Songs Unlimited set to present Voices for Remembrance and Peace

Carol Rolf Originally Published April 18, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated April 17, 2013 at 11:49 a.m.
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Carol Rolf

Participating in Songs Across America Encounter 2013: Voices for Remembrance and Peace are, front row, from the left, Douglas Butler of Conway, boy soprano, and Kay Kraeft of Conway, president of Songs Unlimited; and back row, from the left, Jorge Villarroel of La Paz, Bolivia, tenor; Suzanne Loerch of Little Rock, mezzo-soprano; and Ryan Fisher of Conway, assistant professor of music education at the University of Central Arkansas and program conductor.

Songs Unlimited will present Songs Across America Encounter 2013: Voices for Remembrance and Peace on Sunday through April 25 at venues in Conway and Little Rock.

Under the direction of Kay Kraeft of Conway, president of Songs Unlimited and retired music professor at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, the program revolves around the “encounter” between the Jewish and Latin American peoples as they converged from the first Atlantic crossings from the Iberian Peninsula in the 15th century to the present day.

Kraeft said the story is told in music, graphic images and oral histories.

“The project seeks to widen the awareness in Latin America and the United States of the Jewish cultural experience within the Western Hemisphere and to remember the tragedy of the Holocaust,” Kraeft said. “Latin Americans, who have also suffered political oppression, tyranny and state-sponsored terrorism, have an opportunity to glimpse the profound horror experienced by Jews in the 1930s and ’40s.”

The program features three sections — “Misa Criolla,” by the late Argentine composer Ariel Ramirez, which was inspired by his visit to the Terezin Concentration Camp in the Czech Republic in the 1960s; “I Never Saw Another Butterfly,” by the United States living composer Lori Laitman, which is based on poems by children of the concentration camp; and “Chichester Psalms,” by the late U.S. composer Leonard Bernstein, which was commissioned by the Cathedral of Chichester in England in 1965 and incorporates Psalms, sung in Hebrew, that evoke the spirit of peace after the destruction of World War II.

The program includes free public concerts, demonstrations of instruments, and synagogue and library events.

“We started planning this in February of 2012,” Kraeft said. “I went to Bolivia to meet with my counterpart there in Songs Unlimited, Ricardo Estrada. He had seen the Ramirez Mass and was impressed with it. Ramirez, an Argentine, was inspired to do the Mass after he visited a group of nuns in Germany.

“We started with that piece and added the other two pieces to make the program long enough to present. I talked with Ryan Fisher at UCA, who had always wanted to do Bernstein, and he agreed to be part of the program,” she said.

Kraeft said “I Never Saw a Butterfly” was performed in 2006 at a Songs Across America program in Conway, “so we already had that music.”

“We are really excited about this new program,” she said.

Among the local artists who will perform are Allison Stanford of Fort Worth, Texas, formerly of Conway, now working on her Doctorate of Musical Arts degree in vocal performance at Arizona State University, soprano; Jackie Lamar of Conway, professor of saxophone at UCA, saxophone; Suzanne Loerch of Little Rock, adjunct professor of music at UCA, mezzo-soprano; Douglas Butler of Conway, 11, son of Tim and Stacy Butler and a student at Ruth Doyle Middle School, boy soprano; and the UCA University Chorus and the Encounter Chamber Orchestra, both directed by Fisher, assistant professor of music education at UCA.

Also performing will be Jorge Villarroel of La Paz, Bolivia, tenor; and Chaski, an Andean folk instrument ensemble from Austin, Texas. Several other choirs will join the UCA University Chorus at various venues — the Parkview Magnet High School Choir, the Henderson State University Chamber Chorale and the University of the Ozarks Chamber Singers.

Fisher said that for several years, he had hoped to perform more difficult pieces such as these with his ensemble.

“This is a nonauditioned choir,” Fisher said of the University Chorus, which is composed of students from a variety of majors. “‘[Chichester Psalms’] is a difficult piece, very complex and very remarkable. Other forces will join us and strengthen us.”

The Encounter schedule is as follows:

• 7 p.m. Sunday at the B’nai Israel Synagogue in Little Rock;

• 7:30 p.m. Monday in the Great Hall of the William J. Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock;

• 1:40 p.m. Tuesday in the Snow Fine Arts Center Recital Hall at UCA in Conway (especially for the academic community);

• 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Faulkner County Library in Conway;

• 5 p.m. Wednesday at the Faulkner County Library (especially for schoolchildren); and

• 7:30 p.m. April 25 in the Snow Fine Arts Center Recital Hall at UCA.

All performances are free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served at the Faulkner County Library.

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