The Rooke Chapel Choir will perform in concert Sunday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m. in Rooke Chapel at Bucknell University.
The concert, which is free and open to the public, will be conducted by William Payn, professor of music at Bucknell, with accompanist David Cover.
The concert features more than 75 Choir alumni returning to sing some of the music with the current choir, who will be singing music which they will perform in Austria and the Czech Republic in May.
The program includes season music for the five seasons of the Liturgical year including Christmas and Easter; traditional American music; music by contemporary American composers; and sacred texts.
Chapel Choir history
The Chapel Choir was founded in 1947 by William McRae, newly returned from a year at the School of Sacred Music of Union Theological Seminary. Chapel services had long been a fixture of Bucknell life, but a regularly organized choir had not existed. So, on a sunny fall day in 1947, a summons was issued to which 15 people responded. The complement of voices was complete, music was borrowed and scrounged, solutions were achieved for transportation (Chapel was Wednesday morning at 11 a.m. in Beaver Memorial Methodist Church), some old black gowns were located, and the choir began a strong tradition of inspirational singing.
It was not long until the choir achieved a formal budget for music and incidentals. Mrs. Charles M. Bond was primarily responsible for steering the 'Mother's Association' onto the project of furnishing new gowns and stoles. Apart from singing for regular chapel services, formal concerts were presented in the First Presbyterian Church, Lewisburg.
The Chapel services progressed to the new Davis Gym Annex (still on Wednesday morning), to the University Theater and finally to the new Charles M. and Olive S. Rooke Memorial Chapel in the fall of 1964. As part of the gift of Robert Rooke, a pipe organ was installed by the Reuter Organ Company and has provided powerful accompaniment for the chapel choir ever since.
Under Payn's direction, the current chapel choir (renamed The Rooke Chapel Choir in 1980) has gained international recognition The choir's select members represent every major field of study at Bucknell, including the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, business administration, education and engineering.
The Candlelight Service of Carols attracts capacity crowds to Rooke Chapel for three performances every December. Periodically since 1987, a PBS production of this annual service has received national distribution by the Central Education Television Network. The production has received the Iris Award and was nominated for an Emmy in 1996, 2004, and 2011.
In April 1988, the choir participated in the premiere of Handel's Imeneo at a sold-out concert in New York City's Merkin Concert Hall. The choir also has performed with London's contemporary-music ensemble Electric Phoenix and has performed in a concert version of Handel's opera Acis and Galatea with the Brewer Chamber Orchestra. Other notable performances include Copland's In the Beginning for the Eastern Division Convention of the American Choral Directors Association, and the premiere performance of William Duckworth's Southern Harmony at New York's Merkin Hall with the Gregg Smith Singers.
In 1984, the choir recognized its 36th-year reunion with a celebration of worship in Rooke Chapel. In October 1990 the choir celebrated 43 years with nearly 50 alumni returning to sing for Sunday morning worship. This concert commemorates 67 years of exceptional singing since the choir's inception in 1947.
Payn has achieved prominence as a conductor and composer. As director of choral studies at Bucknell, he has led his choirs to international recognition for their creative interpretation of significant choral literature of the past five centuries. His choirs have performed all over the world, including concert tours in England, Wales, Switzerland, Austria, Holland, West Germany, Belgium, Poland, the Czech Republic, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Slovenia, Argentina and Uruguay. They have sung in Florida, California and Arizona. Both his Rooke Chapel Choir and University Concert Chorale have sung at conventions of the American Choral Directors Association. Five compact discs featuring his Rooke Chapel Choir have been recorded on Lovely Music and Albany labels. With the recent completion of several commissioned works, Payn has more than 40 published compositions, including the 2009 publication, "This Day" which was written for the Rooke Chapel Choir. "Heart Melodies" for handbells and chamber orchestra is distributed by Paradigm Press and was performed by the Phoenix Symphony in 2003. Several recent performances of "Heart Melodies" have taken place around the world. A new 2012 publication, "On This Day Earth Shall Ring," was written for the Rooke Chapel Choir and Ringers. Payn's works are performed virtually every week in the United States and abroad.
Payn received his Bachelor of Music degree from Westminster Choir College and his Doctor of Musical Arts in organ and harpsichord literature from West Virginia University. As a member of the American Choral Directors Association, he has served as Pennsylvania state president. Information about him appears in two reference publications: Contemporary American Composers: A Biographical Dictionary, and Who's Who in American Music: Classical. In 1987, he was presented with the Harriman Award for contributions to the intellectual life of Bucknell University, and in 1994 he received the Bucknell University Cook Award, given annually to a member of the faculty to promote creative travel. In December 1995, the National Board of the AGEHR conferred upon him the status of Master Conductor and Master Instructor of Conducting and Musicianship; he is one of only three persons who have received this honor in both categories. In May 1996, his undergraduate alma mater presented him with the Westminster Choir College Distinguished Alumni Merit Award. In June 2001, Bucknell University awarded Payn the Class of '56 Lectureship, the highest award granted by the University for inspirational teaching. In August 2009, he was presented with The Elaine Brown Award for Choral Excellence by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Choral Directors Association for outstanding lifelong work in the choral art.
This is Payn's final concert with the Rooke Chapel Choir. In retirement, he will continue to serve as a frequent guest conductor and clinician, write choral and handbell music, and conduct the Susquehanna Valley Chorale and Orchestra with four major performances each season. Along with his wife, Ruth, Payn will enjoy visiting their children and seven grandchildren, world travel, and relaxing in the quiet countryside on their organic farm along Penns Creek in rural Central Pennsylvania. The 600-acre farm, named Walnut Acres, is America's original organic farm with continuous growing of organic crops since 1946.
Five nationally distributed compact discs feature his Bucknell choirs: An American Collage, Albany Records; Southern Harmony, Lovely Records; Stephen Foster Civil War Songs, Albany Records; On This Day Earth Shall Ring!, Albany Records; and Ariadne's Lament/ The Music of Mary Jane Leach, New World Records.