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June 16, 2000

UW-River Falls to Host Reprise of National Concert

By Rachel Weddig
UW-RF News Bureau

Some 90 local residents of the St. Croix Valley Community/University Choir will participate in an historic musical celebration the day after our nationıs birthday titled "Continental Harmony."

"Continental Harmony" is the first-ever 50-state new music commissioning project in the United States designed to reaffirm the importance of community life and the vitality of the arts in society. St. Croix ArtBarn, in Osceola, Wis., was selected by the White House and the National Endowment for the Arts to commission a piece for this celebration.

Commissioned composer Craig Naylor of Kalispell, Mont., will assist conductor and UW-River Falls music Professor Sarah Parks with an encore performance of his original commissioned piece "River Spirit" in River Falls on July 5. The concert is 7 p.m. in the UW-RF William Abbot Concert Hall, located in the Kleinpell Fine Arts Building. The concert is free and open to the public. Parks

will direct another performance of "River Spirit" in River Falls on July 20; however, this performance will only feature the choral portions of the piece. The July 20 performance also will be held in the William Abbot Concert Hall at 7:30 p.m.

"River Spirit" is a 17-minute piece expresses the importance of rivers in the history and future of Wisconsin. The piece explains the beauty and color of the St. Croix River, which serves as the boundary for Wisconsin and Minnesota. The St. Croix, which is a National Scenic Riverway, is protected for its entire length by an Act of Congress, and is the only river on the North American Continent to be protected for its entire length.

Naylorıs work tells how the St. Croix flows through many communities of Wisconsin at its upper reaches, and then passes through the lower communities of the Lower St. Croix, where it forms the state border at Taylors Falls, Minn., and St. Croix Falls, Wis., before its confluence with the Mississippi River at Prescott, Wis. The piece describes the endless cycle of water with a brook forming into a raging river and evaporating, and then having another brook form. "River Spirit" tells this through a four-movement piece, with the first two movements incorporating both a choir and orchestra, with the last two movements relying on voices.

The commissioning of the work represents the first time all 50 states, including the District of Columbia, have a guest composer chosen by a selected arts organization in the state to compose an original piece. This program is funded by a $500,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

"River Spirit" debuts at 4 p.m. on July 4 at the Williams Gymnasium at the Osceola High School. Naylor will assist Carolyn Loney, Osceola High School choir director, with "River Spirit," accompanied by the Osceola High School band and choir, as well as the St. Croix Valley Community/ University Choir. This "River Spirit" performance will be videotaped and sent to the Library of Congress. There will be a dance before the concert from 1-3:30 p.m. in the gymnasium and the cost is $3 for the dance, the silent auction, and the concert.

Naylor teaches music courses in northwest Montana and has composed many works for band, choir, and orchestra from the elementary level to professional ensemble.

Naylor began his research for "River Spirit" in late October when he visited the St. Croix Valley region for a week to get a feel for the atmosphere. He also obtained help composing his piece from local writers, receiving between 80 and 100 poems describing the beauty and life of the St. Croix River. Naylor incorporates text from seven poems in his piece.

For more information, contact Parks at 715/425-3183.

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