Clarksville, TN – A standard, pedagogical practice among choral teachers is to start students off with easier pieces, allowing them to feel success and build confidence. But this year, Korre Foster, assistant professor of music and director of choral activities at Austin Peay State University, is trying a different tactic – he’s challenging his young singers right away to step out of their comfort zones.
“We’re off to a running start, but maybe faster than they expected,” he said.
That’s because the University Choir’s first concert next month will feature the works of the acclaimed, Haitian-born composer Sydney Guillaume, who will visit campus the week of October 4th-8th as one of this year’s four Acuff Chairs of Excellence.
“His rhythm is super complicated,” Foster said. “It’s rhythmically complicated in that he likes syncopation, and he’s often changing meter.”
The texts for Guillaume’s works are also in four different languages – English, Creole, French and Latin – creating a new level of difficulty for these young choral students. But the challenges do offer rewards both for the performers and the audience.
“It’s going to seem upbeat and groovy,” Foster said. “The festiveness of some of his music sits well with young singers. Although it’s rhythmically complicated, it’s also very fun to perform. It helps to get singers out of the box. They should feel the groove and they should move. It’s very alive.”
At only 28, Guillaume is a rising talent in the choral and music world. He has been commissioned by renowned choirs such as The University of Miami Frost Chorale, Seraphic Fire, the Young New Yorkers Chorus, the Miami Children’s Chorus and the Kokopelli Choir. His music has been performed around the world, and the Miami Herald praised his compositions as showing “impressive maturity and striking melodic distinction.”
As one of this year’s Acuff Chairs of Excellence, he will spend a week on campus, meeting with composition students and helping with choral rehearsals. His stay at APSU will culminate with a concert of his work, performed by the University Choir and the Chamber Singers, at 7:30pm, October 8th, in the Music/Mass Communication Building’s Concert Hall.
Austin Peay commissioned a new work by Guillaume for that performance. That piece, “Fèt Chanpèt,” pays homage to the carnivals of northern Haiti.
“The commissioned piece, it’s a celebration,” Foster said. “We’re the first choir to see it, the first choir to rehearse it and we’re the first choir in the world to perform it.”
The October 8th concert, which is sponsored by the APSU Center of Excellence for the Creative Arts, is free and open to the public.
“Hopefully, the local community will see how exciting and infectious choral music can be,” Foster said. “It would be great to see the local high schools pick up on the music of Sydney Guillaume to perform.”