The Master Singers’ fall concert is, in several ways, a confluence.
It’s the choral ensemble’s first concert at the newly-constructed Pablo Center at the Confluence — a confluence of a well-established Eau Claire choral tradition with the new and ever-growing Chippewa Valley arts and music scene.
The show itself is a confluence of two themes — the first half of the performance serves to honor those who have served in the United States armed forces, while the second half pays homage to the importance of art in the community and its growth through the years.
And the premiere of a new song that features a confluence of words from two Wisconsin-rooted poets was arranged in honor of the grand opening of the Pablo Center.
“I think the music is particularly appropriate for this scene and where the community is at right now,” said Gary Schwartzhoff, artistic director and conductor of the Master Singers.
The concert, titled “America My Home: Flight Song,” is set for 3 p.m. Sunday at Pablo Center at the Confluence’s Jamf Theatre.
It marks the start of the choir’s 26th season and the first choral concert to grace the newly-constructed downtown arts center’s Jamf Theatre.
“It’s nice to be able to christen the hall and to allow our patrons to have a new experience in a new setting,” Schwartzhoff said.
The Master Singers commissioned a song specifically for the performance, thanks to a grant from Visit Eau Claire. “The Rivers’ Song” was arranged by the group’s composer in residence this year, Eleaine Hagenberg.
Featuring poetry from Max Garland, Eau Claire poet and former poet laureate, and John Muir, a conservationist and writer who lived in Wisconsin, the song describes two rivers and music.
But it doesn’t stop at lines of poetry or words — the sound and atmosphere is also carried through the instrumentation, as the piano and string ensemble together sound like a moving stream.
Jennifer Eddy, who has sung in The Master Singers for the last three years, said the song feels like an homage to two “Wisconsin heroes,” as well as the conclusion to the long-awaited Confluence Project.
“You can look out the window and you see the two rivers becoming one, just as you’re singing the words of Max Garland and John Muir to make‘The Rivers’ Song,’” Eddy said. “The Confluence is a tangible expression of how our community values the arts. It’s great.”
The second half of the program also features “Flight Song” by Kim Andre Arneson, a song that Schwartzhoff describes as one that reinforces music’s ability to help people communicate the full range of their deepest feelings — whether of joy, love, pain or discouragement.
Also part of that half is a Z. Randall Stroope arrangement of the Robert Frost poem “The Pasture.” The poem describes rural life in New England in the early 20th century as a means to examine social and philosophical themes — fitting to the patriotic overall theme of the concert, and fitting to the pastoral scenes Wisconsin is also known for.
The first half, Schwartzhoff said, is dedicated to the men and women who served their country in the armed forces, as a solemn commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, which marked the end of World War I.
A highlight of that portion of the program includes “Invictus” by Joshua Rist. The text of the song is from a poem by William Ernest Henley, who was diagnosed with tubercular arthritis at age 12. During that battle, he was forced to have one of his legs amputated.
The poem, subsequently, offered courage and conviction to many, including President Franklin Delano Roosevelt while he struggled with polio.
Eddy said the varied themes and emotions of the program will make this concert stand out among others.
“It challenges us — we have to be operatic, then more tender,” Eddy said. “For audiences, you will not be bored. This is a smorgasbord of different styles and ideas, and I find it all very powerful.”
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