‘Give Me Music!’ written for chorale

Amy F. Bernon


"Give Me Music!" is the message the Oneida Area Civic Chorale will proclaim when it presents a new musical composition at the final concert of the 2011-2012 season.

That song, by composer Amy Feldman Bernon, was commissioned by the chorale and will have its world-premiere in the concert, entitled "If Music Be the Food of Love," Saturday, May 19 at 7:30 p.m. in the First Presbyterian Church, 108 West Court St., and Sunday, May 20 at 4 p.m. in the Kallet Civic Center, 159 Main St., Oneida.

Director Kimberly Nethaway of Rome, felt that commissioning a choral arrangement would be a great way for the group to celebrate its 45-year milestone, so she began the process in June 2011, in order to have the piece ready for rehearsal in March of this year. The first step in commissioning a musical work is to find a composer who would be a good fit for the singers. Nethaway, formerly a public school music teacher, was familiar with several pieces written by Syracuse-native composer Amy F. Bernon; Nethaway liked Bernon’s style and saw how singers responded to it. Nethaway had decided that since face-to-face workshop time with the composer and singers would be a part of this celebratory project, it was important that the composer be someone who would work well with the group.

Bernon, a graduate of Jamesville-DeWitt High School, the Hartt School of Music in Hartford, Conn., and the Yale University School of Music, has over 50 works in print.

Nethaway and Bernon collaborated on the theme and lyrics. The initial plan was to use a theme focused on the joy of singing and music, and how that joy is ongoing and life-long. Nethaway described the Chorale and explained that many of the members have sung for decades; she wanted to capture the feeling that the passion for music-making is like a "tide" that ebbs and flows throughout one’s life.

She told Bernon she recalled a poem that used the phrase "the tide of music" in regard to the idea that all music that has come before us is connected to music of the present and the future. Bernon found the source of Nethaway’s reference: a poem called "Music At Twilight," written in the early 1900s by Richard Watson Gilder. Bernon generally writes the lyrics as well as the music for her work, but because the poem expressed Nethaway’s concept so well, she opted to adapt the poem into the text of "Give Me Music!".

Chorale officials said Bernon’s music, though moving through different moods, constantly hums with the underlying energy of Gilder’s words, "Oh, give me music in the twilight hour!" and "at the end of the piece the music takes on a more spare, Baroque feeling that slowly blossoms with each entrance, and soon returns to the joyful rhythm of the opening music."

Bernon said, "This particular song may have an ending, but music will live on and on and on!"

Bernon is looking forward to attending both concerts. She will spend Saturday morning with the OACC in a workshop setting, discussing "Give Me Music!" and working on finishing touches for the world-premiere Saturday evening. She looks forward to the workshop and says, "Helping to shape a piece for performance is a wonderful thing for me and one I appreciate. It allows for that great feeling of collaboration — involving composer, conductor and choir — to shine through!"

She says that hearing her music performed is an emotional experience. "It’s quite a rush and very meaningful, whether the performers are a small group of sixth-graders or a big group like the Chorale."

Nethaway said, "It will be extra special to have the composer with us. I think it’s also wonderful for our local audiences to hear a brand new piece with the composer present; how often do people have the opportunity to meet the composer?"

The commissioned piece, "Give Me Music!" will be submitted to Bernon’s publisher who will decide if it is marketable and then could be published so that other choirs and audiences will have the chance to experience it. The printed music would say above the title: "Commissioned by the Oneida Area Civic Chorale, Oneida, New York, Kimberly Nethaway, Director, in celebration of 45 years of choral singing."

Bernon’s "Give Me Music!" is the second piece that the Chorale has commissioned, the first being the 2002 "Too Much Light for Midnight" by composer Alfred Fedak of Albany.

Tickets for the concerts are $10 and are available from Chorale members, at H.J. Hinman Jewelers, 115 Main Street, Oneida, and by calling 697-3377.