Alumni of The Denison Singers will present a concert at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 26, in Swasey Chapel (200 Chapel Drive). The concert, which will be conducted by William Osborne and is free and open to the public, is the capstone event of a four-day reunion gathering with rehearsals and socializing to mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of this historic group at Denison University.
Organized in 1961 as a chamber ensemble to study and sing Renaissance madrigals, the group’s repertory was quickly expanded to include all sorts of music appropriate for a chorus that normally numbered only 16 singers. Besides numerous appearances on campus that included collaborations with ensembles of Columbus Symphony musicians, The Early Interval and members of Denison’s jazz faculty, The Singers toured extensively, appearing in 24 states and the District of Columbia, as well as on a dozen trips abroad that took them to various countries in Western Europe, Hungary, Romania, Poland, Russia, Greece and Venezuela.
The group formally disbanded with the retirement of founding conductor William Osborne in 2003, but alumni members have since gathered in Granville to celebrate its 45th birthday, as well as three times in Winston-Salem, N.C., to participate in Arts at Augsburg [Lutheran Church] festivals. This concert will mark the 588th appearance by The Denison Singers, and about a third of the 240 who sang in the group over its 42-year formal history will be on the Swasey stage.
The program will consist largely of repertory from The Singers’ past, chosen mostly by the participants, including works by Gwyneth Walker, Randall Thompson, Samuel Barber, Brahms, Franck, Thomas Vautor and Thomas Morley. The concert also will feature the first performances of two works that were composed especially for the occasion: “The Road to Damascus,” by Clifford Davis ’72 of Mount Vernon, Ohio, based on biblical words; and “Miracles,” by R. Michael Daugherty ’71 of Jacksonville, N.C., employing the language of Walt Whitman.
The Singers also will revive a work created especially for the last of their North Carolina gatherings: “Three Sacred Songs You Won’t Hear in Church” by William Stevens of Winston-Salem. Stevens, who will be present for the performance, was a member of the Denison music faculty from 1976 until 1980, and thus was a mentor to several of The Singers from that era. He was one of those who sponsored the Augsburg Festival weekends, as was Donald Armitage, now cantor emeritus at Augsburg. Armitage will be present and will perform Franck’s “Choral in A minor” as an interlude on the Swasey organ.
Alumni of the Denison Singers and Dr. Osborne pose for a pre-concert photo in front of Swasey Chapel during the group’s last reunion in Granville in 2006.
Denison University, founded in 1831, is an independent, residential liberal arts institution located in Granville, Ohio. A highly selective college enrolling 2,100 full-time undergraduate students from all 50 states and dozens of foreign countries, Denison is a place where innovative faculty and motivated students collaborate in rigorous scholarship, civic engagement and the cultivation of independent thinking.