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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 9, 2007

UI Symphony and Choruses will perform two English choral works Nov. 28

The University of Iowa Symphony Orchestra and Choruses will present two choral works by leading English composers of the early 20th century in their annual fall performance at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 28, in the UI Hancher Auditorium.

The concert, under the direction of Timothy Stalter, will feature the University Symphony with combined choral groups from the School of Music -- Kantorei and University Singers, directed by Stalter; Camerata, directed by David Puderbaugh; and the Women's Chorale, directed by Travis Sletta -- performing "Dona nobis pacem" by Ralph Vaughan Williams and "The Spirit of England" by Edward Elgar.

UI faculty member Rachel Joselson, soprano, and former graduate student Dennis Willhoit, tenor, will serve as the soloists for the Elgar. UI faculty member Stephen Swanson, baritone, and graduate voice student Michelle Crouch, soprano, will be the soloists for the Vaughan Williams.

Both works on the program were written in response to the experience of war, and their texts offer perspectives that were very powerful to the composers and the first audiences. That coincidence was no accident, Stalter said, since he chose those two works for that very reason.

"The program for this concert couldn't be more appropriate to our times, with the Iraq war still being fought and concerns for the suffering which is ever present," Stalter said. "The texts and images span a wide spectrum of feelings and emotions which will speak to numerous perspectives on war. All will find themselves moved by the poetic images and musical gestures which will culminate in the performance of these wonderful works."

The Nov. 28 performance is part of the 2007-08 subscription series of concerts by the University of Iowa Symphony Orchestras (UISO). The remaining dates in the series of ticketed concerts presented by the UISO in Hancher Auditorium will be:

--Feb. 20: William LaRue Jones will return to lead the UISO with UI faculty soloists Katie Wolfe, violin, and Volkan Orhon, double bass.

--March 26: New UI flute faculty member Nicole Esposito will make her UISO debut with Jones conducting the orchestra.

--May 7: Timothy Hankewich, music director and conductor of the Cedar Rapids Symphony, will be the guest conductor.

Vaughan Williams wrote the "Dona nobis pacem" for the 1937 celebration of the centennial of the Huddersfield Choral Society. As he began work on the commission, the carnage of World War I was still vivid in his memory, and the storm clouds of another European war were already gathering on the horizon.

Vaughan Williams, who had served as an ambulance driver in World War I, chose texts that would express his hopes for peace at this threatening time. He combined the liturgical "Dona nobis pacem" (Give us peace) and other scriptural texts with the poetry of Walt Whitman, who had been a volunteer hospital worker during the American Civil War, and an anti-war speech given in the House of Commons during the Crimean War.

These diverse texts are woven together over the course of six major sections that are performed without break. Whitman's poems that are used in the score include "Beat! Beat! Drums!" "Reconciliation" and "Dirge for Two Veterans," which were inspired by the Civil War. Among the scriptural texts are the "Agnus Dei" (Lamb of God) from the Latin Mass, which includes the phrase "dona nobis pacem," and a text from Jeremiah describing the destruction of Judah. To close the oratorio, Vaughan Williams returns to the hopeful words "dona nobis pacem."

Also written under the influence of World War I, Elgar's "The Spirit of England" is dedicated to "The Memory of Glorious Men." In spite of the title and dedication, it is no more of a standard patriotic epic than is Vaughan Williams' score.

"The Spirit of England" is based on the poetry of Laurence Binyon, who published a collection of war poetry in 1914. One of Elgar's friends, who also knew Binyon, suggested that the composer should compose a requiem for the English war dead using Binyon's poetry. Elgar, who was deeply moved by the suffering caused by the war, readily agreed. The entire score was completed in 1917 -- around the time the war ended -- although portions had been performed earlier.

Three of Binyon's poems form the text of the piece: "The Fourth of August," "To Women" and "For the Fallen." First performed in Birmingham on Oct. 4, 1917, "The Spirit of England" has never gained the popularity of Elgar's earlier choral works, even though it is musically their equal.

Stalter joined the UI faculty as director of choral activities in 1999. An active member of the American Choral Directors Association, he frequently presents clinics and workshops in choral conducting around the United States. He is also active as a tenor soloist who is known in the United States and Europe for his performances as the Evangelist in the Passions of J.S. Bach and Heinrich Schuetz. For more information see

Before joining the School of Music faculty in the fall of 1997, Joselson spent 13 years in Europe performing in opera and concert. She has performed many of the major soprano roles in the repertoire. Among her many appearances worldwide were an engagement with the Metropolitan Opera and a tour of Japan with London's Covent Garden. For more information see

Swanson joined the faculty of the UI School of Music in 1994 after an extensive European operatic career that encompassed 91 roles in opera, operetta and musicals. He has sung on German, Austrian and Dutch radio broadcasts and has been a featured soloist in numerous European festivals. For more information see

Individual tickets to University Symphony concerts are $10; UI student and youth $5; senior citizen $7. Tickets are also eligible for a discount as part of the UI Division of Performing Arts 2007-08 series.

If purchased together with other tickets for events presented by the UI Division of Performing Arts -- the Mainstage season of University Theatres, the annual Dance Gala performances, ticketed School of Music concerts in Hancher Auditorium and a production by the UI Martha-Ellen Tye Opera Theater -- tickets to the concert may be eligible for a series discount.

The events are detailed in a Division of Performing Arts brochure that is available at the Hancher Auditorium Box Office, in the UI Theatre Building and from the division's marketing office at 319-335-3213. As explained in the brochure, patrons who purchase tickets to four, five or six events will receive a 20 percent discount; purchasing tickets for seven or more events earns a 25 percent discount.

Hancher Auditorium box office school-year business hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial 319-335-1160. Long distance is toll free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to 319-353-2284. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial 319-335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.

Tickets also may be ordered online 24 hours a day, seven days a week through the Hancher box office website

Hancher box office orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction.

The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at

For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACT: Peter Alexander, 319-384-0072 (office), 319-541-2846 (cell),