibirsk Philharmonic and Chamber Orchestra, have performed Zhigulin's original pieces.
Coro De Camara Arcadia
Cecilia Espinosa directs this award-winning choir from Medellin, Colombia. The eighteen-member chamber choir was established in 1999 to perform new musical compositions and Latin American choral music, in particular. The group has participated in several international choral festivals and competitions, winning a gold medal at the Rodas (Greece) International Choir Competition in 2002. In 2005 Arcadia was one of four choirs selected to perform at the 7th Symposium of Choral Music in Kyoto, Japan. In July 2006, the choir participated in the prestigious 22nd Béla Bártok Competition in Debrecen, Hungary, winning third place among the chamber choirs. In the same contest, Ms. Espinsoa won a special prize for her superior conducting and interpretation of the Latin American repertoire.
The Gonzaga University Gregorian Schola
Dr. Edward Schaefer, Director. Gregorian Schola is a select ensemble whose members sing chant and Renaissance polyphony at the university's weekly Gregorian Chant Masses. The Schola has sung throughout the United States in conferences devoted to chant and at a regional and national conventions of the Music Educators National Conference and the American Choral Directors Association. Dr. Edward Schaefer has a special interest in chant, with several publications on the subject. His latest text, The Music of the Catholic Church: the Search for an Acceptable Offering, will be published this summer.
Lipscomb University A Cappella Singers
Gary Wilson, Director. For more than forty years the A Cappella Singers have been an important part of Lipscomb University, Nashville, Tennessee. The ensemble has traveled and performed in thirty-nine states, eleven foreign countries, and has given an estimated seven hundred performances in such venues as the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris; the City Hall of Brisbane, Australia; the University of Toulouse, France; the Cathedral of San Antonio, Texas; and many churches in the rural South. The singers have performed for the Southern Division Convention of the American Choral Directors.
Harding University Chamber Singers
Cliff Ganus, Director. The Chamber Singers of Harding University (Searcy, Arkansas) is a select group. Most of the dozen members are music majors who also sing in Harding's Chorus or Concert Choir. The group, established in the fall of 2005, prepares three or four concerts each year, exploring a repertoire particularly suitable for a vocal chamber ensemble. They also participate in an annual Christmas dinners and concerts.
Sacred Harp Workshop
Rick and Laura Russell are amateur singers who have been encouraging the practice of Sacred Harp singing in the Los Angeles area since 1992. Rick is a retired Professor of Psychology at Santa Monica College, and Laura is a student at College of Court Reporting in Hobart, Indiana. Since 1999 they have led a Sacred Harp "Learners Group" which seeks to promote this participatory expression of uniquely American music, to help singers learn its practical method of sight-singing, and to appreciate its rich traditions.
Film: Awake My Soul
This documentary—a seven-year effort by Matt and Erica Hinton of Atlanta, Georgia— tells the story of Sacred Harp singing, a shape-note tradition with deep roots in the American South and Colonial America. Matt Hinton will introduce the film and discuss the project of documenting this beloved American musical tradition.