Choral concert celebrates life-giving waters

November 9, 2013 8:56:46 PM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


When Columbus Choral Society conductor Alisa Toy began thinking about a theme for this fall's Nov. 15 concert, Columbus' distinction as a river town came to mind. "Southern Waters," a program celebrating the rejuvenating effects of water, begins at 7 p.m. Friday in Poindexter Hall on the Mississippi University for Women campus. 


Situated near the juncture of three rivers -- the Tombigbee, Luxapalila and Buttahatchie -- the city has long been influenced by waterways that run through and around it.  


"I wanted to use some aspect that was distinctive to Columbus. Water is used both figuratively and literally as a metaphor for life throughout the concert," said Toy, who relished developing the program and researching compositions to include.  


The planned repertoire represents genres from sacred and classical to pop, rock and Broadway. "We also have some good, old-fashioned American spirituals, which are rousing and fun," Toy said. 




Blue and gray 


The conductor's research led to something she's been in search of for a while: a signature piece for the choral group. Composer James Purifoy's "Chronicles of Blue and Gray" -- a "musical setting" of Francis Miles Finch's poem "The Blue and the Gray" -- premiered in Knoxville, Tenn., in 2012. Finch's poem was inspired when the New York lawyer and poet read about ladies at Columbus' Friendship Cemetery placing flowers on both Confederate and Union graves in 1866.  


"When I heard it, and when the choral group heard it, we knew the power of it," Toy said of Purifoy's composition. "I knew this could be our signature piece: I think people will agree when they hear it." 


The concert also features "Kawouno Wan Gi Pi" ("Water Song"), an energetic piece in the Kenyan Dholuo language. Dr. Bob Damm, a noted African music percussionist from Mississippi State University, will accompany the group. Other musicians joining the Choral Society Friday are Dr. Rick Montalto on upright bass and violinist Lucy Sandifer. Brianne Loftin is the concert accompanist. 


Admission to the program is free, although donations are appreciated. A reception follows. 


"Southern Waters" will also be presented Sunday, Nov. 17 at West Point's First Christian Church at 3 p.m. The public is invited. 


The Choral Society presents two primary concerts annually and performs at numerous other events. Look for them at the 6 p.m. lighting of the city Christmas tree Dec. 6 during Wassail Fest in downtown Columbus. They will participate, too, in a Dec. 21 Christmas for Columbus concert featuring Christian recording artist David Phelps at Rent Auditorium. 


Toy invites those with a love of singing and choral music to inquire about open auditions. For more information, email her at [email protected]

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.