Susan Fedak, the founder and artistic director of the Hudson-Mohawk Chorale, wanted to do something different for the group’s spring concert on Sunday, April 28.
“It’s a good time to bring women’s music forward,” she said. “Generally, our concerts focus on a theme or themes that explore important aspects of the human experience. I thought their music had been overlooked.”
Her concert, then, will feature the work of 10 women composers and two men composers who used poetry written by women. She named it “Women of Note and Word.” What surprised Fedak is that except for a couple of women who had written for voice that she knew of (Alice Parker and Emma Lou Diemer both born in the 1920s and still living), all the women would be considered contemporary. And all are living.
“I’d never sung any of their music. It’s all new to me,” Fedak said.
She began her search online, on YouTube and in catalogues finally settling on those composers who wrote in the choral tradition. They are: June Nixon (Australia, 1942- ); Dale Trumbore (U.S., 1987- ) who used Laura Foley’s poetry; Elaine Hagenberg (U.S., 1979- ); Judith Herrington (U.S. 1953- ) who used Sara Teasdale’s words; Laura Farnell (U.S. 1975- ) who used Zoe Akins’ poem; Gwyneth Walker (U.S. 1947- ) who used Ada Aharoni’s lines; Sarah Quartel (Canada, 1987- ); and Ruth Morris Gray (U.S. 1960- ). The two men are: Stephen Paulus (U.S., 1949-2014) and Tom Trenney (U.S. 1977- ). Paulus used Edna St. Millay’s poems and Trenney used words by Maya Angelou.
The songs all center on love, peace or the wonder of life.
“It’s gentle, thoughtful music,” Fedak said.
In a discussion with her husband, organist/pianist Alfred Fedak, who will accompany the group, they analyzed the difference between music written by the two men vs. that by the women.
“The music by the women is expressed differently,” Fedak said. “The way they’ve created the music’s style is more comforting, soothing, more graceful. It is energetic but it’s a gentle energy.”
Another reason to choose these composers is that the music is very well written for the voice, which makes it very accessible not only for her audience but for her 60 singers, who were seeing the music for the first time. Fedak, who had a long career as a mezzo-soprano soloist and currently teaches at Schenectady County Community College, knew what she was looking for.
“There is some dissonance but not a lot and there is some use of vowel sounds with the melodies,” she said. “But all the music is secular.”
Overall, Fedak said she was pleased with her finds.
“I wanted a good balance with women using male poets or male composers using female poets,” she said. “It will be a great concert.”
WHEN: 3 p.m. Sunday, April 28
WHERE: Taylor Auditorium, Schenectady County Community College
HOW MUCH: $16 (pre-concert purchase Brown Paper Tickets); $20 (at door); free, students with ID
MORE INFO: 518 466-1960; www.hmchorale.org