Alice Parker is one of the world’s best-known composers, arrangers and conductors of choral music. Now 91 years old, she has received commissions from some of the top choruses in the United States. Her arrangements of folk songs, spirituals and hymns, many done with famed choral conductor Robert Shaw, have become standard repertoire for school, church and community choirs around the world.
But when Parker visits Lehigh on Monday, March 20, she will discuss the rewards of making music with learners of all levels—specifically with Joyful Noise, a special needs choir based in New Jersey whose 45 members range in age from 17 to 70.
Parker’s presentation, which begins at 4:10 p.m. in Baker Hall of the Zoellner Arts Center, is the first in a series of events titled “Music of the Mind: Diversity in Learning,” which is sponsored by the departments of music and psychology and the cognitive sciences program. The series is part of the Join the Dialogue program of the College of Arts and Sciences.
“Music of the Mind” continues on Thursday, April 6, with a talk by Tom Collins, visiting assistant professor of psychology, titled “Music Cognition: What Computational Models Can Tell Us.” On Thursday, April 20, Andrea R. Halpern, professor of psychology at Bucknell University, will give a talk titled “Music Cognition in Healthy Aging and Neurodegenerative Disease.”
The series will culminate with two concerts in Baker Hall, on Friday and Saturday, May 5 and 6, by Lehigh University Choral Arts, which will be joined by Joyful Noise. The concerts will begin at 7:30 p.m. on May 5 and 4 p.m. on May 6 under the direction of Steven Sametz, the artistic director of Choral Arts and the Ronald J. Ulrich Professor of Music at Lehigh.
Joyful Noise, whose singers cope with physical and neurological challenges and brain injuries, was founded in 2000 by Allison Fromm, its director, and her sister, Beth Fromm, who is a member of the chorus.
“Joyful Noise has performed at Harvard and Yale, at conferences around the United States, and even with the Harlem Globetrotters,” said Sametz. “Their approach to music is fostering a burgeoning movement in special needs and elder choirs across the country. And the influence of Allison Fromm has been incredibly transformational.”
Parker has been involved with Joyful Noise since its inception and has written compositions for them. One of them, “All the Stars in the Sky,” will be performed at the May concerts of Choral Arts.
In her talk on March 20, Parker will discuss the genesis and development of Joyful Noise, as well as her writing for the group.
Parker is the founder of Melodious Accord Inc., which sponsors choral concerts and provides training for composers and conductors. Her 13 recordings include O Sing the Glories, The Family Reunion, Angels and Challengers and Where Heart and Heaven Meet.
Parker has also published The Anatomy of Melody and other books on melodic styles, choral improvisation and church singing. She has been recognized by Chorus America, the American Guild of Organists, the American Choral Directors Association, The Hymn Society and Choral Arts New England for her lifetime contributions to choral music.