Rhina P. Espaillat Choral Commission

Rhina P. Espaillat


“One way alone to count, since time began: love something, love it hard, now, while you can.”

 From “Guidelines” by Rhina P. Espaillat. Published in Her Place in These Designs, 2005.

The Rhina P. Espaillat Choral Commission is a project created by the Newburyport Choral Society, (NCS), a community chorus of 125 voices that collaborates with a professional orchestra, and youth choir. We celebrate Ms. Espaillat, an internationally esteemed poet and local supporter of NCS, during her ninetieth birthday year. Rhina attends many NCS concerts and has close connections with singers, some of whom are also Powow River Poets.  Rhina, with a committee led by NCS Music Director Ryan Turner, has selected three poems to form a tryptic of lyric pieces that capture the beauty of daily life and pride in her Latino ancestry. These pieces will premiere during the NCS Winter concerts, December 10th, and 11th, 2022, at the Belleville Church in Newburyport. We are in the process of gathering support and hope you can join us in contributing to this important effort. Please consider donating. We will list all donors in the concert program.

The commissioned work’s central poem will be Rhina’s “Guidelines,” a well-known villanelle which ends with the lines “One way alone to count, since time began:/love something, love it hard, now, while you can.” The poem speaks to us more clearly than ever as we grapple with the effects of a long period of Covid as well as the heightened concerns about diversity, equity, and inclusion in our society.     

New talent has been drawn into this project. NCS director Turner has chosen the African American composer Zanaida Stewart Robles to set these three poems to music. Dr. Robles is an award-winning composer, vocalist, and teacher in Southern California and a fierce advocate for diversity and inclusion in music education and performance, conducting and composing for adult and youth choirs. This May, NCS is singing her arrangement of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the Negro National Anthem. (https://zanaidarobles.com/)

In addition to leading NCS, Turner is also the Artistic Director of Emmanuel Music in Boston, conducting weekly performances of the cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach. He is a concert tenor and on the faculty of voice and early music at the Longy School of Music of Bard College in Cambridge, MA. He began as Music Director of NCS in 2020, soon after Covid-19 quarantines had started. He has found creative ways to educate and hold together our community chorus virtually and in person for the last two years. (http://ryanleeturner.com/)

The NCS is 88 years young, following a tradition started in 1834 of community choruses in Newburyport. It is a non-profit, 501(c)3 cultural organization and has received recognition from the Massachusetts Cultural Council for its leadership and stability. Donations should be made payable to “Newburyport Choral Society” with the memo line “Rhina Espaillat Commission.” Please mail checks to NCS, P.O. Box 92, Newburyport MA 01950, or click here to donate by credit card.

We hope you can join the local friends of Rhina in making this music happen. Thank you from our singers and audiences who love and respect and wish to honor our brilliant and talented neighbor.

Please contact NCS Membership Director Penny Lazarus at members@newburyportchoralsociety.org if you have questions.

Author: ncsadmin

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