Alice Parker, an American composer, arranger and conductor who has over a dozen recordings, will be a will be in attendance along with American poet Jean Janzen during opening night of the Mennonite/s Writing Conference concert, "That Sturdy Vine," 8 p.m., in Lehman Auditorium. Photo by Katie Landis.

Concert to Feature Works of Alice Parker

A March 29 concert by Eastern Mennonite University’s (EMU) Orchestra and Chamber Singers will feature the works of one of the preeminent composers of church hymns.

Alice Parker, an American composer, arranger and conductor who has over a dozen recordings will be in attendance along with American poet Jean Janzen during the opening night of “That Sturdy Vine” at 8 p.m., in Lehman Auditorium.

That Sturdy Vine will feature the Wilbur Pence Middle School children’s chorus, under the direction of Janet Hostetter, and soprano Anne Gross and the EMU Chamber Singers and Orchestra. Kenneth J. Nafzier, professor of music, will direct.

In addition, Joan Griffing, chair of music, will conduct the strings in Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.

Admission is free. Donations are welcomed for the EMU music scholarship fund.

For more information contact the music department at 540-432-4225 or email

Mennonite/s Writing Conference

Before the concert there is a welcome and poetry reading at 6 p.m. Thursday by Julia Spicher Kasdorf, Jeff Gundy, Todd Davis and Keith Ratzlaff in the University Commons.

In addition, during the conference participants will enjoy a performance by Canadian Mennonite playwright Vern Thiessen and a reading and lecture by Charlottesville, Va., poet Greg Orr. A growing list of writers, including Katherine Arnoldi, Dora Dueck, Janzen and Rudy Wiebe will read their work.

For more information visit the conference website or schedule of events.

About Alice Parker

Composer, conductor, and teacher Alice Parker says that she sang before she spoke. What an appropriate beginning for a career that has spanned almost six decades and has been devoted to the creation of works for the human voice.

She began composing at the age of five, and wrote her first orchestral score while still in high school. At Smith College and the Julliard School, she studied composition and conducting, beginning her long association with Robert Shaw. Their many settings of American folk songs, hymns, and spirituals form an enduring repertoire for choruses all around the world. Through the years she has continued composing in all the choral forms from opera to cantata, from sacred anthems to songs on texts by distinguished poets. She has been commissioned by such well-known groups as Chanticleer, the Vancouver Chamber Singers, and the Atlanta Symphony, as well as hundreds of community, school and church choruses.

Now a resident of western Massachusetts, Parker has published books on melodic styles, choral improvisation, and “Good Singing in Church.” Three videos have been released showing her work with hymnody. She is the recipient of four honorary doctorates and the Smith College Medal, as well as grants from ASCAP, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the American Music Center. She is on the board of Chorus America.

Jean Janzen

Jean Janzen is the author of six collections of poetry, the most recent being Paper House, published by Good Books, 2008.

Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Image, Gettysburg Review, Prairie Schooner, Christian Century, and numerous anthologies. She has won an NEA grant and has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Some of her poems have been set to music, including the oratorio That Sturdy Vine by Alice Parker.

A chorale/orchestral piece by Eugene Friesen based on her poetry will be part of the 20th Anniversary celebration of the Shenandoah Bach Festival in June 2012.

Janzen has taught poetry writing at Fresno Pacific University and Eastern Mennonite University.