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Memorial University's School of Music to produce spectacular choral concert at Mile One

Ref. No. 102

DATE:     Feb. 20, 2002
SUBJECT:     Memorial University's School of Music to produce spectacular choral concert at Mile One

Almost 700 singers, a percussion ensemble, a rock band and a locally-born opera star are just part of an unforgettable performance of a twentieth century classic scheduled for March 23, 2002, at the Molson Amphitheatre in Mile One Stadium in St. John's.

Memorial University's School of Music is co-ordinating a performance of African Sanctus by British composer David Fanshawe. Under the direction of Dr. Douglas Dunsmore, a faculty member in Memorial's School of Music and artistic co-director of Festival 500, more than 700 choristers from Memorial, Prince of Wales Collegiate, Holy Heart of Mary, Gonzaga High School, Bishop's College and Mount Pearl Intermediate and Senior High Schools, as well as the Cantare-Cantelina Youth Choir from Bay Roberts, will come together for the massive performance.

African Sanctus is being billed as a "colossal musical journey, as eclectic as life itself, as universal as the range of music from which it draws its sources." Mr. Fanshawe's composition brings together African tribal musics, 70s rock style, texts of universal spirituality and the power of massed choral voices. With more than 2000 performances in the United States alone since its 1972 premiere, African Sanctus is a testament to music's ability to transcend individual cultures.

"This event builds on the momentum of Festival 500," said Dr. Tom Gordon, director of Memorial's School of Music. "St. John's has become one of the great choral capitals of North America and this performance of African Sanctus will permit the community to renew its enthusiasm for world music."

Supporting partners for the event include the Departments of Education and Youth Services and Post-Secondary Education. "The Department of Education is committed to ensuring music programing remains a vital part of our students' education," said Education Minister Judy Foote. "This performance will give our students the opportunity to express their musical ability, and will give teachers exposure to an innovative approach to choral music." "I am very pleased that we have been able to help sponsor this event," said Sandra Kelly, Minister of Youth Services and Post-Secondary Education. "It presents a wonderful opportunity for young people to come together with their post-secondary counterparts to share their talents, learn from experienced musicians and present a truly inspiring composition. I am sure this performance will not only expose these young people to another culture, it will also help increase their awareness of careers in the field of music."

St. John's native Cheryl Hickman will return from her current engagements at the New York City Opera to perform as the soprano soloist. The extensive percussion supporting the work will be provided by members of The Scruncheons, the ensemble based at Memorial's School of Music which includes current students and graduates of the school, as well as young percussionists who are also students in the Avalon East system. Local free-lance musicians will be engaged to make up the accompanying rock band.

"This work represents an opportunity for collaboration between high schools and university students resulting in an incredibly exciting spectacle that could not possibly be presented by any group singly," Dr. Dunsmore said. "The incredibly clever juxtaposition of Arab and western cultures challenges the ear and eye with its power and energy in wildly colorful passages and pounding tribal rhythms. Shortly after its first performance, African Sanctus won a prize from the United Nations for the promotion of world peace and harmony. Can anyone doubt that those goals are even more timely now than when the work was written thirty years ago? We were convinced that if we could stimulate interest in our high school community that success would be ensured."

As an added bonus for local audiences, David Fanshawe, himself a charismatic speaker and musician, will supervise the performance. "The participation of Mr. Fanshawe will have a catalytic effect on the event," Dr. Dunsmore said. "He will supervise the final rehearsals and personally mix the final performance in which recorded tracks of African singers are overlaid on live performance."

Tickets go on sale on Friday, Feb. 22 at 9:30 a.m. at the Mile One box office. There will be no more than 2,000 tickets available and the School of Music is advising patrons to order tickets within 24 hours of their going on sale.


For more information, please contact Tom Gordon, Director, School of Music, Memorial University of Newfoundland, phone 737-7487 or e-mail: tgordon@mun.ca, or Ivan Muzychka, manager, Memorial University News Service, 737-8665, 687-9433, ivanm@mun.ca.


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