String Quartet Combines Music with Activism
In the Oberlin tradition, violinists Rebecca Huber and Johanna Bourkova,
violist Jordan Voelker, and cellist Adam Friedberg collectively
known as the Rainier String Quartet have joined their talents
with their activism. The Conservatory students held benefit concerts
throughout Washington state in January during winter term.
Performances of works by Beethoven, Borodin, and Shostakovich
at the Seattle Art Museum, the Frye Art Museum, and churches in Olympia
raised more than $1,000. These funds will aid the Global Children's
summer camp in Croatia, Washington's Refugee Assistance Program,
and the Capital Area Youth Symphony Association.
The group also gave concerts for youth at the Seattle Conservatory,
the Pacific Academy Northwest, and Seattle's Meany Middle School,
and master classes to members of the Capital Area Youth Symphony Orchestra.
"Winter term was a great time to improve as musicians and help
others," says Huber, a sophomore from Olympia, Washington.
Huber and Freidberg, a senior from Alamosa, Colorado, developed the
idea of forming an ensemble while touring Italy with former faculty
pianist Stephen Swedish. In Oberlin last fall, they recruited first-year
Bourkova and sophomore Voelker. The new quartet sought musical guidance
from violinist Ilya Teplyakov of the St. Petersburg String Quartet,
now in-residence at the Conservatory.
-Liz Fox '00
Moses Hogan: Incorporating the Spirit
Moses Hogan '79 returned to Finney Chapel in February for a concert
celebrating of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., bringing with
him the Moses Hogan Singers, a group dedicated to preserving the integrity
and excellence of the African-American choral tradition.
also shared the principles of the group's work in a workshop
for members of the Oberlin College Choir. "We sing a message,"
said Hogan. "I have one rule for my choir: sing with conviction,
"You have the notes," he told the singers. "Now it's
time to incorporate the spirit."
Since his years at Oberlin, Hogan has established himself as one of
the central figures in an era of choral renaissance, dedicating himself
to educating others about the variety of styles of African-American
choral singing, including the arranged spiritual. "Generally
its most visible aspect is the gospel choir, but there is a whole
different style of singing which the public just does not see,"
says Hogan. "My long-term goal is to expose the long, rich tradition
of arranging spirituals and performing them in concert, to make this
aspect of the African-American choral tradition more visible."
His love for choral music derives from his childhood in New Orleans,
with an early exposure to African-American church choirs. "My
parents told me to sit down and pay attention when I went to church,"
he explains. "I did, and I tell you, those songs moved me at
an early age."
At Oberlin Hogan sang in the Musical Union, then conducted by Daniel
Moe, and began to work more directly with singers. A piano major (he
studied with Professor Emeritus of Pianoforte Joseph Schwartz), Hogan
accompanied voice students during lessons and prospective students
Soon after graduation, Hogan became involved with the New World Ensemble,
which led him in 1994 to form the Moses Hogan Chorale (now Singers).
Ensemble work has had a tre-mendous influence on his composing and
arranging. "I've been fortunate to have a choir," he
says. "I don't write for imaginary singers. I write for
As a frequent guest conductor, Hogan has met other singers who share
his interest in preserving the African-American choral tradition,
and in recent years Hogan's ideals have become part of a national
trend, with the spiritual increasingly a repertoire staple.
Besides leading his own ensemble, Hogan has been working with other
professional organizations. "Working with new groups not only
encourages me and motivates me to keep writing," he says, "but
also inspires me to write in other styles and explore other possibilities."
Hogan has already written specifically for the Oberlin College Choir;
his arrangement "Abide with Me," performed at Oberlin in
honor of Schwartz' retirement, is dedicated to the group. Working
with choir members, he stressed the importance of imbuing their singing,
and indeed, their lives, with spirit and conviction.
What seemed to fill him with the most joy was being back at Oberlin.
"My memories of Oberlin are everlasting," he says. "Oberlin
will always remain special to me, and I'm certainly delighted
to be so well received by my peers and the musicians here. It's
just wonderful to be back."
-Jennifer Spitulnik '01
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