Commissioned piece becomes Walla Walla Choral Society director’s swan song

Reflected in the top of a grand piano, and filling their rehearsal room at Walla Walla University with sound, the Walla Walla Choral Society, under the direction of artistic director Dr. Christine Janis, sings through pieces for their upcoming show “A Gwyneth Walker Portrait” to be performed this Sunday, March 17 at Whitman College’s Cordiner Hall.

Reflected in the top of a grand piano, and filling their rehearsal room at Walla Walla University with sound, the Walla Walla Choral Society, under the direction of artistic director Dr. Christine Janis, sings through pieces for their upcoming show “A Gwyneth Walker Portrait” to be performed this Sunday, March 17 at Whitman College’s Cordiner Hall. Photo by Matthew Zimmerman Banderas.

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What: Walla Walla Choral Society’s “A Gwyneth Walker Portrait” concert. The festival celebrates the music of Connecticut composer Gwyneth Walker and features the world premiere of “God’s World,” and a performance of the musical suite “Voices in Song” by the Rogers Adventist School Singing Scholars, also composed by Walker.

When: 3 p.m. Sunday.

Where: Cordiner Hall, 46 S. Park St., Whitman College campus.

Tickets: $15, purchased from any Walla Walla Choral Society member, at the door or call 386-2445. Children under 13 are admitted free of charge.

Information: wwchoralsociety.org/

WALLA WALLA — This weekend, Christine Janis will conduct her last concert for the Walla Walla Choral Society.

Entitled “A Gwyneth Walker Portrait,” it will feature original music written for the society by New England composer Gwyneth Walker.

Janis, the choral society’s artistic director for the past 14 years, said she was looking forward to meeting Walker, who will attend the concert.

“I’m kind of curious as to what she’ll think about what I’ve done with my work,” said Janis.

She hopes her interpretation would be in line with Walker’s vision for the music.

Walker’s compositions often take inspiration from folk music and hymns and draw on concepts of nature.

“I haven’t often done a concert of a single composer, but we thought it was worth it. Her music is very melodic, very creative,” Janis said.

Walker composed one of the concert pieces, “God’s World,” to commemorate the late Bill McCaw, a founding member of the 33-year-old society, who died in January 2010.

McCaw was known for his sense of humor, but Janis said he also had a serious side that would get absorbed in the music while singing.

“I think in all the years he sang when I was a conductor, he missed one concert,” said Janis. “A lot of people still remember Bill.”

A portion of the concert’s program will be performed with the Rogers Adventist School Singing Scholars, conducted by Terry Koch, who is also retiring at the end of the year.

Koch directs 126 students at the school and said they were excited to perform, especially in a venue as large as Cordiner Hall.

“It’s just wonderful music that kids enjoy and that captures their attention,” he said.

“Music is a skill and a joy that is lifelong. It’s something they can carry with them no matter where they are, no matter what they’re doing.”

Janis said one of her hopes was to get children to attend the concert and expose them to music at an early age.

She said that opportunities for music are dwindling in schools and many children don’t get exposure at home.

“I really am a proponent for giving kids as much opportunity to experience (music), either by participating or being in the audience,” she said.

Debra Rood, president of the society’s board of directors, said the concert would be bittersweet as the society says goodbye to Janis.

“She has been the best artistic director we’ve ever had,” said Rood. “She comes to life up there, when she raises her hands for the first time and we’re one with her up there.”

Comments

Shpyhoon 1 year, 1 month ago

I have always enjoyed the presentations of the Choral Society under Mrs Janis direction. It is inspiring to know that someone with such obvious God given talent has helped to bring joy and an appreciation for choral singing to Walla Walla. Bravo Mrs Janis for encouraging our youth. They are our future.

I know of only one other choral director who makes such a connection with his choir. He is aware of Mrs Janis body of work and is mightly impressed.

I have been fortunate enough to sing with Mrs Janis elsewhere and I will always be grateful for that privilege.

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