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October 25th, 2015 - Dr. Elisa Fraser Wilson and Chamber Singers of The University of Texas at El Paso visit the Music Programme
Dr. Elisa Fraser Wilson and Chamber Singers of The University of Texas at El Paso visit the Music Programme



Dr. Elisa Fraser Wilson writes:

Last week, the University of Texas at El Paso Chamber Singers and I had the opportunity to sing with and observe the Leeds Cathedral choirs during Vespers and Masses. This was a transforming experience, and one I hope will become a long-term collaboration between our university and the Diocese of Leeds.

Under the direction of Benjamin Saunders, the cathedral choirs represent an educational system of the highest quality of vocalism and musicianship. Our university singers were continually delighted and astonished by the level of professionalism presented by all levels, from the junior boys’ and girls’ choirs to the choral scholars, and thoroughly enjoyed collaborating with them during services Tuesday and Wednesday. We are looking forward to sharing rehearsal techniques and performance practices with our singing colleagues in El Paso as we move on to other projects back home.

I cannot overemphasize the impact this experience has had on our singers. For us, the music of Byrd, Viadana, Hassler, and Bruckner is concert music – music we spend many hours crafting for performance on stage in a concert hall. To experience singing this music in its intended venue and format was enlightening and inspiring; we are already brainstorming ways in which we can share the true meaning and function of this enormous body of sacred literature with new audiences.

I am particularly proud of the services the Chamber Singers sang alone Thursday and Sunday, and am so thankful for the tremendous leadership and guidance of Mr. Saunders and the rest of the Diocese Music Department staff: Tom Leech, Danny Mills, Callum Tempest, and George Ford. A highlight of our trip was our premiere of UTEP faculty member Dr. Dominic Dousa’s Magnificat, beautifully played on the cathedral’s organ by Mr. Leech.

Another highlight of the trip was an afternoon spent at Holy Rosary-St. Anne Choir School in Chapeltown observing the children’s choirs under the tutelage of Sally Egan. Ms. Egan is a master teacher, and the students and I thoroughly enjoyed watching her work and hearing a performance of the beginning choir. We were particularly inspired by the mission of this multi-ethnic, -religious, and -lingual school to promote unity through song, and, as we hope to establish similar programs in El Paso, our hometown, we were excited to observe the outstanding social and musical successes of the students and faculty at Holy Rosary-St. Anne Choir School.

After 7 days of blending with the Leeds Cathedral community, the students and faculty of the University of Texas at El Paso feel we have found a second home, one in which singing sacred music has the power to nurture, uplift, empower, and unite. Our experiences in Leeds have forever changed our perception of our talents, our art, and, most significantly, our mission. We greatly look forward to reaching new audiences through song and extend our warmest thanks to Benjamin Saunders and the staff and choristers of the Music Department of the Diocese of Leeds for sharing their vision and gifts with us.

Elisa Fraser Wilson, October 23, 2015
Director of Choral Activities
The University of Texas at El Paso



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