Hodgson Singers celebrate first recording project with concert

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The Hodgson Singers, the UGA Hugh Hodgson School of Music’s premier vocal ensemble, will perform in Hodgson Concert Hall on Friday, May 20, at 7:30 p.m., putting a bow on their first-ever professional recording project. 

The forthcoming CD, to be released by Loft Recordings, will feature several pieces performed during this concert, titled “Grace Immaculate: Prayers and Love Songs from the Heart.”

“The inspiration for this CD, and the concert that will conclude our recording sessions, is to present high quality performances of relatively new, and/or underperformed choral music with poignant, heartfelt expressions of devotion to God and one another—prayers and love songs,” said Dan Bara, director of choral activities and the John D. Boyd UGA Foundation Professor of Choral Music.

Multiple variations on this theme make the concert a unique one; from a piece commissioned by Bara and his wife for their wedding to a work that describes prayers from a variety of animals on Noah’s Ark, the concert thoroughly explores the concepts of “love” and “prayer” in song.

But works based on traditional songs and prayers have a place in the program as well, beginning with the opening section of the program: “Ancient Prayers, New Voices.”

“These include pieces written in the last few years of common prayers such as the Ave Maria, Lord's Prayer and Requiem texts,” said Bara. “The Ave Maria setting is composed by UGA alumnus Daniel Elder, who wrote the piece while at UGA and which has since been published.”

The love songs in the program include folk tune and folk-like settings by James MacMillan and Joseph Gregorio: The Gallant Weaver and The Maid of Culmore, respectively, about love requited and ill-fated. 

Two other love songs find their source material in poetry: Bob Chilcott's "You and Me," set to poems by Denis Glover and Elizabeth Jennings, and Gabriel Jackson's "Song (I gaze upon you)," set to an English-translated poem by Paul Eluard.

The concert closes with "Even when he is silent" by Kim Arnesen, which Bara describes as “a new and poignant setting of the inscription of hope found etched on a concentration camp wall following the holocaust: ‘I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining. I believe in love, even when I feel it not. I believe in God, even when he is silent.’”

With looming finals, graduation, summer workshops and a recording project in its final stages, it would be easy to feel for the Hodgson Singers’ having to prepare a concert on top of everything else. But, believe it or not, the students wanted it—insisted on it, in fact.

“The students in the choir have worked hard throughout the year and insisted on having this concert as a culmination of their hard work,” said Bara. “As much as they are interested in recording the pieces, they are also eager, once again, to connect with an audience on this music for which they have a strong affection.”

Tickets are $10 each or $5 with a UGA student ID and are available at pac.uga.edu, 706-542-4400 or by visiting the Performing Arts Center box office.

The UGA Hugh Hodgson School of Music sponsors more than 350 performances each year. To view the performance calendar, subscribe to the weekly email concert listing or learn more about the School of Music, go to music.uga.edu.