University of Lethbridge Singers to premiere two works

The University of Lethbridge Singers, under the direction of Dr. Janet Youngdahl and assistant conductor, Jaimee Jarvie (BMus ’13), present a spectacular evening of choral works, including the premiere of two important pieces.

How Can I Keep from Singing takes place Saturday, March 25 at 7:30 p.m. in the University Recital Hall (W570).

The Singers will premiere OKI, a choral work by Winnipeg-based composer Andrew Balfour with Blackfoot translation by Elder Francis First Charger. They will also premiere Sweet Hour of Serenity by Lavinia Kell Parker with text by Holocaust survivor, Yiddish novelist and honorary degree recipient, Dr. Chava Rosenfarb (LLD ’06). Parker says Rosenfarb’s text exudes music and it was a gift to work with the literary piece.

Dr. Chava Rosenfarb (LLD '06)

“On first reading of Rosenfarb’s poem A Prayer, I was breathless with the beauty of these words. A Prayer conveys a sense of inner peace amidst a time of terror,” Parker says. “My choral work, Sweet Hour of Serenity, takes its title from the first line of this poem. With the exquisite interpretation by Dr. Youngdahl, soprano soloist Jaimee Jarvie and the ULethbridge Singers, audience members will be able to experience this serenity for themselves.”

The composition was originally going to premiere in March 2020, but was postponed until 2021, when The Singers were able to make a recording of the work.

“It is very exciting that this work will now finally receive its live premiere three years later! I hope that the presentation of this choral work is another tribute to her remarkable life and legacy,” Parker adds.

OKI by Balfour is a song originally done in Cree. YoungdahI received permission from Balfour to get his popular choral piece, Ambe, translated into Blackfoot.

“At ULethbridge, we received help from Drs. Monique Giroux and Inge Genee, and then Elder Francis First Charger to get the piece translated,” Youngdahl says. “First Charger has come in and worked with the choir on their pronunciation several times, to their great delight. It is a real honour to get to sing this work in Blackfoot.”

The U of L Singers is a talented ensemble of emerging vocalists. Since their establishment in 1982, the U of L Singers has graced stages throughout the community and across Canada, performing a wide variety of styles and has premiered several works by notable Canadian composers.

Tickets for this event are available at the University Box Office and online at Tickets are $20 adult, $15 alumni and senior, $12 students and children.

Chava Rosenfarb
(1923–2011) was a Holocaust survivor and Jewish Canadian author of Yiddish poetry and novels. Identified as a major contributor to post-Second World War Yiddish literature, Rosenfarb was a survivor of the Lodz ghetto, Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen. The city council of Lodz, Poland has decreed 2023 to be the Year of Chava Rosenfarb in celebration of her centenary.

In 2006, the University bestowed on Rosenfarb her first degree, a doctor of laws honoris causa, making her the first Yiddish writer to be honoured in this way by a Canadian post-secondary. Rosenfarb’s daughter is ULethbridge English professor emerita Dr. Goldie Morgentaler, an expert on 19th-century British and American literature and award-winning translator of many of Rosenfarb’s works. In 2019, Morgentaler was awarded a Canadian Jewish Literary Prize for a collection of essays by Rosenfarb, titled Confessions of a Yiddish Writer.

Lavinia Kell Parker is an award-winning composer with performances and premieres all over Canada. Parker’s use of improvisation with traditional compositional elements has garnered her the New Genre Award from the International Alliance of Women in Music, and top prizes in choral composition including from the Association of Canadian Choral Communities, the New York Treble Singers, Vancouver Bach Choir and the Ruth Watson Henderson Choral Composition Competition.

Her choral works have been performed by elite choirs internationally and over the airwaves with CBC Radio Canada and PBS television. An educator of 20 years, she has focused on bringing the joy of music to children and is the founder of Coulee Composers, a composition club for children in southern Alberta. Parker is an Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre and an instructor at the ULethbridge Conservatory of Music.