Poetry In Musical Motion: UTC Alum Turns Poems Into Songs

Monday, March 11, 2019 - by Sarah Joyner
UTC Chamber Singers prepare for recording at Cumberland Presbyterian Church
UTC Chamber Singers prepare for recording at Cumberland Presbyterian Church
UTC’s Chamber Singers have recorded an album of works by UTC alumnus Ethan McGrath, who has written musical arrangements for poems written by women.

The performance will be held on Friday, March 22 at 7:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church, 401 Gateway Ave.  Admission is free and open to the public.

The album, titled Silver Songs and funded by an ArtsBuild Community Cultural Connections Grant, is a collection of original works written by McGrath ’14, who says he was inspired by the poetry of Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti, Amy Carmichael, Elinor Wylie and McGrath’s friend Sarah Tullock, a fellow UTC alumna.

Poems such as Dickinson’s “Hope Is the Thing with Feathers” and “That I Did Always Love,” along with Rossetti’s “A Birthday” and Wylie’s “Velvet Shoes” provide the lyrics to McGrath’s songs.

“It’s a joy to hear the things I’ve concocted on paper in the loneliness of my room being translated into real sounds sung by real people,” says McGrath, who earned a bachelor of music in composition from UTC and a master of music in choral studies from the University of Cambridge, United Kingdom.

Moments of collaboration are what inspire him, he says, because “in the end, it’s all about the sound and the people who come together to make it happen—the written page is just a cue sheet that helps us get there.

“It’s been a privilege to work with the UTC Chambers Singers again.
Kevin Ford, the director, has been very supportive of my work ever since my time as a student at UTC. He’s always been happy to have me attend rehearsals and be a part of the process,” McGrath adds.

The UTC Chamber Singers is the university’s most select choir, comprised of undergraduate and graduate students studying a wide variety of disciplines from music to business to engineering.

The Chamber Singers previously recorded two albums of spirituals and choral music by composer, conductor, pianist and retired UTC professor Roland M. Carter. Although the choir is no stranger to recording music, the creative process for Silver Songs served as a learning experience for its members, Ford says.

“The singers are learning about the whole process of making a recording from the literature preparation to the tediousness of the actual recording process with constant repetitions and stopping and restarting for helicopters and planes flying overhead or children playing outside the building but loud enough to be heard inside,” he said.
Ethan McGrath ’14 listens as the Chamber Singers prepare for recording of “Silver Songs”
Ethan McGrath ’14 listens as the Chamber Singers prepare for recording of “Silver Songs”

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