Concert Choir brings diverse choral repertoire to audiences in ‘American Echoes’ tour

Maryville College Concert Choir's annual tour is titled "American Echoes" and will take place March 12-19. Photo Courtesy of friends of Maryville College.
Maryville College Concert Choir’s annual tour is titled “American Echoes” and will take place March 12-19. Photo Courtesy of friends of Maryville College.

In a wide-ranging performance that spans over more than 150 years of American history, Maryville College Concert Choir, led by coordinator of choral music Stacey Wilner, will explore the identity of American music in its “American Echoes” spring choir tour March 12-19.

“We’re not just performing your standard patriotic music,” Wilner said. “We’ve prepared a variety of pieces for the diverse locations, in which we will sing anything from folk music to modern pieces.”

The program includes classic sacred selections such as “The Last Words of David” by Randall Thompson and “Pilgrim’s Hymn” by Stephen Paulus; spirituals, such as “I Know I Been Changed” arranged by Roy Belfield and “I Can Tell the World” by Moses Hogan; and folk influence in “Shenandoah” arranged by James Erb and “Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye” arranged by Alice Parker.

“‘Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye’ is one of my favorites not only for its Irish tradition, but because of its ability as a piece to transcendence its Irish traditions and appeal to a universal idea,” Wilner said. “Like many of the songs we sing, it addresses a universal state that transcends both generations and cultures.”

Members of the choir are excited for the opportunities the tour presents.

“I look forward to singing in Washington D.C. and having the experience to perform with the Army Chorus,” said freshman Heidi Vowel. “Those men have such a great quality to their voices.”

The choir will be touring several states, including Washington D.C., Virginia and parts of Tennessee, to perform their diverse selections to a variety of audiences.

“I was in show choir prior to coming to Maryville College and we sang a large amount of pop music,” Vowel said. “I can definitely appreciate the diverse types of music we’re doing for this tour, especially the Native American piece ‘Heleluyan.’”

“Heleluyan” is one of the opening pieces for many of the Concert Choir’s upcoming performances, serving as introduction of sorts due to the cultural associations of the Muscogee or Creek Indians native to the southeast and the Tennessee River.

Sophomore music major Amber Nejme provides rhythmic accompaniment for the unique piece using a traditional frame drum.

The ensemble groups Off Kilter, the Lads and the Lassies will present more recent musical arrangements.
During choir tour performances, these ensembles will explore the influence of jazz and blues, along with the more popular side of American music, with selections such as “Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong and “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” made famous by the Andrew Sisters.

The traditional Concert Choir tour send-off is scheduled for Wednesday, March 12 at 12 p.m. in the Clayton Center for the Arts’ William Baxter Lee III Grand Foyer. The choir will perform a mini-concert, which is open to the public.

During the event, the choir will sell its CD, titled “A Celebration of Gratitude,” which includes recordings from the 2012 Scotland choir tour. Select pieces can also be heard during the choir’s annual homecoming concert on Thursday, March 27 at 7:30 p.m. in the Ronald and Lynda Nutt Theatre. This concert is free and open to the public.

“This is a very hardworking group,” said Wilner. “We are definitely looking forward to the ‘American Echoes’ tour as we share the music that allows us to explore the many influences that create the musical identity we now consider our own.”

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