UWF Singers to perform songs of hope and rejoicing for final concert of semester

By Sydney O’Gwynn
Staff Writer

 Many guest artists will join The UWF Singers in the spring concert on April 18. Photo courtesy of uwfsingers.com

Many guest artists will join The UWF Singers in the spring concert on April 18.
Photo courtesy of uwfsingers.com

Leonard Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms” will be the focal point of The University of West Florida Singers and Chamber Choir’s spring concert “A Prayer for Peace” at 7:30 p.m. on April 18 at the First Baptist Church of Pensacola.

“The program features a number of songs written in circumstances of oppression or circumstances where there is no hope,” said Peter Steenblik, conductor for the UWF Singers and Chamber Choir. “But they are songs of hope and rejoicing.”

The concert will also include African-American spirituals; John Lennon’s “Imagine”; “Hope for Resolutions” about the South African movement with Nelson Mandela; and an Academy Award winning piece from the 1980s film about feminism, “Working Girl.”

Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms” was written about the Holocaust and are all in Hebrew. Senior UWF Singers President Rebekah Pyle said learning how to sing Hebrew wasn’t as difficult as one might think. “Dr. Steenblik made it really easy,” she said. “We learned it very specifically in a way that would make it successful when we put it back to the music.”

The movements in the piece are dancelike, but also hold raw emotion.

“The concert carries a powerful message,” Steenblik said. “I am so excited about the concert.”

The Pensacola Children’s Chorus also will join The UWF Singers and Chamber Choir. UWF faculty members also will be involved, including the chair of the Department of Music, soprano Sheila Dunn; voice instructor Hanan Tarabay, mezzo-soprano; and visiting artist Corey McKern, baritone. Other featured musicians are Nicholas DeMeo, tenor; the Pensacola West Percussion Ensemble; Christopher Powell, organ; and Bolton Ellenberg, piano.

“This is a huge collaboration effort,” Pyle said.

Pyle said that, while the “Chichester Psalms” was written as a commentary on war, she said she believes the piece could also be a commentary on humankind’s struggle against evil. She also said that without the percussion, the piece would not be as successful. “The percussion adds such a huge element to the piece,” she said.

This will be the final concert for the seniors in the choirs, including Pyle.

“I’m really glad that this is the stuff we’re singing for my last concert as a UWF student,” she said. “The last three years have flown by, and we’ve gotten to sing some incredible music, but I think that this concert — the entirety of it — is my favorite.”

“I hope it’s a concert they can be proud of,” Steenblik said. “Things we learned in August are being displayed next week. I hope it’s one that will display the best of what we all can do.”

Pyle said she is excited not only to perform the concert, but for the concert to be heard.

“People are going to come and they are not going to walk away unmoved by the performance,” she said. “It’s impossible; even if you come in with your mind and heart completely closed, it will be opened and you will be moved by what you hear.”

The concert is free and open to the public. For more information about the concert or the Department of Music, visit the website.