Original piece commissioned for vespers

English teacher writes lyrics for an original song

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Original piece commissioned for vespers

Photo by: Maddy Emerson

Photo by: Maddy Emerson

Photo by: Maddy Emerson

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As the Holiday Vespers concert gets closer, all choir members are learning a new song.

The song, called Vespers Movement 3, has been in the works since summer started. New lyricist and poetry writer Ms. Johnson, has worked for two months over summer to perfect the lyrics.

“The whole piece is about this idea about how winter is really happy for lots of people but for [others] it is a melancholy time, people are depressed and sad things happen,” Johnson said. “I ended up writing about death, which makes me feel really dark, but I wrote about my father and about a friend of mine who recently died.”

Johnson surveyed some people to get inspiration for this new song.

“I sent out a questionnaire to all the students not in the multigenerational choir and I got one response, and hers was super light-hearted, it was about having a snowball fight and then drinking hot chocolate with her cousins,” Johnson said. “I also made a facebook post and almost all the responses I got were really sad and dark and about like missing loved ones etc etc.”

Johnson has been a poet for 16 years and just recently defended her thesis in poetry.

“I’ve never really written a song before and I guess I still don’t know how to write a song even though I’ve written one,”Johnson said. “I asked ‘I don’t have to try to rhyme it do I?’ He said ‘no, just write how you write’, so I just wrote it how I’ve been writing my poetry and he adapted it to the music.”

As for the actual music, the music fits well with the lyrics, thanks to composer Dr. John Ross.

“For me, writing music begins with a musical idea [and] that forms the basis for the composition, then elaboration is the key to creating a whole piece of music from that initial music idea” Dr. Ross said.

Sophomore girls glee member Felicity Kramer is one of the performers for Vespers.

“I think [the song] is definitely a lot harder than we are used to,” Kramer said. “It’s kind of depressing at times, but I actually really like it.”

Dr. Ross is a music professor at Pitt State University.

“My music is sometimes difficult, but that is merely a side effect of me trying to create sounds that express the feelings that for this work, I find are expressed in the text,” Dr. Ross said. “I also know from my experience that music does things to the human spirit that nothing else seems to do.”

Finally, the piece came together after some minor changes.

“The music is beautiful, I listened to it for the first time and I didn’t know what to expect,” Johnson said. “Dr. Ross sent me the music but I can’t read music so I didn’t know what it was going to sound like.”

The song was commissioned by choir director Susan Laushman.

“We paid the composer and the lyricist, it’s amazing that we found both here in Pittsburg,” Laushman said. “I hope that this song will be well received throughout the crowd [because]it’s not like anything we’ve done before.”

The singers will perform on Dec. 13, at the Memorial Auditorium.

“It’s a very vulnerable feeling, to have people perform something I wrote,” Johnson said. “And I just really hope people like it.”

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