Northwest Singers To Perform Original Piece By Local Composer

The Northwest Mississippi Community College Singers, under the direction of Susanne VanDyke, will present a concert on Thursday, April 20 at 7 p.m. in the Fine Arts Auditorium on the Senatobia campus. Special guests will be the Northwest Steel Band, and Coro Rio. The choirs will perform a new choral piece commissioned by Sycamore Arts and composed by J. Reese Norris, local composer. The concert is free to the public. (Photo by LaJuan Tallo)

The Northwest Mississippi Community College Singers will perform an original piece by local composer Reese Norris at their April 20 concert, according to Susanne VanDyke, director of choral activities. The 7 p.m. concert is free to the public and will be held at the Fine Arts Auditorium on the Senatobia campus.

VanDyke said that this year the Northwest Singers were honored by the Sycamore Arts Council with a commissioned choral work by Norris. The piece he composed is a setting for choir and string quartet of the Emily Dickinson poem “I Shall Not Live In Vain.”

“I wanted a text that would reflect the conviction that teachers from all areas adhere to, that if we just reach one student, what we do won’t have been in vain,” VanDyke said. “Twenty-four years ago, when I began teaching at Northwest, Reese Norris walked into my first class. He was exemplary in all that he did, and he set the bar high for the students that followed him. He was bright, witty, kind, positive and helpful, and it was evident that he was musically gifted. That he has risen to such heights in the choral field is no surprise to me. I couldn’t be prouder for him.”

Norris is a Senatobia native who began his college career at Northwest. He is director of choirs at Hernando Middle School and is co-founder and co-artistic director of CoroRio, both in northwest Mississippi. Reese received degrees from Delta State University and Florida State University, and in 2005 was named Delta State University Music Alumnus of the Year.

Under his direction, his middle school choirs have performed in Carnegie Hall, at the National Conference for Middle School Choirs, twice for Mississippi ACDA’s State Conference, twice for ACDA’s Southern Division Conference, and are slated to perform at the 2018 OAKE National Conference in Oklahoma City.

In 2012, Norris and his wife Joelle co-founded the MidSouth Music Institute, Inc., a non-profit organization that supports community youth choirs, CoroRio, Coro Fuente and Coro Nino, and a community adult choir, Mississippi River Chorale.  She currently serves as executive and co-artistic director for MMI and conducts two of the six choirs.

Joelle Norris graduated summa cum laude with a BME from Roberts Wesleyan College and an MME from Florida State University and directed choirs at Olean High School and Olive Branch High School.  While teaching in the public school system, her choirs were invited to sing at the 2008 Mississippi ACDA/MMEA State Convention and the 2010 ACDA Southern Division Convention.

Also in 2010, she was honored as a Mississippi STAR teacher. She had the privilege of serving as MSACDA R&S chair for Women’s Choirs in which capacity she coordinated the first Mississippi All-State Women’s Choir from 2009-2010 and the ACDA Southern Division Women’s Honor Choir in 2010.

The Singers will be joined by several CoroRio choirs, who will perform with them and also on their own. They will be joined by Dr. Saundra Bishop on piano, as well as members of the Northwest Steel Band, under the direction of John Ungurait, director of bands at Northwest, as they perform the Kyrie and Agnus Dei movements from the Caribbean Mass by Glenn McClure.

The Northwest Men’s Ensemble will also be performing at the concert.

The concert will culminate with the world premiere of “I Shall Not Live in Vain,” sung by all of the choirs – a total of 125 voices.

For more information, contact VanDyke at svandyke@northwestms.edu.


Courtesy of Northwest Community College.

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